Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve repeatedly run into an obstacle, which I will loosely dub ‘I’m not sick enough to deserve help’.
Whenever I would think about getting therapy or talking to anyone about what was going on, I’d say, ‘Well, I’m still going to uni and getting my assignments done. I don’t take drugs. I can leave my house. I might be depressed, and having panic attacks every other day, but I can sort it out. I just need to stop being lazy.’
I think a lot of us take that perspective on our mental health. But let’s flip it so we’re talking about physical health, instead:
‘I hurt my leg a few years ago, but I can still crawl around to places. It’s not ideal because I have to drag this dead weight around with me, and I can’t put weight on that side. Still, it can’t be that bad, because I can use the other leg. I’m not gonna bother getting it checked out until I lose function in both legs. I’m just lazy and need to work harder.’
Sounds dumb right? Granted, lots of us do ignore our physical health for too long, but I don’t think it’s as normalised in our society.
LBR. I’m a self improvement junkie.
There’s honestly a lot to be said for getting too invested in self-improvement; it can become a compulsion, something to strive for that feels good but at its heart is simply about thinking of yourself as deficient somehow. From when I was sixteen I was obsessed with productivity blogs and books such as Getting Things Done, 7 Habits, etc etc.
These days, I’m sure my desire to find the “perfect” productivity method was an attempt too control anxiety about my grades or whether I was good enough in my academic work (I’ve written about it more here). It was never enough.
Regardless, in small, careful doses it can certainly be useful. I try not to engage in this as a compulsion, i.e. when I’m feeling sad or worthless, or as a distraction from some feeling or activity. I use them to help me live by my values, to strengthen my boundaries, and learn about how to care for myself better. Gratifyingly, this has become a lot easier as the content I consume is generally based in mindfulness and values based living.
Anyway, without further ado, here is a small handful of the resources and blogs I’ve found the most helpful over the past few years. I’ll be updating this as I go along, so do check back.
The inventory exercise comes from a video by mental health fitness coach Mark Freeman. He goes into more detail about it in his book but in short, it involves mapping out two things: 1) how you currently spend your time and 2) how you would ideally spend your time. The idea is to gain visibility on where you’re wasting time on compulsions/unhelpful actions, and what you actually value in life. And then take steps to align the two inventories.
I’ve done this at numerous periods during my life, and it’s been helpful to take stock of where my time is going, and also how quickly you can slide back into old habits if you’re not careful.
Here’s my inventory at the beginning of this year. Suffice to say, I was going through a rough time. But nonetheless, very aware of my compulsions and my time disappearing into them.
My inventory just after moving, before I started my job. I remember being extremely pleased with myself as my inventory was finally starting to look the way I wished it would.
14th June 2018
And then here’s my most recent inventory, from this week – a few months into this job.
21st August 2018
It’s certainly better than it would have been a month ago; however, I’ve fallen very quickly back into compulsions, rumination, and moved away from spending time where I value. It’s been harder working out where to spend time with work – I need to define my values more in that area. Nonetheless, every time I do this exercise I gain a clearer idea of what I actually value and how that translates into values.
My ideal inventory – Aug 2018