What we want to vs. what we have to do

There is no such thing as “I have to do this.” But the alternative is to deal with the consequences.

Last week was exhausting. I had a midterm on Friday and the whole week I kept thinking: “I am so exhausted. I don’t want anything but sleep, but I have to keep going. I need to study.” But when the midterm was over and I had some time to make new to do lists and think about my whole situation I noticed a few things.

  • My real problem was my mindset
  • I wanted to study. I did not want to be sleeping or binging TV
  • But I couldn’t, because I was so tired
  • I’m not tired because of the workload, I am tired because of my mindset and the season

The more we force ourselves to do stuff, we don’t feel like wanting to do, the more tired we get mentally and the less energy we have. Often we just need to remember, why we want to do something. And remember, that we really don’t have to do it, if we don’t want to. This is a very empowering shift in mindset. It allows us to get back in control.

The other problem is the season. There are really nice aspects to it: it is cuddly weather and we get to wear the comfy clothes and drink tea and hot coco all Sunday long. It is perfectly acceptable to just stay in bed and do nothing for a little. We get chestnuts and gingerbread, chocolates and cookies. We light the scented candles and start listening to all the beautiful winter songs again. On the other hand there is the darkness and the cold. We get a Vitamin D deficiency. We dial back our physical activity. And this is what makes us so tired. For me there really just is one thing: more working out and a better sleep schedule. It gives a sense of control and it battles the exhaustion.

And again: we do not have to work out. But I want to. Because I want to study. And I want to be confident. And I want to have energy. And I know that regular work-outs will provide all those things.

Cutting means hope

It is a known fact that cutting is very different from a suicide attempt, even though some suicidal people cut. The difference is that cutting is an attempt to change something, to make life a little better, suicide is the last escape.

Someone who cuts, is trying to chance something. We often do not even know what it is. We are trying to get help. If we knew how to make it better, we would. Suicide is the manifestation of the believe, that it is never going to get better and that we are not willing to live like this. Cutting is showing that we do not want to live like this. And that we need help to figure out, what is wrong and get better.

Dealing with getting worse

When the leaves fall and the sky starts crying many of us just want to hide and cry as well. Autumn is known for causing depression. But it is even worse, when it coincides with us failing to keep moving towards our vision. Because then all we can do is crumble. And in a matter of days we are back to the very dark places we thought we had left behind for good.

We don’t talk about it, because we are ashamed of ourselves, for not keeping up the good work. For breaking the promises to ourselves. Again. We keep telling the people around us, we are fine, because we do not feel entitled to feel bad. And with us not telling how we actually are, we detach from the people around us. And just like that our entire lives become empty and cold.

We find ourselves having a tinnitus again. Find our feet tickling until we loose all feeling in them. And then we may realize that we have been not taking our medication properly for weeks. Our sleep starts being interrupted. Dreams haunting us. We keep being tired, even though we know we are getting enough sleep.

And we blame ourselves for all of it. We start hating ourselves for letting it all slide. We try to get our lives back on track. Try to focus on our visions. Try to do that homework that we have been putting off. Try to get out of bed. But nothing can stop the sadness inside us. And we know one thing: Even though we try. Even though we try to push away all the negativity, the moment one single thing goes wrong, we will fall. We are fine. For now. But there is nothing we can do to stop the sadness. To stop the cold. To stop the loneliness.

But even though we know we will fall at some point. We keep fighting. Some of us do for the ones close to us. Some do, because they do not want to admit, that they have issues, that they need to address. And some just don’t see the point. I tried to deal with it. I tried to make it go away for good. I know it won’t.

Sometimes life is not about making everything perfect. Sometimes life is about making it through. Sometimes it is about keeping the darkness at bay rather than destroying it. It cannot be destroyed. It will not go away. It will linger beneath the surface and break through at some point. All I want to do, is to make sure it doesn’t destroy me when that point comes. And at some point that has to be good enough.

But how can we make it through? It is a matter of balance in attitude and mindset. For one we have to dump perfectionism. And on the other hand we cannot give up. We need to get stuff done. We have to keep making progress.

We have to get rid of perfectionism, because if we don’t we will never be happy with our progress. And we will keep beating ourselves up.

And we need to figure out what is the most important thing to do. We need to not get overwhelmed. What we do does not have to be perfect, it does not have to be a huge task. But it has to be something. This is what makes sure, that once we feel like working towards our visions again, we don’t give up immediately because the things we did not do pilled up.

Getting motivated may be difficult, but we can, by remembering the recent things that we are pleased with or proud of. And then it is just one step at a time. Living every day a little better than the last one.

Pain. An explanation.

Be it physical or mental pain, it is our body screaming that whatever it is that is hurting us, needs to stop.

When we put ourselves in pain, we want to tell ourselves to stop asking so much of us. We want to tell ourselves, that we need to protect ourselves better. Protect ourselves from other people, from pressure, from our own perfectionist thinking.

We are asking for permission to cuddle up and hide somewhere. We are asking for a break. Asking to be allowed to rest.

Who is it, we need permission from? Who are we asking, to give us a break? Mostly ourselves. It is mostly a way of telling ourselves, that whatever is going on is too much for us to handle. Telling ourselves, to allow us to breath. To stop having unrealistic huge demands for ourselves.

We are also asking the people who know for protection. From our own perfectionism. We are asking them to tell us that we don’t need to push further, without rest to be worthy of their care. We should be able to do that ourselves. But we are not. So we ask for it. In a way that is probably the most desperate in existence. We are in a position, where hurting ourselves and begging for help is way easier than loving ourselves and taking care of ourselves.

Mental pain is not taken seriously unless it is actively affecting our lives. And that is so very subjective. So we reach for the blade to make sure the existence of our pain cannot be denied. Because we ourselves, are the first person to deny that pain. Telling ourselves, that everything is just fine. Telling ourselves, that whatever it is, we can handle it. Telling ourselves, that everyone around us is handling it just fine, so why should we be any different? And that is how we spiral down into a dark place. Trying to be strong. Trying to survive.

Until we reach the point, where we are in incredible pain. Pain we cannot handle anymore. And we slide down into hating ourselves, for not taking care of ourselves. We start hating. And hatred makes blind. We are unable to rationally grasp what we need and we start screaming for help.

We need the pain to stop. But we do not have the strength to make it happen. There is no pain-killer-pill for mental pain. But if there was, it would be the people closest to us. Because they are the only way we can escape the parallelization, we are in before it would naturally stop. But once we have escaped the trap of pain, we will be the ones, to protect us against it in the future. People can help us get out. But only we can help ourselves to not fall in the first place.

Complaining

I keep hating myself for complaining. And then I realize that I am complaining about things that actually do bother me. So why would we try to be complaining less? Well, anyone who has been reading my blog knows that I am about to say: “Because it is destroying the positive mindset.” Well, yes, that too. But that is not even the only issue with complaining. The main problem is that it is costing a lot of mental energy. Not only ourselves, but also the people we are complaining to.

I am not saying, we should ignore the things that bother us. We need to acknowledge them and figure out what the problem is. Why are we bothered? What can we change? And then we either have to live with whatever bothers us, or we deal with it. Dealing with it will take effort and energy. Most likely even more so, than complaining. But in contrast to complaining, it will actually improve the situation and we do not have to feel bad about how we spent our energy.

Let me give you an example. Maybe you are taking this really boring Calculus class taught by this french Professor, that bothers you every time he opens his mouth, because you cannot stand the French Accent in the English. And also: he is not able to make you understand the materials not matter whether or not you pay attention.
There is nothing you can do about the accent. But you could take the class with a different teacher. Or just study yourself. Or you could complain. Or just study more outside of class, to understand what is happening in class.

Complain will not change how well you are able to follow the class, nor the teachers accent. But there are ways you can take care of the problem. And yes: Studying is tiring. And exhausting. And complaining is so much easier. But dammit, it does not help. So really the only thing we can do is shut up and work hard to make the problem go away.

The Dilemma

If we cut, we fail. We fail as a friend, fail as family member. We fail as human being. We are cowards. Choosing to not handle our life. But to run into addictions arms instead. We choose to hurt ourselves. And everyone who knows about it.

If we resist the urge, we fail. Fail to resist the urge. Fail to find relief. Fail to be brave enough, to do what we say we want to do. Every time we resist the urge, we question, whether it had been there to begin with. When we resist, we are not happy. We are sad. We feel cold. And we know the urge will come back soon.

There is no right choice for us to make. We try to hide what we are going through. May those who we love be spared our pain! May we be spared the thought to have hurt them with our choices!

Happiness and Mental Illness

There is no denying that our happiness affects our mental health. However I do not think that being happy implies being mentally healthy. And I do not think that someone with a mental illness cannot be happy.

I think the issue is a misconception on happiness itself. There exists the idea that happiness is given to individuals. And we judge whether or not someone is happy by his material possessions and the relationship the person has. Or how intelligent the person is. But that is not enough. Things and knowledge on their own do not make happy.

So what does? Taking responsibility for our own happiness. Happiness is not given. It is worked for. We need to find out what we want. And then realize that a lot of the things that we want… we already have. And we learn to take a break and appreciate that.

Being happy does not mean we are never sad anymore. It does not mean we do not get triggered anymore. The urges don’t just go away magically. We even may still have to go see a therapist.

I think the key to being happy despite a mental illness is to be able to distinguish emotions from rationality. Sometimes we get hurt for no obvious reason. A trigger. A friend who said something that hurt us. But we keep wondering why we suddenly feel so bad. In those cases it is crucial to allow the emotions. To allow ourselves to feel the emotions but to acknowledge that there is no reason for them. Which does not mean invalidating them. It just means that we know that even though we feel bad, on a rational basis those feelings do not mean that we have a bad life or are genuinely unhappy.

This takes practice. And it requires one crucial mindset: The mindset of being the one’s in charge for our happiness. Because to be able to see what we just feel and what is actual truth, we have to be willing to look at our reactions more closely. We have to be willing to sometimes not have an explanation. But isn’t thinking: “I am just tired, that’s why I am so sad.” or “I feel bad and there is no real reason for it.” better than thinking: “Everyone around me hates me.”? One is accepting our own weakness. The other is blaming everyone around us for our own misery. One is taking responsibility and allowing ourselves, to be who we really are. The other is being unjust to other people by blaming them for something they had (possibly) no doing in. One comes from a gentle and kind mindset. From the kind of mindset that allows us to love yourselves, the other comes from a cold, negative and angry place.

I am not one for lying. I don’t say we should always just blame our own weakness, or the weather for when we feel bad. Sometimes there are reasons. But as someone who tends to mask pain with anger, I know I am likely to try to search for someone to blame and bend the truth to my will.

But that is toxic. It has the power to destroy relationships. And it puts more negativity into the world. Which is why I think we need to learn to be okay with us not being alright. And realize that it does not generally mean, we are unhappy. Not unless we have the mindset that makes us think we are unhappy. And it is our responsibility to adopt the mindset that will let us heal and make us happy. For me that is positivity and gratitude.