Get Your Shit Together 101
For the past year, I’ve been dealing with an odd state of being. Depression is too strong a word, and bummed out is an understatement. I’m definitely not suicidal. I don’t feel numb or empty. I’m not even feeling any sort of semblance of what “depressed” entails, really, although some of my behavior reflects symptoms of depression and could easily evolve into an actual illness. I have a few names for it- the Sads, the Glooms, the Not-Even-Going-To-Wash-My-Face-Todays.
While I thought my condition was innocent, it has turned into something a little bit more insidious. It’s been going on way longer than it ever has before. I’m angry and sad a lot of the time. I take everything personally. I don’t talk or open up as much. Social situations scare me a lot more. And, probably worst of all, I’ve accomplished next to nothing this past year. I haven’t been creating art, I haven’t been writing, and I haven’t been making music with the exception of a couple of tracks — all things that give me definition and happiness. These are my #1 hobbies and ultimately what I’d like to do with my career. So why haven’t I been cultivating them?
We all get into ruts- some for longer than others. If you’re not going to read on, I’d like you to walk away with this statement if anything:
It’s okay to be exactly where you are.
You may have people around you that don’t understand why you’re stuck. Or maybe you’re the only one being mean to you. Every human being on this rock will go through their ruts many, many times. It’s unavoidable, it sucks, but it happens. You’re not a unique cause. Nor are you broken.
I want to make it clear that my course in Un-Fucking Yourself may not be what everyone needs. I certainly haven’t done a lot of these as often as I’d like. But sticking to a select few has helped me immensely. I’m finally digging myself out of my pity grave and I hope you can do the same!
1. Cut Back On The Hooch, Bukowski.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have a drinking problem. It’s been quite a while since I’ve gone a day without at least a can of malt liquor or a glass of wine. I spend about half of my week tipsy or sloppy-ass drunk. It’s turning into something darker now and is most likely the #1 cause of my Fucking Up storyline.
I’ve started small. Get sloshed on special occasions, like my birthday or a show that my friend’s band is playing. But when I’m alone (which is when I drink the most) I’m limiting myself to two. Two glasses of wine or two hard lemonades and absolutely no liquor. Eventually, I’m going to cut down to drinking on weekends only.
Dealing with the pressure of other people drinking can be hard for a lot of addicts. It isn’t so much a problem with me — I know the only reason I’m giving into “pressure” is because I want the tiniest excuse to fuck up and drink. But if turning people down is something that may be holding you back, maybe it’s time to ask for a little bit of space from the people who enable you. Shutting down friendships is unnecessary, especially if this person means a lot to you and may also be dealing with the same addiction, so be real with them about needing them to either stop with the after school PSA-level pressure or give you a couple weeks of space to ween yourself off of the poison — and the lifestyle. Better yet, invite them to do the same. If you’re really struggling, AA is always an option. It’s also free.
2. Look At How Past Trauma Or Just All-Around Bad Times Have Affected You, And How You’ve Dealt With It.
This is another big one for me.
My father died when I was 19. He was sick for about 10 years and I have almost no memories of him when he was healthy.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the source of which my doctor and I believe was when my abusive ex-boyfriend locked me in his truck going about 90mph through our neighborhood and I thought he was going to kill me. This diagnosis, I’ll admit, seemed like complete BS to me for a while. I had friends with PTSD or symptoms that resembled it that had dealt with what I deemed as “legitimate” reasons for their illness. Sexual assault, getting robbed in a foreign country, childhood abuse. I didn’t think I deserved the title, like I was in some sort of respectability contest about who deserves to be sick.
I was also part of an intentional community about a year ago that completely blew up in my face. I gave up other relationships to focus on it and thought it was going to change me for the better. There were a lot of hurt feelings that resulted in one of our roommates just bailing, myself moving in with my boyfriend and the other two running away to Australia together. I was blindsided and felt used and like I wasn’t really a person that deserved good things or good friends. I felt like I attracted bad people because I was bad.
From the severe to the not-so-severe, lots of fucked up stuff happens to us. A lot of us think we’ve gotten past it. Truth be told, we usually haven’t. I chose drinking and self-loathing, my vices, to “deal” with these things for most of my life. It crescendoed in the past year and I’ve finally recognized it for what it is. It isn’t really dealing. It isn’t anything. It’s barely even self-medicating. That darkness is still there. Staving off the feelings that come up when something triggers a bad memory isn’t going to make it go away. I’ve chosen to write about it instead of medicating with bad shit — whether it’s journaling, writing music, or working on my brand of creative writing. I talk to people and open up. It’s helped me tremendously. Many people choose to see a therapist or join a community of people who also want to heal. Do what works for you, but please, you deserve to do something. Being bogged down will absolutely keep you from getting your shit together.
3. Tidy Up, Even On A Day With Zero Commitments.
I am the fucking worst when it comes to changing my clothes on my day off. I’ll sit around my apartment in my bathrobe with a can of beer like your friend’s weird dad. It seems like this shouldn’t be a huge deal. Hey, you deserve to be lazy on your day off! But “lazy” does not have to equal “gross”. The act of cleansing and exfoliating my face, brushing my hair, putting on deodorant, putting on just a tad bit of makeup like mascara or lipstick and dressing myself in something comfortable that isn’t my dad-robe has made a HUGE difference for me. I get much more accomplished in a day. I’m more likely to go out grocery shopping instead of ordering shitty delivery food. I’m also much more likely to accept invites from friends to hang out if I’m already ready to go. And all I’ve done was spend 5 minutes cleaning my ass up! It’s worth it, trust me. It was hard to get into at first but it’s finally becoming a habit.
Another thing I’m terrible at is cleaning my room. I’m a big fan of creative chaos but it gets out of hand really fast. My room is usually littered with dirty clothes, trash, and dishes. It smells musty. I keep my windows closed. I don’t enjoy it at all. So a week ago I gave my room one really good cleaning, opened my blinds to let natural light in and have been working to maintain it every day. It’s made a difference — I’m more likely to write or create art if a bunch of shit isn’t toppling over on my desk.
4. Give Yourself Permission To Do The Things You Love.
If I’m procrastinating things that are important, I’m much less likely to do the things I love.
my brain: Got laundry to do?
me: Yes, but I don’t want to do it.
my brain: Well, maybe sit down and write a bit?
me: No, that’s a luxury. If I’m not going to do important things, I’m not going to do nice things either.
my brain: What are you going to do, then?
me: Cry and watch cat videos for a few hours.
Have you had this back-and-forth in your head before? It’s stupid. No way around it. Do your best to take care of the important things like going to the bank, doing laundry and cleaning your house. But if it’s just not going to happen, don’t punish yourself by further wasting your time by doing unproductive miserable shit. I sat down today and wrote this article instead of binge-watching the X-Files whilst unshowered and sad. Believe in yourself, you deserve to do the things that give you joy.
5. Exercise and Drink Water.
I may sound like a cute tumblr positivity blog, and let’s be real — drinking 8 glasses of fucking water isn’t going to cure your mental illness or pull you out of your rut. I have, however, started a routine that has helped a teeny bit with my ability to self-motivate.
I will drink a glass of cold water before bed and another right when I wake up. The cold water before bed fills me up and staves off late-night snacking that triggers weird dreams and nightmares that keep me from getting a full night’s rest. The glass of water upon waking kick-starts my organs and I get out of bed a lot easier. My gut has been feeling all-around better since I’ve started doing this, too.
On to exercise! I got a gym membership months ago and have successfully barely used it. For a few weeks I didn’t go at all. I had set a shitty standard for myself that I would go every single day and stay for two hours. Obviously I fucked this up majorly and just gave up. So I’ve set the bar low. My goal has been three days a week. Just three. And I’ve stuck to that for almost three weeks in a row now. I’m actually GOING to the gym and DOING things! I try to remember that I can always bump that goal up to four or five days when I’m ready. Going to the gym in the morning before work or in the afternoon when I’ve got time to kill keeps me alert and feeling good for the rest of the day. My gym also offers free massage beds and chairs! Treating myself to a massage after I exercise, especially before I go into work, helps with a lot of back pain I usually have from standing all day and eliminates “But I’m in paaaain!” from my list of excuses for keeping myself in a rut.
Pro-tip: If you have a tablet or smartphone and a video-streaming subscription, bring that shit to the gym with some headphones. I have a show that I watch ONLY when I’m on the treadmill and I don’t allow myself to watch it anywhere else. It’s very motivating, especially if it’s a really good show.
6. Remember the people who stuck with you during your Not-Having-Your-Shit-Together Era, And Keep Them Around
I’ve looked back on this lame-ass phase and others like it from my past and made two lists in my head.
List #1 includes friends who have shamed me for not being fun enough or told me I was just lazy, friends who seemed like they related to me but quickly got bored and moved on to more exciting people, friends who said “I just feel like you’re holding me back”, and friends who would bully me about my not-having-my-shit-together behaviors. Those friends? Fuck those friends. Seriously. Don’t get attached. They are bad friends.
List #2 includes friends who have consistently been patient with me and invited me to things even though they knew I’d turn them down, friends who took the time to listen to me and offer me a hug or just an earhole to talk to, friends who would remind me that this time will absolutely pass and I’ll be back to my old self and that they love me. Those friends? Hit those friends up when you’ve finally retired your smelly dad-robe and decided to get better.