Bed bugs, losing clients, a more strict budget, more shifts at work, poor decisions leading to worsening mental health, needing an oil change, broken washers and dryers, and learning to like our “new” home.
We’ve had a lot more to take in and handle than we ever could’ve anticipated these last few months, and the things above are only from September, barely scratching the surface of everything we dealt with. Thankfully, some of these are resolved, like the bed bugs and the oven. Others will probably be a constant struggle. Some are good things, but just a bit stressful on occasion. Either way, we’re learning.
The most difficult and important part has been our (mostly my) decision making and how it’s affects our (mostly my) mental health.
I sometimes struggle with anxiety induced depression and OCD. Whenever my anxiety is triggered or worsens, one of my hardest challenges is that I feel as though everything I need to do has to be utterly perfect. However, I don’t have the energy to do anything during that time, and that can even include eating. That makes anything on my to-do list seem daunting. Heck, it makes just waking up daunting. And that’s coming from someone who likes getting up early to be productive. (I used to wake up at 4:30 on my class days during my last semester of university… Yikes!)
Since moving, my goal has been to get up at 6:00 for all but one day each week. But I’ve just wanted to stay in bed constantly, last month in particular. (Well, minus the first week of the bedbug fiasco, during which I didn’t want to get in bed at all.) Actually staying in bed later was one of the poor decisions that affected me the most. I lost out on hours that I could’ve spent preparing for the day, hanging out with Turner, being productive or creative, and exercising. I then berated myself for not doing those things. And of course by the time I had showered or gotten home from work, I was more exhausted than when my alarm had first gone off at 6:00. All of this only made work and everyday tasks scarier, more difficult, and more draining, which made me more tired, frustrated, and guilty.
The horrid snowball effect had me clinging to Turner’s hand until there were imprints of my fingers in his skin, crying and hyperventilating at the smallest mistakes, and making myself as small as possible whether I was around people or not.
It got so bad that the day I look forward to the most every week was becoming a chore and a stress. Turner and I get out of Seattle and explore nature on Mondays. It’s what we’ve been doing to have dates and relax/recharge from the previous week. It’s also how we’ve come to appreciate where we are more.
But a recent Monday wasn’t planned well.
We decided we would like to go on a hike, but we also had a full morning of chores. Instead of finding a shorter hike, I planned a 6.6 mile trek up and down Squak Mountain. Because of my poor planning, we didn’t start the hike until after 3:00, and I spent the entire time panicking and worrying about different bad scenarios and potentially hiking back down the steep mountainside in the dark without a flashlight (another slightly poor bit of planning).
Even after we stopped to enjoy Debbie’s view about half a mile from our original goal, I had a panic attack because we didn’t reach the view we had hoped and I felt guilty about it. I spent about a third of out relax-in-nature time fighting my own my mind and freaking out. It went from something I loved to something I disliked. Thankfully, there were plenty of wonderful moments, and the memories surrounding it are mostly positive.
But that day and the following few forced me to rethink my routines and how I handle unexpected situations or outcomes that are different than I expected.
For me, I am far more awake and energetic if I get up when my alarm first goes off and have an early start to the day. I am most motivated, productive, creative, and clear-minded before noon, so an early start is a necessity for me. I work best in a clean and organised environment. My anxiety is under more control when I’m well-fed, well-rested, and able to complete a few things from my to-do list before I truly start the day. There are so many things that I know about myself that I neglected and ignored. It took me getting pretty bad mentally to start doing anything about it.
Turner and I sat down and asked these questions:
What do I know helps me with my anxiety preemptively?
What do I know is detrimental?
What helps me most during a breakdown or attack?
What helps me recover?
What are my toxic coping mechanisms?
How can we help each other?
What type of relaxation is healthiest for me?
What are my priorities?
Accepting and making use of the answers was really quite difficult. But after just five days of actively focusing on them, I was feeling much better, more in control, and more motivated.
The biggest thing you can do is ensure you are paying attention to your highest priorities: your physical and mental health.
Reorganise the rest of your life around these two, choosing just one or two other things to focus on after that and then as you get better, carefully adding other things and testing different types of balance in your life.
For me, those things have been work and trying to keep our tiny apartment clean. Now, I’m adding art back into my weekly routine, using down times at work to write, and choosing to bake for fun instead of out of necessity. Doing little things like these in different ways than I had been has started improving my mental health and brightening my mood. I just needed to take a step back from some things for a while and change how I thought about or did them.
For a while, art had become overwhelming, writing had become something I didn’t have time or energy for, and baking had become a chore. But because of taking time to reflect on the questions above, I finally have a better understanding of where I am currently and what I need to change.
So I urge you: Ask yourself the necessary questions. Be honest with yourself and the people around you. And actively try to be healthier/happier, even in just the tiniest ways.
Are there any other questions you ask/might ask yourself? What are your priorities outside of your own mental and physical health? How do you relax? Let me know in the comments!