A few years I was interviewed for an article titled, “Learn to thrive within your New Normal,” for Bp (Bipolar) magazine. In the article I discussed the importance of setting goals. Living with bipolar disorder is challenging – to be honest, downright hard at times. When I am in a depressive episode I am highly unmotivated. I do not want to do jack. I want to sleep, to be left alone, and to not be bothered. But that isn’t the way the world works, dear reader. The world doesn’t stop for me to sleep days away. People who count on me need to be able to count on me. Most of us don’t have the luxury of shutting down.
In the article I am quoted as saying, “A good way to set new goals is to look back at the ones we have already met. A lot of times they’ll be things that, six months before, you didn’t think you could do.” It’s true. If you would have told me at the time of my diagnosis that I would go on to write a beautiful memoir, I would have shoved you (because laughing was too hard). But these things happened in time and because they happened I know that I am capable of doing other things in my life.
Now, I am a home owner. I have lived without my emotional support animal, Hope, for a few weeks. I did not disappear, like I thought I would. She was my baby. But being a pet parent to my other dog was just as important as it was for Hope. So I get up in the morning when she wakes me up every day. If I am lucky there are kisses. I feed her. I let her out. We play with toys bought from her Uncle James. She is smart and funny and this is what I believer it is Bailey that is keeping me afloat.
It isn’t always big goals like writing books and maintaining healthy relationships that you have to focus on, sometimes it is simply taking a shower. You build on these things, one shower turns into another the next day then another the day after that and pretty soon you don’t have to work so hard at it, you just do it as a natural part of your day.
For those of us with anxiety problems, a small goal may be to simply leave the house. As I’ve said before, the Starbucks drive-thru with the dogs in the back seat is sometimes all I can muster, but I don’t berate myself for that. I celebrate that small victory. Today it may only be a drive-thru, but maybe in a couple of days I can go inside Panera for a bagel. And who knows, maybe next month – the mall! My point is that when I am feeling anxious and afraid to leave the house, I take a baby step. When I take that step and find out that everything went well it gives me confidence to build on.
I am a big advocate of self-love. Be gentle with yourself. If you are suffering with depression set small goals – then meet them and if you can’t, try again tomorrow. My therapist told me to celebrate everything I do. She asks if I have been writing. If I tell her not much . she says that a little bit is better than not at all. When I can make it to the back of a bog box store – that is a win. Sometimes I can’t do it and that is okay. It’s about what works for you. You are in competition with no one.