Feel-Good Corner

Mental Illness – Praise and Thank Yourself

I apologize for the delay, I had my quantitative methods exam and had to submit my research report. The good news is that I’ve now successfully completed a third semester of college! What’s funny is that the day before I submitted my research paper, (Wednesday), I was at our favourite health food store with my dad. I used to work there in the food serving department and it’s always really nice to see my fellow coworkers. We ran into the manager of the ‘├ępicerie’ department who is someone we speak with frequently. She’s super kind and a really hard worker but right now this Christmas period is crazy for everyone. In her department specifically there’s a shortage of employees and A LOT of work to do with receiving, unpacking and restocking inventory.

If you’ve read some of my other blogs you may already know that I wish I was working. Contributing…functioning…earning my keep…having a place in the system that keeps society going. That wasn’t possible with school, and even before that I wasn’t able to work for a long time. Now that the semester is over though I had the spontaneous idea to work during the busy holiday period to be an extra set of hands. This time I would be working under the head of the ├ępicerie department. Speaking of which, she is a big supporter of my goal and reads my posts which means everything to me! It also turns out, and I wasn’t surprised, that she’s great to work with. Together we spoke to the big boss and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to do that alone. The great news was that I got my job back while in the store and began working the day before yesterday. Today I have the day off but I’m looking forward to working tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. There’s always something to do and that makes me feel productive and purposeful. (Again, you know how important that is to me.) So this whole thing is a win-win and I’m really thankful for how it worked out!

The Goal of this Post

My reason for this personal update is to once again use it as an example of something I find very important. With school finishing at the same time as a new opportunity opened up, I learned a few things about myself. I learned from my whole semester as well and I’m hoping I can apply it when January rolls around!

Praise and Thank Yourself

This semester was a new challenge for me and it tested my courage from the moment I decided to return when I did. I definitely didn’t make that decision alone, what with my history, and it was crucial that I didn’t bite off more than I could chew. I have a strong tendency of doing that. Going into the semester feeling distrustful of my skills, abilities and the stability of my mind was truly scary. Thankfully, time went fast and with help from school (my individualized education plan) and my family, things went much better than I expected. There were old and new challenges and of course by the last quarter my energy began to wane and my head acted up more, but I made it. I didn’t get the grades that I really wanted, but I’m being reminded that it was an excellent start. I know that my finishing average for psychology is 95% but I’m still waiting for French and QM. Am I anxious? Yes. Am I relieved and happy? Yes, but I have to increase that.

Unfortunately, I had more work to finish on my report than I had calculated, which meant that the day before work, the morning before work and an hour after work I scrambled to finish in time for 4 p.m. on Thursday. I had made a key mistake though, which makes me angry at myself. I should have finished my project sooner and allocated my time better. I also should’ve started working yesterday, after my final work was submitted. Now I feel that I didn’t have time to fully be happy with my interpretations of the data, which is making me very concerned about my final average. I’m especially worried because even though my mom helped me study which really helped me prepare, the result of my final exam is a 77. Ow…that really hurts. The class average was a 55, but I can’t believe I scored below an 80. In my book 90 is the minimum for most courses so I’m very, very disappointed. (Yes, we do talk about my standards in therapy but no, it’s not working yet.)

This is part of my point today though. I’ve been more focussed on how I could’ve done better and scored higher and I’m forgetting to appreciate the fact that I was still successful. The fact that I made it and didn’t need a medical incomplete for a FOURTH time is bigger than I give it credit. This is where todays’ key phrase comes in: Praise and thank yourself. As my dad reminds me, this does not mean one is egotistical, pompous, self-absorbed or anything of the sort. He says in fact that I shouldn’t worry about that because I’m too far in the opposite direction. Though I can’t honestly say that I’ve fully absorbed that lesson, I pass it on to you who may be in a similar situation. Take the time to appreciate your accomplishments, because chances are you’re in the opposite direction of overconfidence as well!

For some of us no matter what we do it just isn’t good enough for our own standards. Whether it be a personality trait or environmental conditioning, the result can easily become unhealthy. It’s incredibly ironic that I’m writing about this and I feel like quite the hypocrite since I’m so bad at dealing with these things realistically. Still, a rational part of me plus what I’ve heard from therapists and my family has taught me how it should be. As always though, only applied knowledge is power. Or…actually, awareness is the first step. It’s a more realistic step by step approach because of course we’re not going to go from where we’re at to a perfectly balanced view! This too applies to my topic today; celebrate the little victories and soon you’ll realize that they’re not so small.

A New Take on Recent Events

I’m going to try to be kind with myself right now and put aside my fears regarding next semester and a whole bunch of other things so that I can try to practice what I ‘preach’. I’ll do this in point form to indicate how I’m trying to redirect my thoughts.

I didn’t do as well as I wanted, grade-wise. / I have a great grade in Psych and my other classes are pretty good too. I can improve and striving for better isn’t a bad thing, but I shouldn’t be mad at myself.

I really should’ve worked harder, studied more and been more organized. / It was my first semester after a long break so I have to be more understanding. As I continue my methods and strategies will improve again. It’s just another learning experience.

I’ve never completed a winter semester and I already feel worn out from this one. Am I going to fail again? Will the pressure make me feel worse and make things really bad again? Will I slip back into dangerous habits? / I did have trouble near the end of this semester but no really bad ‘incidents’ happened. If I can make it through this semester the next should be no different. I sought extra help when I needed it so I will make sure to continue that.

I only completed 3 classes…what’s the big deal? At this rate I’ll become a psychologist when I’m 35! I’m slow and behind everyone. My 19 year old coworker is in University. My best friend of the same age is partway through University. If I can only take 3 classes at a time (I wouldn’t even be considered full time if I didn’t have the Access Centre), then what will happen in University? Is my goal just another pipe dream? Is it a period of obsession that I’ll give up on because it’s unrealistic? / If 3 classes is a rate that I can keep up without endangering my mental or physical health, that’s perfectly fine and it’s even the most responsible thing to do. Everyone has their own pace and I need to be compassionate with myself and not feel worthless for needing to manage things differently. Everyone has their struggles and these are mine. It’s not my fault and I’m not a failure. (I really wish I fully believed what I’ve been writing right now. It makes me deeply sad.) But, I should be proud that I listened to reason and didn’t make unhealthy choices for myself as I am so apt to do.

I’m working a bit now but it’s not for long and I’ve had to stop working multiple times. I’m ashamed of my instability and failures. Some of my coworkers and probably our boss find that I’m not a good employee. I feel like a quitter and also, so many students have a job all year round and have a full course load. I’m weak, fragile and stupid. / Uh……where to begin? There are too many emotions to fully deconstruct and repair this so I’ll move to focussing on the positive. I may not be working much, but I have returned. And even if it’s not huge I can still do my best at the job. Most importantly I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and I especially appreciate being able to speak with coworkers and clients. I’m usually socially anxious but for some reason I’m not feeling it so much in this setting. In fact in just 2 shifts I’ve felt less isolated and more ‘part of the world’ than I have in a long time. And that’s not just in the context of COVID; I’m talking about years because that’s how long I’ve been self-isolating. (By the way don’t get me wrong, because of COVID I’m wearing a mask and a visor because it’s impossible to remain at a safe distance at work. Contributing to the safety of everyone in this crisis is of the utmost importance to me and my respect for those who are demonstrating willful ignorance, disregard and selfishness is well in the negatives! Sorry but I feel very strongly about this.)

Long Story Short

What this all boils down to is recognizing and appreciating our own achievements no matter how small they may be. It’s easy to dwell on the past or imagine a dismal future but if we can’t properly interpret the present, this pattern will never die. Simply take a moment…if it was someone you love who felt this way and was desperately trying to get back on their feet, would you knock them down? Probably not, right? Therefore imagine the reverse and realize that others feel the same about you. (And if they don’t it’s their responsibility and no reflection on you!) If we’re are right that others don’t deserve to feel all these things nor deserve to be knocked down…what makes us any different? I know, I know…; we are different, right? “I don’t deserve it because I’m a bad person for [insert all possible things we use to stab ourselves in the back].” No! I do this CONSTANTLY but it’s FALSE! We are no worse! EVERYONE (yes, including us) deserves happiness, a sense of fulfillment, support, understanding, love, compassion…the list goes on. Others may push us down, but that’s life. The true tragedy is when we do this to ourselves, and believe it!

I fully admit that I’m no expert, but I hope the concept itself makes sense. The Holidays are a time for kindness right? How about we gift ourselves some for a change? I’m trying, and we all can. Trying is the only way to succeed.

Big hugs to everyone who needs a reminder that they’re worth more than they think!

What's YOUR take?