Monday, August 14, 2017

Reflecting On My Almost Mental Breakdown - One Year Later

One of my favorite things about blogging is that you get to look back on some really cool things! I know I've taken a lot more pictures in the past few years just to post here that I may not have taken otherwise. Most of the time I like to keep it pretty positive around here and share the good things that I've got going on. 

Interestingly, I was cleaning out my draft folder and noticed a post from early June 2016 that caught my attention. It was really just a bunch of venting, and I think I felt better after I typed it all out and never felt the need to hit publish. Sadly, it was a cry for help and I was so deep into my stress that I didn't even see it at the time. 

My Almost Mental Breakdown - One Year Later

It's not formatted or spell checked, or even a finished post: 
Every year around spring and the beginning of summer I start to get bogged down by our daunting schedule and to-do list. We almost always have things on the calendar, but it's downright crazy how much we've got going on this time of year. The yard starts needing attention, baby showers, weddings, graduation parties...it all seems to pile on.
On top of that I've got work, cleaning jobs and volunteer work to balance. By the time I get home I don't feel like cooking or cleaning or doing anything but hanging out on the couch. That completely conflicts with my obsessive personality and I just end up feeling guilty all the time. I'm not giving anything 100% and that feels so wrong to me.
I didn't start typing this out to complain. I am just hoping to hear that I'm not the only one who feels like that sometimes. Obviously I've assessed what I've got going on trying to eliminate some things. That's the problem: the things I'm happy to give up are the ones that earn me money. Can't really do away with that...
Something has to give though. I'm feeling burned out and not excited about anything. For example, I know I will feel relief when we go on vacation, but I also feel like there are 100 things I will be neglecting at home. So I'm excited to go, but also not excited about the consequences of leaving things unattended.
Ironically that was just the beginning of the most stressful summer of my life. It is true that spring and summer do tend to be our busy seasons. But, I did NOT feel the same way this June. And that was completely purposeful. 

Obviously, I had no idea how to fix the situation at the time, and I kinda feel bad for my past self! Hindsight being what it is, I know now what the problems were and it's pretty cool to be on the other side of it all. 

Basically, we weren't keeping it simple. I mean, we thought we were. Some of the stress in my life was unavoidable, but quite a bit of it was self imposed. With so much on my/our plate, any extra thing that came up was going to be a huge problem. Which is why that summer was very difficult. Adopting a pregnant dog, remodeling a bathroom, discovering I had a blood sugar problem, losing the A/C in my car in the dead of summer...Had we been keeping it simple, when one of those things came up it wouldn't have been such a big deal. 

Step One: Honest Reassessing
I obviously thought I had already done that in the post I had started writing. But the truth is I wasn't ready to make any changes. I thought I could keep doing it all and not have to give anything up. But, when you have no wiggle room, something has to come off your plate. Deciding what that was going to be was really difficult and involved a lot of sleepless nights of prayer. 

Step Two: Feel Guilty
This may be something that isn't universal, but I felt guilty about having to take some things off my plate. I wanted to do it all and I still struggle with perfectionism on a daily basis. But there is the beautiful illustration of the gasoline truck still needing to fill itself up with gas. It's completely fine fix yourself before you can help others. It just took me a little while to feel okay doing that. 

Step Three: Make Changes
This was a big process. We decided that there were several things we needed to adjust. I can name them all but the three biggest things were paying off some bills, getting rid of a bunch of clutter, and to quit buying a bunch of pointless stuff. (Step four was also a huge change we needed to make!)

- Paying off some things really helped with that financial weight that we felt. There is a lot of relief that comes with not having to worry about extra payments. Paying off my car, and now not having a car payment at all, for example, has been amazing! 

- Decluttering was actually quite therapeutic. It was a project that gave me a lot of control back. When your world is crashing around you, it feels so good to have a handle on something. I went room by room, drawer by drawer and got rid of truly everything unnecessary. This also had some unexpected side effects like making it easier to clean the house and earning some extra cash with a big yard sale.

- Buying less may have been a direct result of decluttering. I did not want to bring anything else in after getting rid of so much. This also really changed how I shop. I no longer go into Target just to walk around, I only go shopping if I need something. Browsing isn't really something I want to do anymore. 

Step Four: Say No More Often
Gosh, easier said than done. I have always chronically said yes to things I regret minutes later. People pleaser 101! If we were going to make changes, we had to become fiercely protective of our weekends. Although not effortlessly, we started saying no to invitations for social outings and parties more frequently. We used to feel obligated to go to every wedding, shower and graduation party of people that we didn't even know all that well. I've still said yes to things I probably shouldn't have, but less often than in the past and it has made the world of difference. 

Since last November, we have only taken 2 trips- one was a quick weekend in Orlando, and we just got back from our annual beach vacation. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, but we were doing a lot of it. A weekend at home was rare before, but now I have truly come to love being in my own home. Because let's face it-there is always something to do around the house or friends to have over for dinner.

Step Five: Keep It Up
Maybe the hardest part of this whole journey. It's easy to keep doing something when you have emotions supplying your momentum! Even after you see those initial results of your efforts pay off it can be easy to slip back into old habits. For example, we paid off my car and it was (and is) still tempting to go and buy a new one. But, we just keep reminding ourselves how nice it is to have that extra money each month for other expenses. 

Step Six: Reap The Benefits
It was so cool to stumble on that post, because a year later I feel like a totally different person. My dad was diagnosed with cancer at the very beginning of the year, and while he is 100% healthy now, it was a jarring experience. But! I was in a completely different mental state this year and more prepared to handle stress. Had that happened last year, I don't know how I could have made it through unscathed. Having a simpler schedule, lifestyle and mindset has completely changed everything for me! 

Examining your priorities is a good mental exercise for anyone. It's hard to change, and hard to give things up. Especially if you are like me and try to have it all, do it all and try to have a cute outfit on while doing it. Going against the grain is difficult. We live in a complicated world, filled with the push to have a lot of nice things and being different is not going to be easy. There is a lot of pressure to keep up and not feel left out. I actually stopped watching certain tv shows, unfollowed people on social media, and, again, quit going to Target to break myself of some of that thinking. But, here I am on the other side of all of that and I can't even begin to express how happy I am that I/we firmly resolved to make changes! 

Leave a comment below if you have ever had to make some serious changes in your life to prevent yourself from totally losing it! Have you ever felt like a completely different person after reflecting on a time in your past? 

12 comments:

  1. YES. I've totally been here before and learning to say no was the biggest thing for me! I'm glad to hear that you made adjustments. That is so healthy and wise!

    Katherine

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    1. It's so hard to say no, but gosh does it change everything!

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  2. I totally get it. I always feel like I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown too. We are always so busy and I'm always so stressed. Like you, I can also be obsessive, so I feel guilty when I take the rare moment to relax. I always feel like I should be doing something productive instead.

    I'm glad you're in a better mindset now, and also that your dad is okay!

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one! Relaxing is totally allowed, we just have to give ourselves permission. Funny, isn't it?
      Thank you for reading and relating!

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  3. While part of me feels really guilty (because some of that stress was because of my wedding) I also know that I couldn't have done it without you. You truly were amazing and I will always be grateful to you for making it such a special day. Love you so much.

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    1. While it was one extra thing to do, I will always be happy I said yes to helping you guys with your wedding! That was a super special time and I'm thrilled to be part of that day!

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  4. Hugs to you. I'm so glad you were able to write out your feelings, step back, assess what you needed to do to get yourself back to right and then make it happen.

    I am a person who functions at a very high level of frenetic energy. If I'm not busy, I'm falling apart. There are times when I really have to stop, look at what I'm doing and remember to breathe (who has time to breathe????) and honor myself. My moment of "truth" is coming - I have one part time job, two freelance writing jobs, and am volunteering with both PTA and Cub Scouts. On top of being a mom and wife and runner. We will see how it goes.

    The one thing I don't feel much is guilt. I do what I can do. I throw a lot of myself into helping others, and when I can't do it, I can't do it. No one can do everything, and it's absolutely ok. If other people don't understand that, then they are takers and the problem is with them.

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    1. You forgot to add blogger to your list! That takes a lot of time too. It's such a hard place to be in because you don't want to give anything up! I think I just got to a place where I was giving a lot of things a little bit of my attention. Now I'm giving a select few things, the most important things, my best attention!
      And great point about the takers! That is so true. Thanks for reading Jenn!

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  5. I tend to feel this way when I stumble upon my high school journal. I was extremely depressed in high school but I didn't know it then and no one recognized it (except my boyfriend-now-husband) and I didn't know what to do. I feel so dang good about where I'm at now. I can't remember if I've burned those journals or not, but I'm just so determined to never be back in that place.
    I'm glad things are going so well for you, too!!

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  6. You're most definitely not alone! Over the years, I definitely take the time out to make myself the #1 priority because no one else will. And I definitely no longer feel guilty about it! But its taken a while to get to where I am, so I hope you find the right balance!

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