This morning was slow. I took the kids to school, worked on a couple things for NAMI and made #MentalHealthMonday videos. Now that I’m typing that, it doesn’t seem like such a slow morning.
After I did all that I turned on the TV and thought I’d enjoy some chill time before my noon meeting. Except I couldn’t enjoy it. I keep thinking that I was squandering my time, and there were things for me to do that I didn’t realize. A blanket of anxiety came over me, and I started to get that uncomfortable feeling in my chest that tags along with anxiety. I kept checking my phone, then Facebook, then back to my email.
I tried exploring the emotions that popped up. Why do I feel anxious? What would help me right now? That’s about as far as I got because then the word “squander” came to mine. Ouch. I hate that word. I’ve been accused of squandering in the past: money, time, energy, etc., so I was sensitive to it.
But was I really squandering time if I have all my “work” completed. Now, I shouldn’t have put work in quotations, but I’ll deal with that later. What’s wrong with watching a little TV and enjoying the silence that blooms once the kids are at school. Later today I’ll have a noon meeting, I’ll pick up my son at 1:45 p.m., then my daughter at 3 p.m. Then it’s karate class at 4 p.m. Mondays are always big days, so why not take a break now while I can get it?
Why must we keep ourselves busy? Most of the time I don’t like to be busy, although I admit it (sometimes) can help when I’m anxious and depressed.
I guess a lot of us measure our worth, our days, by productivity. It’s hundreds of years in the making, but the belief that you are success based on productivity is crap, especially if you have a mental health condition.
Depression and anxiety often dictate my schedule and how my dad will go. Sometimes I want to stay in bed or don’t have the energy to be around people, no matter who they are. And that’s okay. Successful days to me look like taking a shower, brushing my teeth and not yelling at the kids. Sometimes that’s a lot. Hell, sometimes I can’t even do that. For anyone with a serious mental illness, things that are seen as simple tasks can look daunting, like climbing a mountain. We don’t control it— we can manage it, but there’s no cure, and we’re definitely not doing it on purpose.
When I was a lot sicker, just a few years ago, taking a shower and brushing my teeth seemed like monumental acts of greatness that I just couldn’t manage. I’m doing better now, but I still struggle with it sometimes.
Can’t we measure our days by something else? Presence, self-care, being kind to ourselves and taking breaks? I realize there are a lot of people who don’t agree with that, but that’s old school thinking. Our generation is more gentle, I think. The stigma of mental illness, while presence, isn’t as strong as it was with our parents and their parents.
We can define our days how we want.
If all you did today was roll out of bed, that’s something. You are more than your productivity.” You are worthy and more.
And so am I.