“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” ~Thomas Jefferson
Did you ever wake up one morning and not know who you were anymore?
Waking up for the past four years of my life, I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day. The same things happened every day, and I felt the same horrible feelings all the time. Anxiety, depression, and hopelessness ran my life.
I had it all figured out at some point. I was furthering my career and moving toward my dream of becoming a psychologist. I had great co-workers, tons of friends, and a supportive family.
There was this continuous, sun-shiny, flowing feeling of “everything works out for the best.” Any struggles I went through would make me stronger, a better psychologist and friend. A better person. And so, I enjoyed the ups and downs of life with no regrets and little struggle.
It seems that I woke up one day and everything was gone.
I had lost my job, which paid for my education. All my friends had drug abuse issues, and I removed myself from their lives or vice versa. My puppy, best friend since age five, died four days before my birthday. I was plagued with pain from Lyme disease and an undiagnosed tick-borne illness. I felt like every piece of my life was falling apart.
My dreams were not coming true anymore. I still have no idea how I slid down this far without knowing it.
The best parts of my life had left me, and it seems like it all hit me at once. There were no more happy, “let it go, it’ll all turn out for the best” thoughts. It was all darkness. I had lost myself and my joy for life.
The worst part was that I knew I could get back to that place if I tried. But I didn’t know how. I longed for that spark, that fulfillment with my life, for years. I just couldn’t put my finger on what I was missing. I hadn’t even realized that it was gone until it seemed light years away.
I realize now that there were quite a few things I could actively do every day to pull myself out of this dark place. If you’re going through a rough time, these may help you as well.
1. Acknowledge and appreciate everything that happens, even the seemingly bad.
During my “golden age,” I had acknowledged everything that worked out well for me. I recognized the random strokes of luck that life handed me and appreciated them, and it seemed like more of these things happened as a result.
When I lost my way, I was so focused on the negative, overwhelming feelings that I thought good things just didn’t happen for me anymore. I had to learn that the only difference between a good thing and a bad thing is how you look at it.
I could sit and think about how much I disliked my boyfriend’s mother all day. From the first thought in the morning, all the way until bedtime I could obsess over how horribly she treated me. Why couldn’t she just accept me as I am? I love her son more than anything, after all!
After struggling with this for close to a year, I finally realized why she had grown to be such a focal point in my life. She was here to teach me compassion. True, loving compassion for someone you thought you couldn’t stand, until you open your eyes and think what it may be like to be them.
It is a good thing that she is in my life, and though she often presents challenges to me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She helped me to see that people are not black and white, good or bad.
Nothing is inherently bad; it just is. As your mind processes information, it applies your filters, your beliefs, and your preconceptions to the information. This is the reason we are angered, or feel sad, or disappointed. It’s not actually the thing she said, or what he did that angered you; it’s all what you think about it.
2. Challenge limiting, irrational thoughts.
When things go haywire, we tend to cling to our irrational thoughts like a life preserver, when what we really need to hold onto is our inner calm.
I really believed that I could just think my way out of the hopelessness-box I had placed myself in. I obsessed and ran and re-ran the same thoughts all day, trying to make sense or pull what I wanted out of every conversation.
My mind was a mess of tangled thoughts that I used to keep me in a bad place. Nothing was ever good enough; nothing was ever good at all. And there seemed nothing I could do about it but obsess even more.
I would obsess that my boyfriend and I weren’t getting along. Did he still love me? Why wasn’t that spark there anymore? He was cheating on me, he had to be. Why couldn’t things be the way they used to be? Why had he said that thing this morning, the one that made me feel so unloved?
I realized that all these thoughts did was give me something external to obsess over, to keep me from thinking about the real problem.
The real reason why I was uncomfortable and stuck in this thought loop was because of my own insecurities. I did not feel like I was good enough for him, hence my sneaking suspicion he would cheat on me. Focusing on what he may do kept me from addressing my own issues.
I was insecure. I had deep rooted self-worth issues, and I kept looking past the fact that all this started and ended with me. It was my insecurities making me think this way. It was my thoughts that would one day enable these things to happen—if I wanted to keep believing that I wasn’t good enough.
Often, when you think defeating and self-limiting thoughts all day, you start to believe they are true.
If you start from a place of love and acceptance for yourself, it greatly affects the way you think about important things in your life. My panicked mind just took the root cause and expanded upon it, made it grow, made it bigger and meaner until I couldn’t overlook the real problem staring me in the face anymore.
When you accept and love yourself as you are, and when you feel the inner peacefulness and calm inside yourself, you are able to see straight through your own tricks.
3. Do something just for you. Every day.
I am a responsible person and I always did everything I was supposed to do. I was a good girl. I went to work. I did my job. I did the dishes and laundry and was exhausted by the end of every day. But I couldn’t sleep through the night.
I felt like nothing was ever truly done. There was always more to do. I remember looking at a dirty bottle once and breaking down crying. Being everything for everyone doesn’t mean anything if you can’t enjoy a few moments with yourself. No one can appreciate you the way you can.
I slowly started substituting tasks with things I wanted to do. Instead of coming home and picking up the living room, I would come home and exercise. I felt better, relaxed, and energized when I was done, and the picking up got done quickly and without the bitterness accompanied by never having any time to do anything for me.
Its funny—all these people are relying on you, but all these people really need is you. Not the things you do. They love and appreciate you for you, not for the clean house. I had built up this idea that being a mother and responsible adult meant that I couldn’t have fun anymore. That I couldn’t do things I enjoy.
Make time to do something you love, and to just be you. Make you your number one priority today. Everything else will fall into place
4. Let the fun in.
Dance to your favorite song in the car, go dig your hands in the dirt in the garden, tickle your husband, make a mess; however you like to have fun, do it!
It seems like as we grow into adults, we are expected to act like grown-ups and slowly filter out all the fun in our lives. Piece by piece you realize everything that you used to enjoy, you no longer do!
Reclaim your life.
You need to take whatever time you have and use it to the fullest. It’s okay to go a little crazy. Get a little dirty doing something you enjoy. Remember what it was like to be a kid and totally immerse yourself in something, just because you loved to do it.
Forget your to-do list and do you instead. Love completely, open your heart, act like a kid, and who knows; you may just feel like one again.