I Want To Stop, I Want To Go

Being institutionalized for a depressive episode is never a laughing matter. Nevertheless, I have a go-to half-joke I always whip out whenever the topic comes up.

“You know, sometimes I wish I could be institutionalized, just so I could STOP for a while.”

No one ever really laughs.

Truth be told, sometimes my life seems like a succession of stopping and going. I’m bored and don’t have anything to do, so I look for projects to fill up my time. I fill up my time with projects, and I’m suddenly stressed out and looking to drop them because I’m overloaded. I drop them, and then I get bored again. It is a never-ending cycle.

This type of paradoxical behavior has left me very confused as to whether or not I am a lazy person. Am I forced-relaxationunmotivated? Is that why I never seem to get much done? Or am I actually getting quite a bit done? Am I pushing myself too hard sometimes? Do I actually have too many irons in the fire at once? Or am I afraid to get involved with things I think I’ll fail at?

Who am I anyway?

I believe a common misperception about depressed people is that they aren’t particularly productive because they can’t muster up enough energy to do anything. While I have occasionally found this to be true, it is certainly not always the case. Many times, the problem is we are actually trying to do too much. Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: After a week of general lethargy, you suddenly awaken on a Saturday morning with the resolve to complete every single task you have … that same day. Obviously, the day is not long enough for such tasks, plus you’re so amped up that you can’t decide where to begin. At the end of the day, all you have is a bunch of quarter- to half-completed projects lying around.

This may seem extremely disorganized, but you have to remember that, by definition, depression indicates an unorganized mind. There are so many other factors at play, though. For instance, I have a tendency to believe everyone is more organized than I am. As a result, I try to put up a front that I am very organized as well, even though I am not. Sometimes when I say I want to “stop,” it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with any kind of physical activity or work; it means I want to be able to stop being fake about who I am. I am the not the person I am projecting myself to be, mainly because I think no one will like that person.

Depressed people procrastinate, take on too much, take on too little, overachieve, underachieve. We’re basically all over the map, and that is a real problem for us. We feel bound up by expectations so much, and most of the time they are expectations we’ve placed upon ourselves. Imagine the conflict of waking up with a “go-getter” attitude, while also being thoroughly convinced you’re going to fail. How are you supposed to reconcile all that?

I have difficulty just watching television. I always have to be doing something else, too. It may seem as if I just want the opportunity to sit down and watch the boob tube. In reality, though, what I really want is to be able to feel like I can sit down. Maybe that’s why a little forced relaxation doesn’t sound so bad to me sometimes. At least that way, the choice is already made for me.

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Perhaps I’ve Said Too Much

I’ve been very fascinated recently with the concept of self-sabotage, where a person either sabotageconsciously or subconsciously engages in behaviors that will almost certainly lead them to failure. According to an article published on the Psychology Today website, “The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.”

These are all definitely very serious behaviors and deserving of special attention, but I’ve been thinking of a different kind of self-defeating behavior lately. It has to do with how we view ourselves, the faults we either have or believe we have, and how open we are in sharing those faults.

The very nature of this blog is very confessional, and I’ve pointed out several negative aspects about myself. Inevitably, in the course of a natural conversation with me, I will point out at least one unflattering trait about myself as well. Most of my humor is self-deprecating, and I’m always the first to point out my own mistakes.

Why do I do this? Well, I’ve been trying to figure that out lately. I have several different theories. Maybe I have low self-esteem. Maybe I’m a very honest person. Maybe I believe I’m somehow being more genuine than everyone else if I show all my warts. Maybe I think it shows other people that I’m human, just like them. Maybe I hate myself. Maybe I’m desperate for someone to tell me I’m actually not all these negative things.

My latest guess is this: I bring all these things to the light because somewhere, deep down inside, I am convinced the deficiencies in me will cause whatever I’m involved with to crash, so I might as well let everyone know what kind of person I am.

Self-SabotageIn all honesty, though, the reasons don’t matter. I’m putting myself behind the eight ball every time I bring one of these traits to light. I’m planting a seed that very rarely yields anything good. I’m not saying it’s not a good thing to be honest with yourself about your faults and confess the sins that need to be confessed. When they become what defines you, though, and basically drive you in every relationship, they veer into self-sabotage territory, in my opinion.

I think about the apostle Peter often. Peter flat-out denied he knew Jesus. There was no grey area; he bold-faced did it. Have you ever noticed, though, that in all his writings and in all the recorded instances of him speaking after Pentecost, Peter never mentions this again. I would be like, “Okay, look, I am the guy who denied knowing Jesus three times, but…” He just doesn’t even go there. He didn’t even introduce that negativity into the conversation.

He believed he was better than those moments of denial.

I don’t believe we should all put on masks and act like we’re perfect. I also don’t think we should blab every fault we have to anyone who will listen. I am convinced there is a happy medium between the two extremes. The battle to find it can be bloody and difficult sometimes, though, and it can be so much easier to wallow in the depression and pain and fear. Staying in that place, though, sabotages everything in my life, from my relationships to my job to my spirituality. I become toxic to myself.

I’m trying to do better at identifying the thoughts that would sabotage me before they can take root and cause me problems. This is usually where I would say I’m not doing such a good job of that. To avoid planting that see of negativity, though, let me just say I’m just going to keep right on trying.