On Mental Health

Turning Down The Volume.

It’s Friday and I’ve finished 3 books this week, written several blog posts and transferred several blog posts over from my substack. I’m very proud of myself!

Except on the other side of the spectrum I struggled with daily care tasks (IFKYK) and was disconnected quite a bit in 100% of my human interactions.

I find that, with mental health care, it’s not so much about good and bad days as it is trying to mitigate any withdrawal from life so that you’re functioning at the highest capacity you can. Sometimes that means you don’t wash your face or do your laundry but you finally scheduled that doctor’s appointment you’ve been meaning to schedule for months. Other times you brush your teeth twice a day and do your laundry but you cancel all social obligations. I recognize that I don’t ever participate in life at even close to 100% efficacy and that’s okay.

Except in today’s productivity culture where – if you’re not constantly marking something “To Do” off a list – you are overwhelmed with guilt and shame.

It’s hard when your personal psychic needs are contrary to cultural expectations. This goes with a lot of mental health disorders as well as any pursuit to stop caring about your body or your size or even your “wellness” as defined by industries still trying to harm our relationships with health, fitness and our bodies.

In order to facilitate a growing apathy with my body (in the sense that what it looks like and any defining metrics with it are the last thing I concern myself with on the long list of things I concern myself with) I have to disconnect with a lot of culture that is popular right now. And sometimes that means reducing exposure to things that are everywhere. I imagine it’s the same way for someone who has decided to quit drinking when our culture celebrates alcohol with tons of huge events and promotions. Hell, my city had a GIANT wine fest downtown last weekend and everywhere I turned on social media I was seeing posts about it. I can not imagine how many people had to just entirely disconnect from social media in order to facilitate their own recovery.

To me, that is often the biggest victory in self care. Knowing when you need to turn off exposure to something. Maybe that means muting your cousin on Facebook who uses her diet app to post her weight loss every week. It’s not that you don’t love your cousin, you just have to set a type of digital boundary in order to not feel resentment towards her or to not be triggered by her posts. (And let’s be honest, as much as you post about anti-diet stuff, she’s probably muted you too.)

For me that means just skimming past any headline or book or video or instagram that is telling me how to “Get more done in my day!” Because those things often just make me feel bad about myself because my goal is usually just to get ONE THING DONE in my day, one hard thing every day. And my list of hard things ranges from: Bathing to Talking To My Mom’s Lawyer. If I can do one hard thing from that list, even if it’s “brushes teeth”, then I have succeeded for the day. And when that’s the way you have to live your life with anxiety? Postings about productivity at work and at home can really make you spiral.

So in case you feel like me – and are prone to beating yourself up over not getting things done – Let me assure you: I DID NOT DO IT EITHER. I have several doctor’s appointments I’ve been putting off making, I haven’t mopped the floors in my house in months, I have piles of half-completed craft/art projects, I still have a list of Thank You notes I have been needing to write since January, and I quit shaving.

(That last one was pretty liberating. I mean, why keep an item on a difficult care task list when you can just remove it entirely?)

If you struggle with anxiety or issues around your body, please do not ever forget that there are many facets of our culture that do not facilitate healing. It is okay to disconnect yourself from exposure to that in order to not trigger feelings of shame or self-loathing. You are not being mean when you unfollow your former coworker who is constantly posting about all of the shit they get done in one day. You are not being cruel when you mute your neighbor who posts a lot of before/after photos from her weight loss journey.

Self-care is not always about doing things like napping or taking a warm bath or painting your nails or taking yourself out to lunch…sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is turn down the volume on other people’s journeys.

Especially when the culture you exist in – as a whole – seems to be on an entirely different one than you are.

3 thoughts on “Turning Down The Volume.”

  1. Sometimes you just don’t have enough spoons, and that’s okay. I have lists for morning and evening schedules, but if I’m tired, sleep takes precedence. I haven’t swept the floor all week (it will get swept tomorrow). There are important things, like getting people and animals fed and cleaned up after and really basic survival things, and then there’s everything else, and you do what you can. I felt extremely guilty about not getting things done, but then I started thinking about why I was feeling bad and got over it, at least somewhat. I’m glad you’re getting some things done but also glad you are not stressing the rest of it too much.

  2. YES YES YES YES. (Was that too many yeses?) Man, I can identify. Especially now, when I am surrounded by boxes that I “should” be unpacking, but I am instead reading from my feed reader while watching YouTube TV. Never mind that I did already drive into town and get a new DL, file for my homestead exemption, and pick up a pantry door organizer shelf at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I can’t remember if you’ve ever mentioned KC Davis and her StruggleCare site (she’s active on TikTok, FB, and IG too), but she is such a breath of fresh air in helping us give grace for all we don’t accomplish and understanding that care tasks are not moral, regardless of how many people in our lives may try to make us feel they are.

  3. This makes so much sense. I accidentally stepped off the hamster wheel when I had my first child and a generous maternity leave. Life was so much quieter, even with a newborn, and it felt great. I realized during those months that almost every friend I talked to answered the question “how have you been?” with “Great! Really busy!” I started calling it the cult of busy.

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