I Faced My Fears in 2018

fear anxiety mental health

I am afraid of fear itself. I’m afraid to feel negative emotions in any situation whatsoever, afraid to encounter something that I can’t handle, afraid to face the unknown–I fear anything that I think might make me feel afraid of any of these things. That should be anxiety’s mantra: already afraid, so you don’t have to be. 

There are many sources now that show how facing your fears can actually help reduce anxiety. It’s called exposure therapy. It’s proving to your brain that there actually isn’t a threat when you’re safely secure on a bridge, looking down. It’s showing you that you can get through a crowded DMV and handle your business there without having a breakdown. It’s putting fear back in its place for things that are actually threats to your well-being.

So what fears have you faced recently? Here’s some of mine.

  • Drove to Kansas City (8 hours away) for a gig in a highly competitive industry for little money to do a high-pressure job during a huge event.
  • On a number of occasions, I was able to address issues with coworkers without lashing out in anger or cowering behind guilt and shame for feeling how I felt.
  • Was able to ask for help at work and not feel afraid, or if I did feel afraid, I stood my ground to get answers/clarification in order to properly do important tasks.
  • Moved into a new place that I had never seen with roommates I didn’t know due to an immediate need for moving out of my old place
  •  New living situation has forced me to reevaluate my expenses and work harder to keep up. It’s extremely intimidating and I put off this change for a long time due to fear.
  • Initiated friendly conversations with strangers.
  • Made calls that I needed to make, to leasing offices, to renters, to doctor’s offices, to customer service help desks.
  • Spoke up when my order wasn’t quite right.
  • Asked for help with a couple of things in my personal life that were difficult to ask.

These are just a few of the fears I faced. Some are specific and only happened once, while others are broad and recurring. The ones that I had to face multiple times lead to me mastering that fear and I never had to feel–oh, wait, no. That’s not how that works. I still feel fear. I’m still an anxious person. I probably always will be.

That’s the biggest thing I learned. Facing my fears, even a list like this that I’m proud of, didn’t make me some master of conquering my fears. I’m not a whole new person who courageously knocks down every obstacle that comes up because I feel no fear. Rather, I learned how to handle scary situations, despite the fear. I can survive even with the knot in my stomach, even when my heart races, even when I feel the pull of dread dragging me the opposite way. That’s what bravery is–not the absence of fear, but standing up to the challenge in spite of it.

What fears did you face?

The Guide to Recalibrating Your Priorities

I’m already looking forward to 2019. By that, I don’t mean I’m eagerly anticipating it. I have my sights set on the future. In 2019, I will be in a new apartment with new goals. A sudden change in my life forced me to change my perspective. It shattered me at first, but I bounced back and now have taken a good, long look at myself.

Therefore, I’m focusing on what my priorities are–and figuring out what they even are now. I feel like I’ve sort of lost myself along the way and though I’ve attempted many times to right the ship with minimal success, this change in my life is forcing me to follow through. I refuse to just be swept up in the madness of all these transitions. I can still enjoy myself and fulfill my desires.

So if you want to reflect on yourself and what you want for your future, you can use these points that I used!

What Gives You Light

This is about what makes you “you”–something that both gives you contentment and peace, but also energizes you with passion and fire. For me, it’s connecting with others, usually one-on-one, or in small groups, either over a common interest or career field or through a good chat and a laugh. It also gives me light to help others/benefit the world in some way, most prominently through volunteering.

Commit to doing what gives you light, even if it’s the smallest opportunity.

Related: Do What Gives You Light

Self-Care

Self-care for me, like I imagine it is for many others, is difficult. I didn’t really “get it”. I thought it was about pampering yourself and living up the “treat yourself” motto. To a degree, it can be. But it’s all about what works for you. At first, I didn’t know how to take care of myself. It was a startling realization that I didn’t know what truly relaxed me and nourished my soul. There’s quite a difference between things you enjoy and things that are good for your physical or mental health.

Related: Comfort Vs. Pleasure for Taking Care of Yourself

For instance, while I love to write and have several fictional works that I enjoy writing, it doesn’t relax me or make me feel “taken care of”. Accomplished? Sure. Excited about possibilities? Absolutely. It’s fulfilling, but not exactly nourishing. However, I found that I love baths and face masks. Simple, relaxing, rejuvenating. I enjoy being outside, too, even if it’s just for a light walk. Listening to music is another tactic I use to just zone out and decompress.

This kind of self-care can put you in the right frame of mind to continue on with your day, especially if you feel frazzled or overwhelmed. It’s also a great way to wrap up a busy and full day. You just have to find the right way to take care of your mind, body, and soul.

Related: The Bare Minimum Method of Self-Care

What You Need to Improve On

This one is less fun, but it keeps in perspective what you can do to grow and change. It may not be your favorite thing to reflect on, but it’s necessary sometimes. There are plenty of workbooks and resources online to help you tackle almost any issue, like self-confidence, self-esteem, anger management, or establishing healthy boundaries. I also find going to specialized forums helpful, too, because you get a lot of great anecdotes and personal advice. I especially like the ones that are mental illness-specific. 

Hobbies/Interests

I literally have a list of hobbies and interests in one of my journals. It’s important for me to see it in writing so that I “remember who I am”, so to speak. I tend to get swept up in stress or depression and drift along. It’s nice to remember the things that are fun for me or interest me because honestly, the haze of a mental illness can make you forget so much. Sometimes I search for classes or workshops regarding that interest, other times I will look up videos, as appropriate. It doesn’t mean I’ll pursue it, but it’s fun to learn more about it, at least, and see the possibilities. If it’s a hobby I can personally engage in, of course, spending time actually doing it can make me feel more connected to myself and overall more fulfilled.

My big obstacle here is mental and physical energy. It’s in short supply lately. Surprisingly, the list is comforting. It’s nice to know those things will be there for me when I’m able.

Priorities

Taking all the above into consideration, what are my priorities? The facts for me are as follows:

  • I’m moving (which is super stressful and very involved)
  • I have little energy when I’m home
  • I do know what I like to do, what fulfills me, what nourishes me, and what I need to work on

So with all this in mind, what is feasible for me in order to feel more rejuvenated, more connected, more alive, even during a time of stress?

  • Start volunteering again, even a very minimal commitment.
  • Make one “friend date” and go through with it before making any other social plans
  • Make more of an effort to connect and network online with other mental health bloggers

That’s it. These are the small, short-term goals I’ve decided to make for myself. Anything else is a bonus. But these are the things I can work toward in my current state, without feeling overwhelmed by all the things I should or could be doing.

I’ve certainly had my ups and downs this year. I just hope I can make the ups last a little longer next year.

What are your goals for 2019?

A Guide to a Crisis

I have stumbled upon a mental crisis. I’m talking deep, dark place, code red, talk me off the ledge crisis. Thankfully, I didn’t do anything destructive or harmful, aside from some yelling. What pulled me back down to earth a little from my downward spiral was the thought that if someone else were in this crisis, I’m sure I’d piece together some solid advice to at least help them de-escalate. I figured I should do the same for myself.

This is a guide for a time of crisis, when you feel overwhelmed or pushed to your limit, where you think you might break something, hurt yourself, or just scream and cry and wish for the cold, eternal embrace of death.

How to Deal with a Mental Crisis

  1. Cry
  2. Seriously, just cry a lot when you need to. Let it out.
  3. Embrace any and all emotions, like a wave washing over you. Don’t hide from them or repress them. In fact, listen to music that enhances this feeling. Angry music, melancholy music, whatever underscores that emotion.
  4. Can’t solve your problem immediately? Drink a lot of water. Like chug a bunch. Yay, you’ve accomplished one good thing!
  5. Speaking of water, splashing your face with cold tap water is very effective at helping you reset your emotions temporarily. There’s something about the shock of cold water that just recalibrates your brain. It’s science.
  6. Reach out to someone, if you can. Maybe you don’t have a ton of close friends, like me, and you feel awkward reaching out to someone and saying “hey, I’m struggling. Can I talk to you about this?” If it’s too uncomfortable and you don’t feel like you can do it with your current friend group, there are plenty of internet strangers willing to lend a helping hand (or a listening ear). There are free chat sites available out there for talking about this sort of thing, but I’ve always found the mental health community on Tumblr to be very supportive and willing to talk to complete strangers. There are also some great specialized subreddits on Reddit and support groups on Facebook that are for specific mental illnesses. I’ve found each of those communities to also be supportive.
  7. Distract yourself. Right now, you don’t need to have it all figured out. You need to relax and take your mind off it. Your mind and your body will be better off if you can decompress for a bit and then revisit it. You can’t solve anything when you’re tense, frustrated, overwhelmed, or on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

    For me, distraction isn’t just mindless scrolling of social media on my phone. At least, that’s not positive distraction. I like to completely immerse myself in a hobby or interest, like writing or video games. I also distract myself easily by learning new things (watching a documentary or reading an article), looking up classes for things that I am interested in, even if I have no intention of going, or just playing around on vocabulary.com or Duolingo. Another good distraction is diving into some big, unpleasant task that I’ve been putting off, like cleaning out my dresser drawers or my closet (usually involves some deep cleaning, for me). Probably the best and greatest distraction though is watching something that makes me laugh. I love vine compilations especially, but a good comedy special is great, too, or an episode of my favorite show.

  8. Finally, when you’ve done all these things, try to get some sleep. Throw on a podcast or ASMR video, if you need help. Take 3mg of Melatonin, or half of that, if you’re inclined to use sleep remedies. You can see things with a fresh perspective tomorrow. It’s that simple. There’s a reason that the phrase “sleep on it” became so popular. The brain can reorganize all the thoughts and information it received throughout the day. Maybe it all can’t be solved with sleep, but it definitely will help.

I hope you get through your crisis and feel a little better. I hope we all do.

Step Two to Pulling Yourself Out of a Rut

All the way back in February, I talked about how to pull yourself out of a rut. It’s a discussion I’ve had with myself numerous times. Battling mental health problems is like repetitive like that. You think you’re on a good path and that from here on out, it’ll be smooth sailing, but the truth is, like anything, self-improvement takes discipline, consistence, and perseverance.

A few months after that post, I bought a journal to help me focus on the next step. Often times, I get lost in the muck and mire, overwhelmed by the big picture. I sometimes feel I’m drowning in the details (the devil is in them, you know) and it all feels like too much. I feel like I’d rather give up than just try.

So I started breaking it down into doable steps in my journal. I have four major categories that I like to track: mental health, physical health, careers and hobbies, and giving and helping. For each one, I write a goal, and then, what the next step would be. It’s just a practical, simple way to visualize what you can do to achieve your goal.

For example, physical health.

Goal: make a workout routine
Next Step: 
research yoga channels and beginner videos.

Goal: Eat healthier, plan meals
Next Step: research foods to incorporate and those to avoid; look up recipes (For me, I’m going for anti-inflammatory foods).

Another example, careers and hobbies.

Goal: Secure more freelance work
Next step: check all my online resources for gig listings

Goal: Spend more time doing enriching hobbies/learning skills.
Next step: one lesson on Vocabulary.com, one lesson in Duolingo, two paragraphs of creative writing.

It’s all about the next step. Actually, it’s all bout doing the next step because the idea is that taking a step toward your goal will help you feel more accomplished, fulfilled, and overall happier. The doing is the hard part sometimes though. I know some of the things on my lists have sat there for months. But if I’m serious about pulling myself out of the rut, I need to continue to look at the list and push myself to do a small part for one of my goals. I’ve been better about some of the steps than others.

I encourage you to think about your goals and what your next step would be to get there, no matter how big or small. All goals look the same size when you break them down into small steps.

Can I Learn Anything from Nostalgia?

I drove through my hometown recently. I had the Black Crowes’ new album playing. I had just got done running an errand in the neighboring town. I was still in my work clothes, ready to be done and back home, which was over an hour away. I hadn’t expected my GPS to route me through the small town of 1,500 people, and I didn’t expect the feelings that came up when I did.

I’m not a nostalgic person. I try not to indulge in memories of the past because I become “homesick”, per se, of a time I used to live in, a person I used to be, a place I used to live. It hurts to feel that sort of sickening in your stomach that can’t be alleviated. I don’t see much use for this feeling. Memories are nice, but they don’t do much for me in a practical sense, and I have trouble appreciating them at face value.

Despite my aversion to nostalgia, I was hit with a strong wave of it as I drove through Chapel Hill, Tennessee. It was still the same in many ways–advertising the tractor pull, a few mom and pop shops amongst the name-brand franchises, vinyl-paneled houses (very 2004) sandwiched between clumps of much older, country-style houses. More retail stores had popped up, much to my surprise. How much could this small town be demanding in the way of goods and services?

The people of Chapel Hill sure hadn’t changed. Old folks in old clothes with old routines. They probably were born and raised there. They’ll likely die there, too. I don’t know who chooses to move there, but like my family when I was little, it’s probably because it’s cheap.

I actually moved there because my dad was a pastor. I didn’t know what that meant at age 5, but I grew up in church, essentially, and spent a lot of time with the people there up until 2008. I drove past that church today. It has a new fluorescent sign. Moving on up in the world, I thought to myself There were more buildings around it. I nearly didn’t recognize it as I drove by, aside from the outside looking exactly the same. My memory of it was having a huge yard, including a slope in the back and a big oak tree–or was it maple? There was a lone storage shed and that was it. A little backroad, Blackwell, I think, ran off the side of it. The trailer I lived in for so many years was in the adjacent yard.

I felt so many different emotions and images crashing my brain, nearly short-circuiting my memory. I didn’t know which thought or feeling to chase.

Playing outside for what seemed like hours after service, coming up with crazy schemes (“We should build our OWN bus for traveling! We can use anything in this yard!”), getting scolded for scuffing my shoes or messing up my hairdo, chasing the boys, gossiping with my best friend, teasing my brothers, sitting in my parents’ van listening to the Top 40 on Sundays. Rolling down the slope in the backyard. Hearing stories of how it used to be a pond that would outlet at Duck River. The old parsonage that we tore down on the lot is where I stepped on a nail. I still remembered how it smelled inside. We had a lot of potlucks at church, which was good, because I was always hungry.

What do these disjointed memories mean? Effective to my current life and situation, virtually nothing. However, my experiences throughout childhood, including these seemingly inane details shared here, helped shape my personality, my mind, and my views of the world. Everything in our lives, for better or worse, impress upon us different lessons or truths.

I, for one, though don’t assign special meaning to memories just because I associate them with a feeling. Because a memory makes me feel nice or good in of itself is not valuable to me. I cannot recreate the situation in those exact circumstances, so it is in vain for me to feel attached to it for too long.

What it really comes down to though is that I am almost 30. The little girl who grew up playing by that oak tree would not have imagined the life I had now. She may be sad for me, or confused. She may vow to never become like me. I remember pitying certain people as I grew older because I didn’t want to settle; I didn’t want to “be like them”. Complacent, unchallenged, lazy.

Now I find myself with a college degree, pursuing a career that has been difficult to sustain. I have no goals that feel reachable due to waning energy, high levels of fatigue and chronic pain, as well as recurring mental health issues/depression. Sometimes I feel like I’m sinking. Sometimes I feel like I’m climbing a mountain and having a grand time doing it. Other times, the mountain is in sight, but it looks more like a chore, than a fun challenge. I’m afraid this latter mentality is one I’ll die with.

How foolish for me, a 29-year-old, to feel that my life is basically over! Ah, I’ve done everything I’m capable of. Might as well die.

Except I’m obviously not going to do that. I do get tired of this same song and dance. The pattern of highs and lows. Not being able to sustain a normal, or at least balanced, life. Coping with a mental illness isn’t like following some linear path of treatment or recovery. It’s messy and frenetic and disordered. Some great days, then mediocre days, then awful days, then worse days, then a good day, a second good day, a bunch of meh days, and then a great day. Repeat ad nauseum. Forever.

I get so sick of it, honestly. Like just sick to death of it. I haven’t updated this blog regularly because I don’t have solutions. I don’t have anything blog-worthy to share and to inspire. And what would be the point of wallowing, self-pitying, depressing entries with no solution or inspiration for other sufferers? That’s part of my problem with the blog and myself in general: I’m losing my direction. I keep falling into this same rut and I’m having trouble staying out.

Nostalgia makes me yearn for the days when this stuff wasn’t an issue yet. I don’t like remembering those days because I don’t know how to be like that anymore.

I don’t have an inspiring answer or motivational send-off for those who maybe feel similarly. But I will give this advice: don’t stop trying. There’s always a next step. You may not fix all of your problems or cure your mental illness, but focus on your next step. That’s what I’m doing. I can’t recreate my childhood memories or feel that same glee and freedom, but my life isn’t over. There’s still many years to come. So what’s next?

I encourage you to ask yourself the same thing.

Do What Gives You Joy

My personal journey of growth and self-improvement has been bumpy, to say the least. Everything I post on here is about that journey to find happiness, stability, and a healthy mind. It’s not been a linear journey, either. Some days, it feels like I’m moving backward. Some days, it feels like I’m completely stagnating, which doesn’t feel good at all. I want to feel at peace, I want to feel happy. Why is it so hard?

I make all these efforts to find resources and feel like I’m actually “doing” something for my mental health. Not thinking about doing it, not sharing something on Tumblr that I think would be a good idea, but actually doing. But often times, I get frustrated with the results, or lack thereof. Maybe I need to stick with it more.

I realized something else was missing though from my mental health reportoire. Things had to be simpler than I was making them out to be. Sure, worksheets and self-help books are great, but I still felt I could simplify things.

I’ve concentrated my efforts lately, not on doing some specific CBT worksheet or DBT skill, but instead on doing what gives me joy. Long-lasting happiness and being in complete control of all my emotions and reactions seems a little too far-fetched some days. But moments of joy–that’s attainable.

Well, first of all, what gives me joy?

  • Connecting with people, whether it’s friends, family, or even nice strangers. Warm people who light up my life. People I can laugh with, people I can trust in, people I feel comfortable with. This can be my best friend or a customer at work. I like interacting with people who make me feel that light inside.
  • Creating something of my own. File this under writing and video work. I want to do more in video that’s MY work. I love helping on other projects, but I have my own ideas. I got into video production because I wanted to tell stories. I’ve cast aside all my ideas in favor of…what? Nothing. What’s stopping me? And regular ole writing–I have two blogs that I don’t keep updated regularly. I can change that.
  • Helping others, as cliche as it sounds. Although, if it were so cliche, maybe more people would actually do it, instead of listing it? I used to volunteer a lot a few years ago. I recently got back into it with a local animal shelter. I love doing something for the greater good. I would extend this also to doing kind things for others, be it just a compliment, paying for someone’s meal, or going out of your way to do anything for them at all. Again, strangers or friends.

Okay, this a nice list! But I have to actually make it happen. That means “doing”. This blog is not about theory. It’s about practice. I try to showcase when I actually do, not just when I have some pretty platitudes or pragmatic bullshit to spew.

The doing is the hard part though. We all have trouble with the doing, I can say that pretty confidently. There may be a Thing you want to do that will give you joy, but it requires some effort. Effort is hard. Your time, your money, the mental and physical energy you exert are all valuable resources when it comes to doing. So valuable that you may not do The Thing because parting with those resources means more than any benefit you can get from The Thing.

I still struggle with the doing. Maybe something on the joy list isn’t always accessible or practical, but I’ve talked about other quick fixes for feeling a bit more energetic and productive. Anything to decrease the amount of time I feel like crap.

My goal is to do more things, more often that give me joy. If I only make one little step toward it one day, that’s fine. At least I’m working on that Thing. There are days I don’t feel like doing any steps. That’s okay, too. I am just trying to keep having more Joy Days than non-joy days. It’s only going to go up from here, I tell myself.

So, what gives you joy? Why can’t you do it right now? What’s a step you can take toward it right now? What’s the second step?

I’ve had enough bad times, and I’m sick of dwelling on them. I’m ready to start cashing in on more of the great moments. Let’s make some damn memories.

Work(sheet) Your Way to a New You

In my journey of self-help and trauma recovery, one constant has remained: my incredibly low self-esteem. I often use other coping mechanisms to mask this fault, or I ride the highs when I am falsely full of self-confidence. Neither or healthy. So I’ve been trying to build up my self-esteem. I found this worksheet online, but I’ve copied and pasted it for ease of use. I did mine in a google document.

The first table includes the following prompts:

  1. 10 things that brought me peace today were:
  2. I felt empowered when:
  3. I had fun when:

 

The prompts in the second table are as follows:

  1. My loved ones are proud of me because:
  2. 5 things that went well today were:
  3. I feel happiest when:

 

The third table includes:

  1. My best quality is:
  2. 3 things that make me unique are:
  3. The best part of today was:

 

In the fourth table, the prompts read:

  1. I’m looking forward to:
  2. 10 people or things I am grateful for are:
  3. I feel strongest when:

 

The final table lists these three prompts:

  1. I feel best about myself when:
  2. My greatest accomplishment today was:
  3. The 3 things I love most about my life are:

 

Step One to Pulling Yourself Out of a Rut

You can’t be on top of the world all the time. Me personally? I spend half of my life at the bottom, trying to climb back up. Somewhere in between are those pestering phases that keep us from being completely happy and fulfilled, while also not relegating us entirely to rock bottom. This is what we all commonly can identify as being “in a rut”.

Here’s my personal timeline for how I’m currently wrestling the rut that I’m stuck in.

  • Realized I was in a rut
  • Wallowed in self-doubt and self-pity over numerous things in my life
  • Didn’t want to go to work ever
  • Took a personal inventory of all the things I didn’t like about my life
  • Did absolutely nothing to fix it
  • Felt worse
  • Holed myself away from the world to play video games
  • Avoided all social interaction and leaving the house in general
  • Eventually got sick of feeling this way
  • Decided to volunteer at an animal shelter
  • Actually showed up to orientation
  • Felt slightly better about doing something to help others
  • Stayed off video games all night
  • Had a semi-productive evening, accomplishing little things around the house
  • Already planning my next move. Perhaps a class to learn a new skill or fun thing? Up the ante on my language-learning? Both??
  • Outlined the various routes I am going to take to connect on more job opportunities
  • Reached out to friends about spending time together
  • Came up with several small-scale video ideas to do with the equipment I have (who needs a big budget or actually decent prosumer equipment? I have a canon rebel that hasn’t been used in awhile!)

So in short, the first step is realizing you are in a rut. But the real, actionable first step is to do something. Anything. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Making an effort, especially when you are committing your time to something, is one of the hardest things you can do (it is for me especially). I made the choice to get out of my head and my home though because that’s the best way to get out of that rut. Anything to connect with others and/or myself is an opportunity to rejuvenate my senses and purpose.

Looking back, I will realize that getting out of this rut was as simple as just climbing out.

Is This The End? Or The Beginning?

Tomorrow, I mark off a milestone that’s been a long time coming: a bachelor’s degree in video and film production. 10 years after I first started at a community college, I’m finally reaching that goal! It’s a moment I sometimes never thought would come. I took semesters off (having a baby will force your hand on that one). I took long-distance classes. I went part-time. It seemed so far off that I never really prepared myself mentally or emotionally for the end. I got so enamored by the journey that I forgot there was a destination.

I’ve learned a lot, and not necessarily just things I got graded on. I’ve made some great friends. I’ve had wonderful experiences. When hope and my understanding about my own future were both low, I still stuck to it, determined to at least finish.

I’ll admit–at times, the only thing that kept me going was the satisfaction of just finishing what I started. There are days I wonder if I’ll just end up in a full-time position at my current job, forgetting that I ever got my degree at all. Or that I’ll go back and get my Masters in English, the subject I originally majored in.

That’s another story though. The point is that I finished. I feel so many things: relief, excitement, joy, sadness, nostalgia, fear, uncertainty. Ahead looms student loans that haven’t forgotten me, though I’ve forgotten them; putting away my student discount for good (bye-bye, Adobe Creative Suite);  and losing that comforting reassurance that the library and my university login were just a commute away.

The most unexpected feeling I had though was regret. I don’t feel I’ve made the absolute most out of my college life. I could have gotten involved more in student organizations and doing things for my resume/reel–and sooner. I could have reached out more, to both fellow students and faculty. I could have stuck around after class, volunteered to do more.

But I got what I got. There’s no do-over. From here, I have to go on the available resources and connections I do have. The things I did learn, the people I do know and can still talk to, the paths I can take. Not only did one chapter end in my life, but another is just beginning. That journey could be even more fun than this one; we’ll just have to see.

For now though, I’m going to celebrate this one. 2018 is going to be a whole new ride.

This Blog Post Is Not Perfect

Six minutes. I only worked out for six minutes today, according to my watch. It was a wildly unorganized, completely spontaneous workout, too. Past Jessica would have balked at such lack of planning and skill (it wasn’t the most graceful or textbook workout).

While doing my lunges, taking far too many breaks in between “sets” (if you could even call them that), I couldn’t help but notice how messy my room was. The whole apartment really is way messier than I like to keep my home. Unwashed dishes, trash waiting to be taken out, mail piling up for weeks, and just about everything that doesn’t belong permanently on the coffee table haunts me every time I have to open my eyes and actually look at them, which is any time I’m in the room. I used to be obsessively clean, to the point that it drove me crazy, literally becoming an anxious mess if things were out of order. It would be easy to become like that again. Some days, it makes me scream in frustration. But I let it go.

That’s because things are better now. I live in a comfortable zone between mild discontent and peaceful acceptance that this is my life now and I have other priorities. I will clean if, and when, I feel like it. I owe this renewed perspective to mindfulness training, a staple of CBT therapy, that I’ve taught myself with the Pacifica app I’ve mentioned. It’s also helped me learning to get in touch with the root emotions behind my anxiety and addressing those base concerns, instead of feeding the anxiety with a coverup, like perfectionist cleaning habits.

I could look at my physical health in a similar way. I’m nowhere near the workout machine I used to be, with specific workout plans, special “rules” for my diet, and an entire mentality consumed by how I could lose more weight or eat even more “clean”. It was unhealthy how obsessed I was with being healthy. I don’t like the way I look now, but like the messy tables and laundry baskets in my life, I’ve achieved a comfortable level of acceptance with my own dissatisfaction.

I’ve made small changes in my life to benefit my health and wellness. I will continue to build on those changes and improve, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t appreciate where I am. Life in general, I’m learning, should be celebrated in every stage, for every victory. Not just big milestones.

I can look at the mess and be okay mentally because I have a script to write instead. I can do a six minute workout and think “that’s good enough” because I got my blood flowing and my heart rate up, at least. I can eat vegetables with ranch dip and be happy that I got the nutrients I needed, instead of bemoaning that I used such an unhealthy condiment to do so.

I’m getting better, I’m still not okay. No one is probably fully and completely okay with everything in their life though. And that’s okay.