Friday, October 1, 2010

A Mental Health Creedo: Just Breathe

Note: This post was written over a week ago, and I neglected to post it - partially because it was so vividly emotional that I needed to drop it and distance myself from it. The only reason I'm posting this now is for the entry that I'm writing that will come after.

My anger traps me. My impatience stunts me. I frequently forget to breathe. I hold myself up to standards higher than I would give most other people, higher than most other people would hold for themselves. I want to do everything now all at once. I want to understand everything now, be more patient now, be more peaceful and happy now, everything troubling me to go away NOW. Do you see where I get myself into trouble? I can't breathe - I keep myself cluttered. The odd part is in saying that I've actually gotten better. Maybe because at least I'm aware of the ridiculousness of it now. A lot of my behavior can be chalked up to the sociological phenomena known as the Alpha Female - perfectionism. Combine it with a guilt complex, and over-stimulated attention span, and the trait in me that never lets go of everything. I've always argued that while I hold others up to high standards, I hold myself up to them too. I never forget about the people I anger or upset, the things I've said and the actions I've done - I frequently fail to forgive myself for momentary lapses in judgment, for not keeping my cool, for being afraid and lashing out at others because of it, for falling apart and taking it out on everyone else. I never forget. It makes life very hard for me. There's very little room for movement.

I spend most days in some stasis paralysis - torn between wanting to get an honest break I feel I deserve (which, due to my current economic situation, is highly unlikely I'll actually get) and lambasting myself for not working hard enough, for not living up to my own ambitions and doing as much with my potential as I know I could be doing. I see others my age do it, others only a few years older than me - living this highly successful life where they can keep pushing through everything, don't stop.

But I splinter. Can't breathe. Need to remember to breathe.

All of my old arguments wear thin. The only person that's pinning me to these standards is myself. I feel like it aligns closely with a quote I read that essentially states that in order to have great disappointment in something/someone, one must love it deeply. And to quote Paramore, in self-assessment, "For a pessimist, I'm pretty optimistic." In joking with my friend Amelia, I mentioned that I thought one of the things that made me stand out from so many other people was my reflex of "But think of the possibilities!"

I'm an idealist - that's not a shocker with my track record of high-achieving. But I'm also a realist. I've grown too aware of how to approach things. And it's a struggle managing the two. But, more importantly, having been on both sides of things, you begin to see how easy it is for other people to shut out the idealist.

And maybe that's where a lot of my frustration stems from lately - life is full of possibilities! genuinely! .... if you're straight, if you have money, if you're studying something the world places importance on (like business), if you have the right connections, if you grew up around the right influences, if you can fake it.

And I know I can't fake it. And I know many people don't have the resources to change their situations to get the right sort of environment where they can fully access all the possibilities. Or don't know the options they actually have. And I know a lot of people grow disillusioned with life, just as I have, just living and breathing to pay bills and jump through one hoop after the next, to only have the government or insurance companies or academic standards raise the bar once more. To fall flat. And you begin to wonder how much possibility there really is when DADT isn't repealed and oversexualization of younger girls is rampant, and even though "the recession is over" the economy is so awful that everyone would rather stay in school accumulating debt rather than get a job. When all of who you are, your potential, your possibilities, have to take the back burner until further notice - until after you pay the bills, until after the government passes an agenda, until you're done struggling with just keeping your daily rights intact (looking at you CO 62).

And that's when I find this a dangerous time to be living in - when everything is pieced off into what you can afford to do. When you can't afford basic things that you intrinsically need to function as a human being - time off, work breaks, health care, personal interests, academic aid, government assistance - it all of a sudden just seems... dismal. I know there have been several times these past few months that I've stepped back and gone "What am I doing this for? When will I have time to relax and actually breathe?"

You begin to see life as just a series of unfortunate hurdles you have to thrust yourself over to get the next series of unfortunate hurdles. There is no room for water breaks or not-hurdling. Pretending to integrate the core yourself into a system that seems to care very little for you begins to feel like a lie - how does this truly function as an extension of you when really it is just dealing with what you're forced to deal with?

Where's the possibility in that?

I told Amelia recently that I slowly stopped following politics more and more after Obama was elected - how lack of action and doubling back on promises began to disappoint me. Disappointment, rooted in love. There was so much possibility.

While I have been known to be a pessimist, and have been known to struggle with depression, I can't help but think now that it is perhaps because I love life too much, I view it with such wonder, so preciously... that when I find out other people don't want to help each other live as freely, with as much enthusiasm and interest possible, I get crushed. That, rather than fostering an environment that encourages a life worth living, we now live an environment that fosters all the life and possibilities we cannot live or have. Life has become exclusionary.

And I get angry. And impatient. I frequently forget to breathe.

I try to remember to breathe. I think to myself, "Imagine how many people you'd overwhelm by just living fully to the capability of your life force, untamed, fully realized."

Try to mantra:

I think that I'm bigger than the sound.


  1. this is why I think you shall accomplish so much. :)

  2. You are so passionate. My biggest struggle is only myself, when I'm overwhelmed, when I'm stressed, when I'm frustrated, it is me who makes those emotions. If I let myself 'breathe', if I hold myself, if I am kind and empathetic with myself, I find these emotions much less frightening and uncontrollable. Be kind to yourself, especially when life is unkind to you. "Be yourself, you're the only one who can do it right." Love you.