Where Credit is Due

I don’t complain much and almost always only to my husband/mother/sister/best friend. Sometimes I worry that this blog is self-indulgent whining. My goal has always been to speak out about mental illness, to break the silence and the stigma, and help anyone who might read it that is suffering and feels utterly alone.

But sometimes, what I have to say about this day in my life feels small, petty, downright stupid, and like complaining. I end up sensoring myself. But this defeats my purpose. It is the thoughts that feel small/petty/stupid/self-indulgent/complaining that most need to be shared. Because feeling that way about what you are thinking/feeling is what stops people from talking about their illness/pain/suffering.

Mental Illness is essentially a first world problem. Most of us have our food/housing/health/safety needs basically met. And this leaves room for a host of other challenges that wouldn’t be quite as significant if we were only worried about not getting blown up. Although, of course, there are a great number of people who are homeless, food insecure, or living in dangerous situations who also struggle with mental illness. It is good to remember from time to time that there are a great many people in the world that are struggling to secure their physical well-being. And it is poor form to compare anything to the difficulties of people in Syria for example.

However, the blessings that you or I may have do not diminish the challenge/struggle/danger/pain of mentall illness. And so this, recognizing that I am seriously blessed with general physical health, financial wealth, safe and secure housing, etc., is the place from which I share my experience with mental health.

Today, I am sitting on the back patio of my large, comfortable house, watching my silly dog run around in the grass, listening to music from Pandora, and typing this post on a relatively new and expensive laptop that is almost exclusively mine to use after sleeping until I felt like getting up. I am worried about what the dog is eating, which of the many things in my fridge we will have for dinner, the weeds growing in the rocks, the flies going in the open back door, the impending changes in our life, and the mass of laundry that needs to be washed and folded.

I don’t know what to do with my life. Every day I feel more and more that I am wasting my precious time. I don’t want to feel this way when I get to the end of it and look back. I am not passionate about much of anything. I started this blog up again so I would have something to show for the passing of time. I know all of the things I *should*/*could* do: keep an orderly house, volunteer for anything, get a full time job, go back to school, etc. None of those things appeal to me (especially the orderly house part). I am in the unique and (extremely) self-indulgent position of not having to work outside the house. I run our business in a small number of hours a week and spend the rest of my time rumbling around the house (lately knitting and watching way too much TV).

I feel the largess of my lifestyle and I hate it. I regularly get the urge to sell all my stuff and go live in a tiny house (although that’s pretty self-indulgent too…but at least it leaves a small footprint on the planet).

When I was in college, I took the maximum load of classes and worked one or two jobs at the same time to support myself. At the end of a day where I had gone to work, gone to class, gone to a different work, gone to class, and done homework, it was incredibly satsifying to sit down over a meal with friends or watch TV in my pajamas in my teeny studio apartment. I had earned that rest.

Now, I don’t feel like I have earned any of the incredibly blessed life that I have. I am grateful and restless (I’m not sure that’s the right word) at the same time.

I am depressed, lacking energy and motivation, and anxious every day. My amazingly supportive husband gets up (at an ungodly hour) every day and goes to work to support us financially. And I wake up every morning struggling with the meaning and value of my life. This, I remind myself, is why my life is structured the way it is. I don’t work outside the house because doing so seriously exacerbates my anxiety, which is the same reason I don’t get involved in any other organizations. I don’t schedule meetings or appointments for first thing in the morning because I frequently have sleep disruptions that make mornings challenging. I purposely limit the demands on my time, because I don’t respond well to stress and requirements. I go where the wind takes me most days and these days, the wind only ever takes me to my couch.

But I am alive. I work for a (small) living. I do enough laundry to keep E and I in clean clothes and towels. The dishes don’t usually overflow the sink before getting done. The dogs are well cared for. And I bathe (almost) regularly. All in all, for me, that’s not so bad.

What can you give yourself credit for? Remind yourself of what you have accomplished today. If staying alive is all you can manage, then try to be grateful for that.

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