M e d i c a t i o n & Motivation

It’s one of those buzz words, isn’t it?

It used to be something I struggled to accept, that I was ‘reliant’ on a particular drug to get me through life. My Dad didn’t like the idea of me taking anti-depressants, my ex told me I was going to rattle, an old boss said that he didn’t think I needed to be on them at all. Being on medication became another one of those things that I constantly questioned about ‘myself’ and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter if I needed to take something so that I could function well through life. 

What I know since being diagnosed with Borderline has changed some of my thinking about the drugs I was given in the past, (but it is probably best to save my thoughts about co-morbidity for another time!) but I still stand strongly beside my opinion that sometimes individuals can need a particular drug in order to maintain a ‘steady’ attitude to life. Without that every day can be a struggle. I’m still never sure whether I will wake up on ‘x’ morning and feel ready for whatever I might have planned that day, but I know with more certainty that it is likely I will.  

Recently, after a long(er than usual) bout of low mood and general disinterest in practically anything I managed to get myself off to visit my GP. (Who took one look at how long I’d been on the previous dosage and said ‘yeah, I think an increase is a good idea’. Is it??? Why?? Whatever.)  I’d already decided that maybe an increase in the dosage would help me to feel more like ‘me’ again, but I’d completely and utterly forgotten what it feels like when you do actually take up a new drug or increase it. 

The last four days have seen me unable to sleep until well past midnight, and yet surprisingly alert and awake the following day despite getting less sleep than I’m used to. It seems strange then that I’m also having moments where my eyes are not focussed on whatever I’m looking at, and I have to shake myself to be able to do what it is I want to accomplish. My dreams have been memorable (unusual!) and weird

Other than that, I’m feeling positive about the difference. Feeling like you’re ‘you’ again after a time of self-doubt is a relief. Over the last four or five weeks I have questioned my decision to go to University and study Law, wondering whether it would be better for me to get a ‘proper’ job or find something else to do that has immediate rewards. Distancing myself from friends hasn’t been helpful, or easy actually. 

As of right now, in this minute as I sit here typing away (in a new and improved? wordpress document creator that doesn’t like spaces after words) I should be studying. In particular I should be reading about the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty. I have my Public Law textbook at the ready, and I’ve even written this down as a task in a ‘new’ web-based app I’ve found that combines Kanban with the Pomodoro technique. 

I frequently look for new and better ways to motivate myself. Whether that’s finding another budgeting, studying, tracking, mindfulness app or hunting down the next ‘perfect’ notebook for writing a journal but right now (possibly thanks to the increase in meds???) this desire to find better things to ‘use’ on a daily basis feels like it has increased tenfold. 

Is this procrastination?! I hear you ask. Well, yes probably it is. When I do manage to actually fight the part of my brain that wants to sit and think about sorting all the cat pictures and gifs on my phone, or re-writing my budget for the millionth time but THIS TIME in an app that will calculate how much I should be spending, or posting some more pictures onto Instagram, or coming up with new blog posts, or thinking up more tasks that don’t actually need to be done or questioning whether there’s any point in getting on with anything because I have a groceries delivery in two hours…

The truth is, that no matter how many study aids you use, or however many apps you have on your phone you have to be able to switch off from everything else and actually get on with it. Easier said than done, I’m sure you agree. 

My friends would tell me I need to stop telling myself what I ‘should’ be doing and go a little easier on myself. Take a deep breath, take a step back, turn off Fun! Hospital and read. Even if it is only for 25 minutes (you can do this). 

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The Importance of Recording

One of the most useful things that I do now, is to keep a record of my daily ‘accomplishments’.

Right back in the beginning it was something that I attempted, but found that it was demotivating when all I did – day in, day out was sit and watch Netflix or play video games. Since then I’ve been able to learn to forgive myself, be kind to myself and show the same patience I’m capable of offering complete strangers.

Now, it feels like my most valuable tool.

For a long time I focused on working through a Bullet Journal to record and motivate myself on a day-to-day basis, and although I absolutely adore the concept and the work and fun that goes into keeping a journal like this, I found that a very different approach was important to help me to put together the foundations for my recovery.

A Bullet Journal actually created a wall between myself and my goals. When I would start a day with a beautifully thought out spread and only one goal to mark off I found it difficult to be attached to it, and equally difficult to go through the process of writing that same, single task over and over for days on end.

Giving up just wasn’t an option, so I chose instead to re-think my approach to keeping a daily account of my life.

My therapist was the first person to suggest that I keep a log of my daily activities. On a simple A4 gridded sheet of paper, with two boxes for morning, afternoon and evening I vaguely accounted for the ‘major’ things that I did every day. At first, they were incredibly basic. I ate food, I watched TV, I played video games. I met with a friend, I went for a walk.

It was the first time I’d recorded my day-to-day life as retroactively, and there were a few days when I completely forgot to write about what I’d done and therefore entire days were forgotten. I’m pretty sure that usually there was nothing significant about the things that I’d done, until I walked back into therapy and re-counted my week. Little things that seemed important when I’d done them, and then insignificant when I came to write down the last few days of activity were forgotten.

That important phone call that I’d been putting off for months to the bank, that form I filled out, the brief discussion I’d had with a friend or family member. Each and every single one of these things were important to my overall recovery from a very dark place that I’d managed to put myself in.

I kept these diaries for four weeks until I decided that enough was enough. My Bullet Journal had fallen to the way-side and turned into something like a book of lists (Books I owned and wanted to read, Holiday Destinations for the future, DVDs I owned, movies I’d watched) and I knew that whilst I was using those relatively small A4 sheets to log my weekly comings and goings it wasn’t going to satisfy me.

As a lover of notebooks and stationery, it wasn’t difficult to rifle through my ’empty notebooks’ drawer and find something to use to start logging my days, and even better that I’d found the perfect use for a notebook. (One of the reasons I have so many is that they’re all in there waiting for the perfect purpose. Sorry, notebooks.)

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So it began.

Almost 2 weeks later, I’m still swearing by it. Claiming that this act, and this act alone is the one reason that I’ve managed to pull myself up out of the funk I’d fallen into is a huge stretch of any imagination, but I feel very strongly that it has contributed to my continued improving mental health and will keep doing so much!

I write the time my alarm went off, and the time I actually got out of bed. Writing it down makes it a fact, and gives you a solid thing to refer back to. I find that when I am struggling the most I lose all sense of time and feeling and life. It’s easy for me to forget how I felt only a few hours ago, when I’m so preoccupied with the current moment, and the thoughts that are in my head at that time and in that place. So I feel it’s very important (for me) to be able to refer back to previous days, not to make negative comparisons or to judge the ‘value’ of the things I’ve done in the present day but to be able to look back and see, from hard factual evidence that ‘things’ over all are better now than they’ve ever been.

Thinking too hard about the shape of my life exactly a year ago would only promote a desire to reach out and take ownership of how I felt back then, in a time when my recovery was in it’s very early stages, and I feel very strongly that it would be detrimental to my health, but if I’d kept the same log I have now I might be able to recognise instantly the stark contrast in my mental health. Of course, it’s arguable – that if I’d kept a log back then, like I do now that perhaps my life would be very different but I also believe very strongly that it’s taken all of these incredibly small steps over the span of a year to get here at all and without them it just wouldn’t be possible.

We can’t fast forward progress, and we can’t force it. There are clear steps in any recovery that have to happen before you can continue on your way. That’s why we call them steps. It’s quite easy to visualise for example, the steps that might lead up to the second floor of your home and to accept the reality of the fact that before you can get to the tenth step, you have to make it up all the ones before that first.

I should be writing.

It’s been three weeks since I turned up in Cold Bay, and since then I’ve had hardly anything to worry about – at least in as much as I don’t have to worry about getting anything done to be particularly functional. I’ve been really lucky to have this opportunity and it’s done a whole lot of ‘good’ for me in ‘getting over’ my thoughts.

I’ve stopped thinking about things that usually ‘bother’ me during the night, I’ve stopped obsessively trying to make as much money online as possible, I’ve stopped obsessing over being online and stopped worrying about what’s going to ‘happen’ when I get home. Basically, I’ve managed to find a place where I’m pretty calm.

Right now, it’s calm and there’s been a bunch of stuff on the TV just now about what it is to fail, and the people who are household names now who faced failure and job loss and loads of rejection from various sources. It’s pretty inspiring but I feel like I need to be focusing myself to work toward something positive.

So now I’m trawling through the internet for tips on staying motivated, finding motivation and keeping it long enough to find success. I’m already thinking about the things I need to do ‘right now’. There’s a desk in the room I’ve stolen from my Step Dad until I leave which I know I could use better than I am doing now. There’s plenty of space and it’s not going to be hard to set up something for every day that’s a clear, calm space!

Often I get moments of inspiration, and it’s usually at the most inappropriate time – you know, like when you’re juuuuust about to fall asleep and you start writing lines and lines and lines in your head and you know you’re going to forget all about them come the morning but you don’t have the energy to get up and write. Mum suggested I keep a book by my desk to write, and that seems like the most logical thing to do! Why haven’t I done it yet? Good question.

Next, I’ll be looking out for an interesting website or forum to start picking ideas up from, and try not to get side-tracked wanting to create my own website for just that reason. There are always so many things that threaten to distract me.

Until then, I’ll mention the location of my writing ‘services’ again; here. Five Squid

Watch this space! =D