2019 Update: I apparently forgot I even started a post like this and am just now finishing it months after the first draft. (Spoiler alert: I’ve finally merged my personal (formerly Nerdythirtysomething) and business blogs together. Some folks will say I’m an idiot for doing this. But, I’m almost 40, and it’s time I start listening to myself.) The following is a super-real post about what’s been happening lately. It will read more like a journal entry than a traditional blog. Maybe you’re into that. If not, keep reading. You may find something interesting anyway.
Ha! Didn’t realize when I was working on that title, I’d come across one of my favorite phrases from Living Well, Spending Less – “Scared but do it anyway.” I guess that’s always in the back of mind when it comes to well, literally everything.
You see, I have chronic anxiety and depression. I used to pretend the “chronic” part didn’t exist but…wait for it…I wasn’t honest with myself.
It’s with me all the time. Every day. Every minute. Some days are better than others, but it’s not something I can completely shed.
And a smidge more of tough honesty (well, when is it ever “soft”?) for ya’ll. For the love of God, don’t come up in here posting about how this “Magical Cure” freed you from depression and anxiety.
First of all, good for you.
For real. I’m not being sarcastic. That’s awesome that you were able to beat it. But what you experienced isn’t considered “chronic.” So sometimes, “I know exactly what you’re going through. Here’s how I fixed it” is the last thing someone like me wants to hear.
You will never catch me come up to someone with a physical disability and lament, “Yeah, I remember for two weeks I had so much pain I couldn’t walk. But, yep. I prayed and I’m better now.”
That’s hideous. You’d never do that with someone who had a physical disability. (At least, I hope not. My God, you are a monster if you do.) So don’t do that for someone who has a mental disability too.
Yes, I know there are way better words out there for this. Some folks hate the word disability or illness but I’m giving this to you quick and honest, so I haven’t looked up an alternative word. Yet. Give me some time I may actually come back and change that. (Or not.)
While I certainly will not put mental illness on my “About Me” page, if something pops up and I have to explain it to a potential client (hopefully, never) I will. And, well, I’m talking about it here on my blog. (Again.)
(Ugh. Okay. So they always say write in your own voice, but apparently my voice is riddled with parenthetical statements. I’ll try to refrain. This is the last one. Promise.)
While I’m fortunate to have the two most recognizable mental health problems in the world, navigating this world as a writer, entrepreneur is hard. Life is hard. But you know what I mean.
Folks sometimes talk about institutional racism like this. It’s there. Constant. Every person of color has an extra 50 pounds to carry but are expected to finish a race the same time as everyone else. That won’t happen for everyone.
And, yes, I popped in racism into my blog post. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. I’m moving on for now.
Sometimes I feel this way about my anxiety and depression. Although it’s ridiculous to equate the two concepts, this is the best example I have.
People expect a lot of out of me. Sometimes, I expect so much for myself and simply assume everyone else thinks this way too. In fact, that sort of internal dialogue of “You haven’t finished. You haven’t done enough” is a persistent thought for someone with anxiety.
So the abundance of life and business coaches will say you have to “change your mindset.” But unless these folks are familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) they don’t realize the immense burden you’ve placed on someone like me.
Someone told me that acknowledging my unchangeable barriers is somehow pulling the “victim card.” That’s ludicrous. Never let anyone make you feel bad for bringing up why life is hard. The important thing here is to chip away at it until you get better. Constant complaining does no one any good.
There’s also a lot to be said about how the attractive, fully-abled, white person may have had some really distinct advantages in life. You should Google it.
This is why I avoid self-help books now.
They are THE worst.
Books telling me how to “overcome my fears” have no idea that fear is a key component of anxiety. You fear rejection. Socialization. Crappy things.
So you’re asking me to run the race with an extra 50 pounds and not say a word about why I’m behind. Got it.
Now that it’s 2019, and I’m getting closer and closer to the big 4-0, I looked up “mid-life crisis” and all of the symptoms are basically what I’ve been experiencing all of my life. A mid-life crisis are simply the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Today, I lamented to a loved one that I feel like in the last few years I haven’t accomplished much, and what I did accomplish I barely remember.
In some respects this is true – I have to use a variety of different tools to help my memory. Namely “Google calendar” and other apps that send me tons of reminders. And the most successful thing I’ve done since 2012 is start this blog and commit to being a freelance writer and a virtual assistant.
I’ve tried and failed at several traditional jobs, started and stopped a podcast, a WomanSpeak business and several other things.
Lately, I don’t feel like I’m doing “enough.” My loved one reminded me of all of the things I’ve accomplished over the course of my life, and that new memories are to be made.
Instead of waiting for perfection to write a blog post, I sat here and wrote down what came to mind that would hopefully explain my long absence and maybe could help you understand a bit about what happens when your brain lies to you a bit about your life.
- My memory is shot because my mind is always in survival mode. It’s that “fight or flight” response that keeps someone filled with anxiety, and I’ve discovered that the only things I tend to remember are the things that keep me alive – I remember to feed myself, clothe myself and bathe myself. Sometimes even those tasks are hard, so I’m spending the first few months of 2019 going easy on myself and making sure I do things consistently, even if it’s not very frequently.
First quarter goals include making sure I brush my teeth, like, at least once a week. This is what I mean by survival mode. Sometimes I’ll forget. Some days I don’t really care. So using some “mini-habits” techniques I’ve learned over the years, making sure I get this done at the bare minimum is a priority.
- Most days, I just try to get some work done and get some rest and that’s it. This kind of goes along with survival mode. Making sure I maintain a blog audience just hasn’t been a priority over the last year. I have a brand new team of people I’m working with and really just focusing on growing that work and not really try to do anything else on my own.
- Acknowledging my barriers helps to reduce the evil green-eyed monster. I’m fortunate to have a lot of friends and acquaintances doing some freakin’ amazing things. They’re writing, they’re helping hundreds or even thousands of people make themselves better or they’re raising families. At the moment, I’m not doing any of those things.
But reminding myself that many folks don’t have some of the same issues I have – whether its race, socieconomic status, mental health status – whatever – keeps me grounded. It’s okay to tell myself “I’m really far behind because I have to overcome these hurdles first.”
Does this always help? No, not really. Many times I still end up envious of people’s success. But it does help me keep going most of the time. I’m also keeping a simple spreadsheet of accomplishements big and small that I go over every year. It’s something I’ve learned as part of being in Amber McCue’s Planathon.
So I’m exposing my heart here and my mind also. I hope you continue on this path with me, even if I only end up posting what’s going on a few times a year.
Let me know what you’re working on in 2019. We’re only a month and a couple of weeks in!
I just wanted to pop in to tell you that you’re absolutely amazing. You are strong as hell and have overcome and accomplished so much it is astounding. I am constantly in awe of your bravery as you share this journey, of your strength as you keep succeeding, and of the endless love you continue to create in your life and share with us every day. You are a marvel, my friend, and I’m so glad to know you. (Also, parentheticals RULE!!)
Marley dear! Thanks so much. It’s funny – we’ve only known each other but a brief time but we somehow see each other as heroic. I’m always in awe of your running posts and your smile. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It means a lot. (And for validating parentheticals. LOL)
Love this post, Williesha! Thank you for being open and honest– it’s easy to say honesty is important, but far more difficult to actually put it into practice.
I try to go back and review what I’ve accomplished from time to time as well. It’s amazing how easy it is to trivialize accomplishments in hindsight, when really we should be celebrating what we’ve done and not beating ourselves up over imperfections.
Looking forward to seeing where you go from here!
Dan! Thanks so much for reading and for contributing to this post. You have accomplished a great deal, I’m sure. Glad I reminded you to celebrate yourself.
Thank you for sharing Willi. It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable but feels so good to just tell the truth!! Wishing you love and healing!
Thank you so much Ivy for commenting! Vulnerability is my superpower, I suppose.