I often write about how this life design project is my attempt to mend my relationship with anxiety and depression. But I don’t talk much about my relationship with anxiety and depression.
In My Life Today: Prototyping Anxiety
Since it’s anxiety that just stirred meIn fairness, daylight savings just happened—so 5:35 a.m. was 4:35 a.m., a couple shut-eyes ago—and I’m not sure I’ve rhythmically adjusted: time-shifting is likely part of the neurochemistry keeping me awake, too; my internal clock struggles with this time of year, every year. from “sleepy-but-gotta-pee,” to full-blown awake at 5:35 a.m., I thought this ought to be a good morning to share my strategies for coping with these mental health issuesThere’s no way I can tackle the behemoth of depression in one post, or hundreds of posts—mental illness has decidedly stumped writers for generations, although William Styron illustrated as closely to the edge of madness as possible in Darkness Visible—so I’m only chipping at an iceberg. I believe stemmed from:
- traumatic experiences as an undiagnosed autistic child, followed by
- more traumatic experiences as an undiagnosed autistic woman in her 20s, resulting in
- fearful, survival-based experiences as an autistic woman in her 30s.
One of the ways I manage my anxiety is sleep. But this is dangerous, since when I sleep too much, I have a harder time with my negative thinking patterns, i.e., the depression.
I also challenge anxiety by returning to nature.My father likes to go all Emerson when he’s anxious too, camping and hiking. Although, I’m not sure if Dad knows who Emerson is… 😅 Usually, I turn to gardening. I already started this year’s strawberry patch.
Then I have writing, my tried-and-true all-purpose balm. This blog is a writing-based prototype and dashboard for a healthier, calmer life; I hope it forms into a sanctuary of peace.
But I must build my sanctuary, bird by bird.
Quote Response: Designing Your Life, Burnett & Evans
Life is a lot of building.
While this sounds smart and exciting, I didn’t come up with the idea. In Designing Your Life by Burnett and Evans, they describe the process:
Prototypes lower your anxiety, ask interesting questions, and get you data about the potential of the change that you are trying to accomplish. One of the principles of design thinking is that you want to “fail fast and fail forward,” into your next step.
My therapist and I have also talked about my attitude towards failure.
Lifeview: In Need of TLC
Here are some of the buried, dark Lifeviews he’s summoned out of me:
- I fail at physical and emotional self-defense, as well as defending my self-interests, and even following through with basic self-care (ex., my autistic stomach issues), and as a result, I feel perpetually vulnerable and amygdala-incited (i.e., I’m always in a fight-or-flight response, always aware of where the doors in the room are located, always dedicating at least a portion of my attention to “getting away”) during interpersonal, ethical, and professional interactions;
- I fail at carrying on the legacy of my parents’ values—moreover, I’m often on the opposing side of the political, ethical, and spiritual spectrum when talking to my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and rather than respect my years in college, my grandmother says, “college brainwashed her”—and I don’t know how to communicate my differences with their opinions, so I’m often disheartened by my conversations with family; tl;dr I have serious trust issues with expressing myself to my family;
- I failed at meeting the deadlines as a high school SPED teacher, and I’ve failed meeting several other deadlines in the past too, due to moving too slowly, over-stimulation, and in the most difficult moments, meltdowns and shutdowns;
This list goes on and on. Three examples is enough to illustrate the next step, though.
Workview: Treat Careers Like Relationships
My therapist tells me to approach my career like any other relationship:
- Would I prefer a relationship where my partner—fiance, employer, family, whatever—a) enjoys and respects me, or b) tries to hammer my puzzle-piece peg fit into the triangle-shaped hole-for-their-standardized-dreams?
- Would I prefer a relationship where my partner is a) proactive about integrating our lives, or b) reactive about issues only to the point of covering their ass?
- Would I prefer a relationship where my partner a) makes me feel good, or b) makes me feel bad?
I jest to my therapist, “I had a handful of physically, emotionally, and socially abusive boyfriends before Chase,” to illustrate a valid point: Because I’m not good at standing up for myself, when a counselor, elder, or friend tells me to grow a backbone (okay, my therapist doesn’t ask me to “grow a backbone,” not his style; more like: “is this good for your health?”), I know how I’m supposed to answer…
But I also know how, under the pressures of fear, I normally answer. Self-care and self-destruction—this is the fine line that separates a healthy life from a maddening life.
It’s a complicated mess. I’m still figuring it out. One of the roots of it, though: I don’t like to fail. Of course I don’t. Who enjoys failing?—but since prototypers “fail fast and fail forward,” that’s a good strategy. It’s a good start.