This is a bit of a companion piece to my previous post on akrasia and anxiety. To start, I want to say that I’ve done a lot of reading about how to motivate yourself and how to organize your life. I’ve read Getting Things Done, I’ve read Leo Babauta’s blogs, I skim Lifehacker and the like pretty regularly, and a number of other things off and on over the years. I read a lot about this topic because learning how to organize myself and establish good habits is one of the three reasons, along with therapy and the pills I take twice a day, why I’m even as functional as I am.
The problem I sometimes have, though, when reading about changing habits and organization is the underlying current of “you have to fight your own laziness” or “you naturally don’t want to do hard things” or “you need to push past your comfort zone” and I can never relate to that. An example would be Babauta’s most recent post, and I want to be clear that I’m not taking a swing at him or anyone else who does this kind of writing because my point is merely that I often don’t relate to what’s described. I don’t have a comfort zone. If anything, being in my comfort zone would mean dreamless cryogenic sleep on a space-station far away from humanity.
This isn’t an attempt to whinge, but rather articulate what I’m sure a lot of severely mentally ill people can relate to: I don’t know what it’s like to take it easy, or to be comfortable, or to not struggle hard every day. Part of the reason why I’ve been posting what I have about my own attempts to stay organized and motivated is that I just haven’t seen a lot of ink spilled on what it’s like to do these things while having to work with your own mental health.
I almost said “fight against your own mental health”, but that’s really the problem I have with a lot of writing in the life-management genre: it sets an adversarial relationship between your goals and your brain’s tendencies. It reminds me a lot of my experiences with Christian culture, where the spirit is pitted against the flesh. I don’t see it that way, though, I think for those of us who are very mentally ill we have to learn to work with how our brains function. My panic attacks, anxieties, even periods of suicidality are, in a sense, rational responses to what are irrational perceptions and circumstances. My problem isn’t that I don’t know how to push myself, but that I don’t know how to take care of myself. I’ve gotten so used to pushing myself every day that I can’t tell the difference between when it’s healthy to do so and when it’s not.
Ultimately, my brain isn’t going to magically become neurotypical any day in the near future. I also don’t, as cheesy as it may sound, give up on all my dreams and ambitions. That means I have to find ways to cope with the way my brain is, rather than simply pretend that these disabilities aren’t there. That’s what I want to read more of: people discussing how they cope, not how they fight themselves.