Mental illness recovery is challenging.
It’s ugly. It’s hard. It’s a day-to-day grind with no real finish line.
I’ve been contemplating a lot about my mental health recovery, and the journey I have been on. The fact is, I am doing well. Actually, I’m doing a hell of a lot better than I have in years.
My sleep is under control. I’m feeling rested and energized. Even my fitness routine is going well, and I am succeeding in limiting my missed days. I enjoy the workouts. I like how they make me feel. I like the fact that the weight is finally starting to creep down. I like that I’ve had the self-discipline to keep at them, even with everything else going on with work, school, and home-life.
The problem is, I don’t always feel like doing the workout. I could be busy. I could be tired. I could just plain old not want to do it. Getting into that mood, there is a time in the past when I would have given in, and just not done it. However, lately I’ve been pushing myself through those times. I’ve been pushing myself through my comfort zone. I’ve been having the discipline to go through the motions, even if I don’t particularly feel like putting in the effort.
I had this happen to me the other day. It was a weight day. I was tired, and the thought of dragging myself into the gym didn’t really seem all that appealing. However, knowing that I would feel worse if I didn’t force myself to do the workout, I dug deep and did it. It was definitely not the prettiest workout I’ve ever done.
My pacing was off on the treadmill portion. I needed to grab an extra few seconds of recovery time between my weight sets. By the time I was done, I was spent and I felt like ass. I grabbed a shower after I finished, then headed back into may office to work. I found that my mind was clearer and I was better able to focus.
The next day, I was still feeling fatigued, but I did my sixty-minutes on the treadmill, and by the end I felt like I was starting to re-energize. On the third day, I was back into my weight routine, and I was back into pace and form.
Dealing with mental illness is a lot like this workout story.
Some days you just can’t function. Some days you want to give up. I know when I was at my worst, there were days I couldn’t engage with life and spent most of the day in bed. However, as time went on, I began to learn how to go through the motions. I had a hard time engaging with life, however, I began to force myself to push through. I learned that I was going to feel like crap whether I gave in and stayed in bed or if I got up and attempted to be productive.
Just like the few days dealing with my workout, the lack of energy from my mental illness was temporary. Even though I just went through the motions to get through those days, after a bit of time passed I got through the low, and things began to improve.
I know that when you are in a low, it feels like it will last forever. It feels like you will never get through it. It can feel that the world is closing in on you. Sometimes it will take all the willpower and energy you have to go through the motions. That’s alright. Those times won’t last forever.
I wish I could say that this insight came from within, but I can’t. For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile, you know I am interested in all things SEALs. A former SEAL turned motivational speaker, Jocko Willink has several podcast videos uploaded to Youtube. In one, he discusses procrastination.
As far as Willink is concerned, procrastination is not something anyone should do. Except for one thing.
There’s always an exception, isn’t there?
That one thing to procrastinate at is procrastination itself. According to Willink, tomorrow is the day to procrastinate. If you’re “not feeling it,” he believes that going through the motions is important, but if tomorrow comes and you still feel like you need a day off, then take it, but chances are, you won’t.
This is one piece of wisdom I gained through listening to Willink, and one one that I feel needs to be shared repeatedly.
Life has a way of sneaking up people. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. And let’s face it, when we’re struggling we’re going to feel like crap whether we give in and stay in bed all day, or if we get up and go through the motions. We may as well do the latter.