It’s been five months since my last self-assessment post, but as I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m doing and where I am, I thought I’d go ahead and write a post. Get it all out of my head. Goodness knows I have a lot in my head. Not all of it needs to be shared, but here’s this.
Plot twist: I’m doing much better than I was. I mean, the world still seems to be conspiring to push me down–or to be less self-centered about it, the people holding most of the power are still conspiring in a not at all subtle way to push anyone who isn’t them or blindingly devoted to them down–and the daily news is depressing or infuriating or all of the above. Money has become slightly more of a concern than it has been, due to some life circumstances, and money is one of those things that can really grab your depression and anxiety and race off on a bender. There have been some painful bouts of depression this year and my anxiety was starting to become a big problem. Maybe not Godzilla big, but at least Andre the Giant big.
But late last year, I discovered a YouTube channel, How to ADHD, and those videos have helped me more than every other ADHD resource I’ve used since I was diagnosed five-ish years ago. And working on living with my ADHD has also helped me work on living with my mental illness. Another lifesaver was Dr. Janina Scarlet‘s book Superhero Therapy, which helped frame the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy I’ve been using for the past few years in a way that made more sense to me. Because superheroes, obviously.
Right, so here’s how I’m doing better: I’ve realized that I feel…well, “happier” isn’t the right word because even when I’m better, I’m not necessarily happy. More like focused and not so burdened with mental illness. I feel more focused and unburdened when I’ve set myself short-term, achievable goals that build into larger goals, goals that are based on my core values. Really, as ACT counsels, I’m trying to look less at being happy and more at being busy doing things based on my core values. Even when “busy” means marathoning a great TV show or making my friends laugh.
Thanks to How to ADHD and resources they’ve linked to, I’ve figured out ways I can trick myself into building new habits for myself (and turning not-so-great habits into better-than-bad habits), which is mostly to start very small, tie them into other things I do regularly, and reward myself when I do them. This way, I’ve gotten myself to meditate daily for two months without breaking the chain, with no sign of stopping. My sleep hygiene is improving and there have been a few nights lately when I was able to fall asleep and sleep through the night without needing to take anything to knock myself out. That hasn’t happened in a very long time.
Last week, I had the brilliant notion that all the coffee I drink might not be doing me as much good as I’d like, so I cut down the amount I drink daily by half, stopped drinking it in the afternoon (mostly) (look, coffee is delicious, and decaf doesn’t count), and started drinking more water. Funny thing, my daily anxiety immediately dropped to a much more manageable level. In fact, I’ve had more energy lately than when I was drinking so much coffee. Good energy, not restless, anxious energy. Wacky, right? Could drinking less coffee also be helping me sleep better? Who knows? (I’m gonna go with yes.)
The best thing is that while I still have mornings when I wake up feeling chained down by depression and I still have days when I need Xanax to calm my body down from an anxiety attack and I still have nights when negative self-talk spirals out of control and I find myself sobbing to my cat (who is, thankfully, quite understanding about these things), I feel like I’m making solid progress. I feel better–not in the sense of “cured” (because there is no cure for the way my brain works) but better than I’ve felt in over a year. That’s an awfully good feeling.