I just got off of a three to four week stress junket thanks to work, and it’s one of those times where my brain is simply fried. I have tried my best to write and get ahead on my projects, but it simply isn’t happening because my brain is beyond exhausted. I am tired and whiny and sore and overwhelmed. I want to cry and I want to scream and I have the greatest urge to curl up or punch someone in the face, I haven’t decided yet. Work has been, in a word, hell, and writing is like a distant mirage; I know exactly where I need to go, but I just can’t seem to reach it.
We all get like this sometimes. And sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between just having a stressful couple of weeks versus wondering if you’re falling down the rabbit hole of depression again, because the symptoms can be so similar. It’s especially hard when you have to balance work and writing and neither seem to happen as you’d like and you keep falling farther behind on both – kind of like the snake eating its tail type thing that never ends and only gets worse.
I would say being a writer is hard, but really, being human is just hard, no matter if you write or not. So I wanted to do a little reminder post for me and everyone else who may be in the same boat.
1. Be kind to yourself.
You are only human. You make mistakes. Beating yourself up for being less than perfect at anything will not help you improve, it will only make it harder, and then you will feel worse and beat yourself up more. Take a breather. Take a step back. Order a pizza or some ice cream, let yourself rest. You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel after being kind to yourself. The problems you face will still exist, but you’ll be better able to face them.
2. Sort out your priorities.
Make a list of everything that needs doing. Then make a second list organizing them from most pressing to least. Then tackle one at a time starting at the top. Mount Everest is a big motherfucker, but it can be conquered one step at a time.
3. Find something to laugh at.
Humor, even gallows humor, is enough to make anything bearable, especially if you can share it with someone. Find something to laugh at, even if it’s fucking ridiculous.
4. Stand your ground.
You cannot please all people all the time, nor should you. Standing up for yourself, especially if you have problems liking yourself, is real damn hard, but you are worth it. You have worth. You are not a door mat. Figure out your boundaries and then enforce them. This takes some work, sometimes a lot of work, but you have got to do this if you want to keep your sanity. That means saying no to some people and meaning it. No is an awesome word, and an even awesomer feeling. Start using it and let the guilt fall away. You are not responsible for the world and everyone in it, just you and your small corner, which does not encompass everyone who thinks they ought to be there. That is your space, you get to choose.
5. Kick the apocalyptic undertones in the ass.
The world is not going to end just because you fail or cannot accomplish something. Repeat that again with me: the world is not going to end. There are always consequences in life, but 98% of them will not end in fire and brinstome and endless elevator music. Things might suck for a bit. You might have to resort your priorities, put in some extra hours, choose a new direction, but the world will not end. You will be okay. I think that is the hardest to come to terms with, because many of us have varying degrees of perfectionism and fear of failure, but it’s impossible to meet all expectations at once. Just take a deep breath, let it out, and know that no matter what happens, you will be okay. Just keep going. Keep breathing. One step at a time. Accept the consequences you cannot change and keep moving forward.
I still have trouble remembering a lot of this, but I’ve been getting better over time. Giving myself permission to be human has done wonders for me. I understand myself and my limitations a lot better. I know how far I can push myself, I know how far I should, and I’m getting better at prioritizing. I love saying no. I do not have to be a doormat. Sometimes I still slip up, sometimes I get horribly overwhelmed. That’s humanity. That’s life. I just have to remember to tell myself that I can always try again, because the world will not end with this one mistake.
So be kind to yourselves. You are all human (except for you in the corner. You know who you are *suspicious eye squints*) and imperfection is what keeps us from being scary boring Stepford Wives. Keep stepping forward and learn to take care of yourself. After a while, most everything will fall into place, and you will find your groove.
ETA: Also, remember that you are never alone. It’s not a weakness to ask for help, or to reach out. Talk to friend, a trusted family member, or even a stranger. Everyone ends up in the same place sooner or later. You don’t have to be alone.
Inner peace and love and awesomeness, peeps. Ya’ll be good to yourselves.