Sometimes things not only don’t go as planned, sometimes they turn out absolutely awful. You know those stretches of time where you just can’t catch a break? That’s where I’m at right now. I haven’t had the best couple of years, but these past couple months have been seriously rough. With the chaos of moving, feeling isolated and having no friends nearby, not being able to find a job, and my mental illnesses kicking my butt, I’m starting to break down. I have nothing left to give and yet somehow I have to keep going. It doesn’t help that my boyfriend is pretty much in the same place.
Thankfully, he was finally able to find a job, but as anyone living in poverty knows, that doesn’t mean your problems go away. We still have to figure out some way to eat for the next two weeks, not to mention find a way to get gas so he can actually get to and from work. Just today we were going to go to the grocery store until we realized neither of us have money to actually buy groceries. That kind of stress on someone who’s already anxious all the time does not go over well, let me tell you.
I’ve been shutting down. Barely able to get out of bed because what’s the point? Not being able to work on my business proposal because I have zero spoons. And then feeling angry and guilty because I’m not being productive and I’m not helping my family get out of this financial hole we’re in and I know I can do better. But at the same time… I can’t. You know what I mean?
I’m not trying to gain sympathy here, I’m just trying to give you some honest context. This is my life. This is where I’m at. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun and I have to live with it anyway. There are a lot of people in this position, or similar ones. So how DO you keep going? What do you do when everything’s going so horribly wrong?
First of all you breathe. Allow yourself to witness your feelings. They’re valid. It’s okay to be anxious and upset and hopeless right now. Feel them, write them down if it helps. Then, let them go. Imagine or visualize all those negative feelings physically leaving your body. What color are they? Do they have a specific shape? A texture? What does it feel like when they leave?
Now it’s time to find your perspective. That doesn’t necessarily mean telling yourself that someone else has it worse. When I do that, I start feeling ashamed over the fact that I’m feeling upset over my own situation, and shame doesn’t do any good. For me, finding perspective looks something like this: Okay. I’m in a bad spot. However, I have a roof over my head. I have a supportive, encouraging family. I have a loving boyfriend and the sweetest pup baby to ever exist. We’ve been through rough situations before and we’ve always made it through. And besides that, as the tattoo on my wrist constantly reminds me, “This is temporary.” Everything is temporary. Feelings will ebb and flow, situations will change, life will go on if you let it.
Feeling slightly better? Just a smidge? Now it’s time to get to work. What have you been avoiding doing while you were broken down? The biggest two for me are that I’ve been participating in activities I can’t afford and I haven’t been working on my business proposal. So how do we fix that? The first one was embarrassing, but simple enough. I’m a model, but it’s mostly been for fun. I haven’t been making money from it. So I contacted the photographers I was supposed to shoot with in the coming weeks, apologized, and told them I simply don’t have the gas money to get to and from the shoot. Humiliating as it was, I felt a lot better afterwards having done the responsible thing.
Now the business proposal. This thing will allow me to apply for a grant to get my business going. If I get it, it will completely transform our lives. With something that important you’d think I’d be motivated to work on it! Unfortunately, depression doesn’t care whether something is important or not before it attacks and drains your energy and motivation. This one is a little trickier. My boyfriend and I had a talk about how I wasn’t working on my business proposal nearly enough (read: at all in the past couple weeks) and I felt so angry with myself and guilty that it actually motivated me to work on it. I don’t necessarily recommend that route if you can avoid it. It’s painful. But as much as guilt sucks, it can help you right wrongs in your life. (Note: Shame and guilt are different. While guilt says “I did something bad,” shame says, “I AM bad.” Shame is never a useful emotion and often stems from trauma or abuse. It’s skews your vision and holds you down. Guilt on the other hand can propell you forward, through the fray. Like I said, guilt isn’t fun, but it can be useful.)
Still, with my depression in full swing, working on anything is hard. So I decided to break down my Giant Business Proposal into smaller, doable tasks. First, I read through what I have so far. Then I edited my citations to Chicago style. Next, I’ll read through my mom’s suggested edits and make those changes. After that, I’ll focus on one of the more work-intensive edits my brother suggested. You get the idea. Looking at a huge task when you’re barely functioning is basically pointless. You’ll just want to fall back into bed and never get up. You know how much I love to do lists. Make one: Wash the laundry. Dry the laundry. Fold the laundry. Put away the laundry. Wash the dishes. Put away the dishes. Make dinner. Do that school assignment you’ve been putting off. Break the tasks down as much as you need to. It seriously helps, I promise.
But the most important thing to do when everything is going wrong, is to have hope. Without it, there’s no reason to make a change. There’s no reason to pull yourself out of this funk. There’s no reason to keep going. And everyone’s reasons are different. Sometimes the only reason I get up in the morning is to take care of my puppy. My love for my boyfriend, and my dreams for a future that’s starkly different than this one motivates me to work on my business proposal. If you’re like me and have trouble finding hope in the middle of a truly trying day (or week…. or month….) talk to one of your loved ones. They’ll listen to your problems and then you can ask, “Why should I keep going?” I bet they’ll have some ideas for you. And as always, if you don’t have anyone to talk to about this stuff, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook or Instagram!
What about you? What gives you hope?