At the end of my last blog, I indicated that I wasn't sure if I would continue with therapy because of the cost. Indeed, these past few weeks, I haven't been able to afford it. I had to have the starter on my car replaced, and I had to take a pet back to the vet. Either one of those events could have wiped me out, but both together were financially catastrophic, even with help.
Luckily though, just prior to my last therapy session, I had put some things in place that have proven of enormous help in maintaining a sense of health and progress without therapy. I'm going to tell you, in list form, what I've been using/doing in lieu of therapy (and, in the process, reveal some embarrassing realities about how my mental illness(es) affect me).
1.) Google Calendar "Goals"
I make heavy use of my Google Calendar app on my phone. One day, I did an update and the next thing I discovered when I opened the app was that Google had included this nifty little button called "Goals" alongside with "Events" and "Reminders." If you press "Goals," it will take you through a series of screens that lets you select a goal from those common to humanity, such as "exercise" or "learn a new language." Or, it lets you customize. Here's where I put my pride aside and admit that one of my customized goals was to take a shower every day. I'd admitted this to my therapist at one of our last meetings, and now I'm admitting it to you, my one or two readers. This is the reality of poor mental health. Google didn't judge me. It simply scheduled a time for me to shower and dinged a little notification. Using this feature of the app, I've not only showered every day, but I've been going for a walk every day, doing chores around the apartment, taking some time to read, practicing my violin, and even meditating. I'm filling up my day with more and more goals as I go along.
2.) Motivational Videos on YouTube
One of my goals, other than showering, was to get the to the park early and walk every morning. Way early, before the heat index is one hundred and satan's ass crack degrees. Some days are easier than others. When my alarm goes off, I open my eyes (this actually, physically hurts some mornings) enough to look at my phone, turn off the alarm, then I immediately hit the icon for the YouTube app and do a search for "motivation." I watch a quick 5 or 6 minute clip, and that gets me awake, with the proper input to put my feet on the floor and go. Much better than scrolling through Facebook. Most of the videos feature athletes, and I realize, once again, how remiss I was to not participate in some sort of sport when I was younger. Shy, clumsy, bookworm types need sports. We need to be led to them and through them gently, but we need sports. Exposure to sports - and coaching - are beneficial to the mind as well as the body. They both really do go hand in hand. There are a few excellent motivational video creators out there, but here's an example from one that I find consistently produces good work:
3.) Home Ec 101's Weekly Chore Chart
This is something I've used off and on for years, as well as the multitude of tips and advice you can find all over her website. By reading what she has to offer in response to reader's questions or of her own volition, you get honest, direct, doable-for-the-average-human-being lessons on how to cook, clean and not go crazy. I'm still not there on the cooking part, but her cleaning chart has given me a sense of direction for my living space, preventing me from being so overwhelmed by the mess and trying to clean All The Things, All At Once, Now, Today. It's also helped minimize my level of perfectionism; because I know that I will get around to the kitchen again next week, I'm okay if I didn't get the refrigerator spotless this time. Eventually, with consistency, week after week, it will get to some semblance of cleanliness, and stay within the neighborhood of hygienic.
Here, I was very tempted to put "willpower" or "my own pure grit," and while those things are present to some degree and have helped, I think listing them can be highly frustrating, if not downright damning to someone who might be sitting in the depths of depressive despair reading this. When you are in the depths, you don't have the grit to get yourself out. It's not about grit until you get started. Getting started is the hard part, then you get the grit that gets you through, and, here's the thing - having done the things gives you the grit to keep going. Once you get started, you get this inertia in the direction of continuing rather than stopping, of going back to stagnancy and the horrible rot of your own juices. So, it's not my own willpower or grit - it's all the mornings previous to this morning that I got up and walked that got me up and walked this morning. I guess you could call it habit, or you could call it a taste of the good life, of health, of pride, of something better. But if you don't have that experience behind you to feed you, if you don't have that memory of how good and accomplished it felt to get up and walk three miles yesterday morning, you have no food for today. If you didn't walk yesterday, if you didn't shower yesterday or meditate yesterday or work toward any other goal yesterday, you're starving today.
So you have to start on starving. That's what makes it so hard. You have to find some way to eat air today, eat imagination. Imagine how you will feel if you take a shower because you can't really, really remember. Imagine how you'll feel if you put on your shoes and go for a walk because you can't really remember. If you do it today, if you feed off imagination, tomorrow you'll have a morsel of memory, and you can eat that morsel, and the next day a larger portion, and some day hopefully you'll have a feast of memories to keep you off the couch and out of despair, and you'll have created your own inertia.
This is a cousin to, but not the same as the anxious type of fear that paralyzes me on occasion. I am simply and utterly afraid to continue my life on the trajectory of inaction, of passivity, of despair. If there is anything more frightful than not succeeding, now, at the level I wish I could, it's not doing anything at all, ever. Ironically, I've let my sense of underachievement keep me from attempting to accomplish anything at all. Yes, I'm behind. Yes, there are others that are ahead of me, but there are also those behind. And they're gaining on my heels. But if I speed up, there's the possibility that I could catch up to the place that I want to be. Besides, I've had the mental equivalent of a broken ankle the whole time. I've had the life experience equivalent of being in traction. I can't let the shame of small steps keep me from moving forward.