Monday, November 28, 2011

The Happiness Prescription

As I relayed in my last post, I've just struggled with several months of pretty bad depression. I like to think that most people didn't know anything about this - I played it pretty close to my vest and really didn't want to or feel safe letting it all hang out. Now that I'm feeling better, I can talk about it.

I went to a counselor, the same one that four years ago helped save my marriage and help my husband through his depression and stress upon returning from Iraq, and two years ago helped me through a bout of crazy anger- and tension-related insomnia. I trust her and we already have this history on file, so it was faster getting to the meat of the current matter.

It's not like she revealed some amazing truth about my life that I'd missed seeing - it's more like "hey, I'm paying for this so now it's Doctor's Orders". We talked, I did an assessment test to see if my depression had reached "clinical" (just barely not), and she told me two obvious truths:

1. I need to avoid self-medicating through behaviors that are actually harmful. That means don't overeat, don't under-eat, don't over drink, don't smoke, etc. I was told to watch myself closely.

2. My life balance is out of whack. She asked "what would you do if you just had an extra four hours in every week, to do with as you please". Then she said "do that anyway you don't have an extra four hours".

The only way I can accomplish my "doctor's orders" and do more stuff that is purely recreational for me (re-create-ional. I need to recreate myself), was to let something go a bit. The options were:

1. Work. Either lower my standards, get more help, or most-radically reduce my hours.

2. Kids. Cancel some of their activities, lower my standards for homeschooling, get more help, or most radically - stop homeschooling.

3. Home. Lower my standards, get more help, or most radically - burn it down (I'm kidding).

4. Food. Lower my standards, get more help, eat out more, or tell everyone to just scrounge and ignore their pleas for food.

5. Clothing. Just let it pile up dirty. Let my husband go without ironed shirts.

6. Credentialing. I could extend the time I plan to work on my credential, or more radically I could drop out of the program.

7. Normal self-care. I could stop exercising and going to the doctor and all that.

Now - realistically anything that leads me down a path of living in a stink-hole while wearing dirty clothing and eating packaged cookies for breakfast and not going to the gym anymore is a BAD IDEA. That road will just lead to me being more depressed. Yuck - not going there.

My husband STRONGLY felt that I should not ask to reduce my hours at work. He said, and he's probably right, that I'd just end up doing the same amount of work but get paid less.

As much as everyone looked to the homeschooling as the obvious thing to drop, I resisted that with a stubborn grimace.

So it's the Credentialing. I'm not dropping out of the program, but I am going to give myself one more year to complete it. And, honestly, I've lost a lot of my passion for doing it at all - but I'm signed up and so, by golly, I'll do it. I also realized I just couldn't keep loading extra events onto my work responsibilities. I need to keep it realistic and sustainable, and remember to keep the core program strong and do the extras as - well as extras!

By becoming a Semi-Slacker, I've bought myself just enough time for:

1. Sudoku puzzles. Lovely, pointless little things.

2. Fiction reading. It's so therapeutic, no matter what you read! I mean, I could even just read romance novels - the point is it feels fun and is renewing.

3. Watching Star Trek with my family. I like it - something nostalgic that reminds me of my younger self.

That has all been just the fun stuff. I also need to re-form the habit of doing a daily spiritual practice, and I have two that I've done for years: morning yoga and evening journal writing. They just slipped away from me when I started squeezing in study wherever I could, and I justified that studying and writing reflection papers were a form of spiritual practice in their own right - but they don't actually feel very spiritual when you're rushed and anxious!

This is not magic. Doing a sudoku puzzle isn't going to "fix" me, and there are still a few core issues. Like how my standards for myself are really high. Like how I don't get much help. Like the fact that I am a full-time working, full-time homeschooling mom, running a (new, just moved!) household with four acres to care for and planning on hobby farming, and also pursuing a continuing education program that is like part-time grad school.

But the sudoku puzzle does help.

1 comment:

  1. Keep at it. Sounds like you have a plan. Sudoku and all. ;o)