Just For Me

At the end of the music therapy session I described in my last post, Wakana told me to make a list of all the things I’m doing “just for me.” She often gives me homework without holding me accountable for doing it, but this time I want to make an honest attempt at it.

I feel the need to justify doing anything “just” for me; to be honest it feels kind of selfish. I’m not sure if that’s the gender training talking (“women should put everyone else first”) or the depression; they’re most likely interrelated.

Whatever the case may be, and as much as I may struggle to believe it, my justification is this: everyone needs to do things that are just for themselves, it’s a vital part of self-care and all-around health / wellness. Doing things just for oneself does not reduce or limit the things one can do for others. On the contrary, it helps one to be more capable of helping others.

I can’t really help others while I’m hurting myself – especially not as a therapist. Even (especially!) with my mom, she asks me for help all the time and I try to help her, but I resent her and end up doing something to hurt her in my attempts to reestablish some kind of boundary (or just as a reaction). Ultimately, it’s not healthy for either of us.

If I want to help people – if I want to do anything! – first I need to take care of myself. That’s what this post, and ultimately this entire blog, is about.

Things I’m Doing Just for Myself

  • Writing this blog
    • As much as I hope readers benefit from it, too, it’s primarily a safe place for me to process my experiences and feel seen and accepted.
  • Receiving music therapy as a client
  • Playing, listening to, and composing music
  • Playing video games
    • I might spend unhealthy amounts of time playing and thinking about them, but I also enjoy them for the story, strategy, and as a means of self-expression. If Fox and I are playing the same game, I need to play at my own pace, make my own decisions, and remember that I’m playing the game for me.
  • Watching awesome TV series
  • Reading
  • Trying to eat healthy food whenever possible
    • I only get one body (in this lifetime, at least); my body is me. Taking care of myself means ingesting things that will benefit my body me as much as possible and hurt me as little as possible.
    • I focus on eating minimally-processed foods free from weird chemicals, and on trying to balance my diet. Chocolate is a delicious treat to enjoy every day, but I need much less of it than I do vegetables, fruit, protein, grains, vitamins, minerals, garlic, and healthy fats.
  • Cooking
    • Cooking is a fun and often social activity that helps immensely with trying to eat healthy food. It’s also a great opportunity to try new things and be creative.
  • Exercising
    • I feel much better on the rare occasions when I do exercise (usually taking a walk); it’s beneficial to my body (me).
  • Meditation/Relaxation
  • Receiving massages
  • Sleeping
  • Maintaining personal hygiene
    • Showering, brushing my teeth and hair, moisturizing, applying deodorant, and wearing clean clothes all help me to feel good. I can go out in the world and do things – if not confidently, then at least without worrying about how I smell.
  • Cleaning
    • Cleaning gives me some control over my environment and makes it more pleasant, which helps me feel good. Fox and I are both responsible for cleaning.
  • Having pets
    • Pets are a huge responsibility; you have to spend a lot of time, energy, and resources taking care of them – even when you don’t feel like it or have other responsibilities. But they also bring a lot of joy and comfort, sometimes just by existing. I try to provide a good home for my pets where their needs are met; other members of the household may benefit from their presence, too. But I have pets because I benefit immensely from having cute warm fuzzy critters to hold, pet, talk to lovingly, be groomed by, teach, feed, watch, build box forts for, take walks with, etc. They are also most excellent at getting me out of my head and back into reality.
  • Learning
  • Developing adaptive software for people with anxious depression and other mental health issues
    • I have ideas for a program (or possibly several programs) that would help me take better care of myself – if not to overcome my anxious depression, to at least have an easier time living with it. If I’m successful, I want to share the software with others at low-to-no (preferably no) cost to them. But my primary reason for developing the software, the reason why I thought of it in the first place, is because I need it. I need the software to help me function and do the other self-care items on this list more consistently. Perhaps more importantly, I need to actively create the software for the experience of identifying a problem and working toward my own solution – taking active steps to meet my own needs.
  • Choosing to live

Anxiety

I’ve changed my tagline to: “living successfully with depression and anxiety, one day at a time.” I don’t always feel the “successfully” part, but as long as I’m still alive to keep trying I’ll call it a partial success.

I spent much of Wednesday frozen with anxiety. I was worried about my pet rats’ health, terrified of my pending piano midterm, unsure whether I’d be able to catch up on schoolwork, and ambivalent about attending an information session.

My mom is planning to have knee replacement surgery on both legs – so all I’ve been hearing from her are her thoughts and anxieties about recovering from the procedure, what she‘s going to need from me, and that I shouldn’t do the overnight walk on June 1. It seems like she keeps finding excuses to invade my space, interrupt me from what I’ve been doing (including schoolwork), bombard me with all this … stuff, and then leave again. I feel like I have no boundaries, no space for my Self: my thoughts and my emotions. The worst is that she’s trying to get me to change my mind about a decision I’ve already made, something I strongly feel the need to do. My walk inconveniences her a hell of a lot less than her surgery inconveniences me, but I’m not trying to get her to change her mind. I respect that she’s made the decision she needs to make. You’d think she could pay me the same courtesy!

To say I feel fragmented would be too gentle: I am being violently torn and ripped to shreds.

I tried talking to her about my anxiety (on the way to the info session) and she got mad at me. The conversation became about why she’s frustrated with me because I seem to be working against myself. Many of my behaviors are self-defeating but that’s not the point – in that moment, I did not need to be corrected. I needed empathy. But all she’s capable of is demanding empathy from me. She had the nerve to say, “don’t embarrass me at the meeting.” Right. The only function my not-so-awesome emotions serve is to embarrass her. Not, you know, to indicate that I have needs that aren’t being met.

On Thursday I took the rats to the vet, who said they were very healthy. They do seem to have caught something, though, so he gave me an antibiotic for them. That helped calm my anxiety about them … until this morning when they refused to take the antibiotic. I really don’t want to force-feed it to them. Worse, I have plans for tomorrow that will take me away from home, forcing me to rely on – you guessed it! – my mother to keep them medicated. I doubt she’ll be any more willing to manhandle a rat and force medicine down his throat than I am.

On Thursday I was also able to catch up on the work for my online class, in which I’d fallen behind – though, less so than I’d thought. I’ve even started working on an assignment that’s due next week! That also does a lot to relieve my anxiety – though now I’m plagued with uncertainty: should I try to get ahead in that class to give myself more time to do the larger and more challenging assignments to come? Or do I focus on work for my other classes? The “work” for my online class is so fun and engaging I actually feel guilty doing it – like I’m playing a game instead of studying!

Update: I completed the assignment due next week. It was fun and challenging; the feeling of accomplishment is awesome!!!

And always, there is the pending PIANO MIDTERM! (cue ominous music)

It seems like taking action helps me calm the anxiety. For now, “taking action” with regard to Mom means avoiding her, because I don’t even know where to start trying to talk to her about this stuff and all talking to her does is cause me more stress. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with her right now. But I took the rats to the vet and that helped, and I caught up got ahead on work and that helped, so maybe if I actually practice piano that will help, too!

I’ve also finally started taking the anxiety medication my psychiatrist prescribed. It’s too soon for it to have kicked in, but hopefully it will help – at least keep me from becoming paralyzed.