Posted by: Marie | January 14, 2010

(226) Enough work and worry

Post #226
[Private journal entry written on Tuesday, September 15, 2009]

I’ve been back to my more-than-fulltime work schedule for a little over a month now. Last month, I wrote a post about how I was worried about getting overwhelmed and then getting depressed in the absence of structure in my life.

I have been trying a new way of doing things – instead of being super-organized and having checklists to help me manage all my “to do” lists and schedules and charts, I have been playing it free and loose. I have kept one very simple list of things that I have promised to do in the future. And, I have my calendar of appointments. Other than that, I have not kept lists or charts of any kind.

Thailand by Martin Chen

I was afraid the stress of not having everything written down and laid out in front of me would be difficult to handle. On the other hand, I have a history of being heavily triggered (result = depressed, unable to do anything, paralyzed, etc.) when confronted with all of those self-implemented control mechanisms.

To my surprise, I’ve been doing just fine with my one simple list and my appointment book. I haven’t let anyone down, I haven’t forgotten to do anything important, I haven’t forgotten to show up anywhere, I haven’t forgotten to pay a bill . . .

And, I’m not triggered. I’m finding it fairly easy to do what I need to do.

On the days I do feel depression taking over, I crawl into bed and luxuriate in the softness of my bed covers. I allow myself entire days to be in bed – if that is what my body and mind are telling me I need.

The only time I do find myself getting triggered is when I have conversations with myself about how I should be doing more than I am doing. For example, I think I should be going back to school for my degree, or I think I should be loosing weight, or I think I should be hiking, or I think I should do a better job of keeping up with my friends.

I have decided, for now, that it is okay that I am functioning at my current level. For now, I will not look towards the future. I will not look at all the things I “should” be doing or doing better. For now, I can stop pushing for improvement. For now, I am giving myself time to heal – as much time as I need.

I have figured out that I have a habit of denying myself pleasure until I can prove to myself I have ALL of my ducks in a row – including the ducks of yesterday, the ducks of today, the ducks of tomorrow and the ducks of 25 years from now. I have to have contingency plans in place for every conceivable disaster that might come around. Because, if I don’t, then it will be my fault if some nasty surprise catches me off guard.

That is the programming I received from my upbringing: “No fun until ALL of your work is done.”

I have decided, for now, that I am doing (and have done) enough work and enough worrying – I have done enough to be labeled “responsible”. I have decided that it would be reasonable for me to have some fun now. I have decided that I am allowed to make mistakes, miss the signs of impending disasters and be less-than-perfect.

The result? I am doing some fun stuff. And, I’m feeling more joy. And, the depressive episodes are less profound and disabling. And, I’m not binging. And, I’m not picking at my skin as much. I actually feel light-hearted sometimes.

How about that!?!?!?

I’m starting to realize that depression is a sacred place for me. It is the place my psyche built so that I could go into hiding when I need some time to rest and heal. Right now, it is a vital place for me. I need it. When my logical mind won’t let me rest, my subconscious takes over and requires me to rest. It is a way for my spirit to teach my logical mind about self-care.

I have also figured out that part of me doesn’t want to get better. Part of me wants the symptoms to continue because they are the only proof I have that I was somehow deeply violated in my childhood.

When I feel depressed and anxious, I can remember. I can remember what I saw, I can remember what I heard, I can remember what I felt with my skin and I can remember the emotions. I know for sure it all really happened. I know my current bad behavior is simply the way a good girl/woman is responding to a bad situation.

I have become the type of person my dad despised – depressed, unfocused and discontented. If I can blame my current way of being on what happened back then (if I have a justifiable reason), then there is hope for me – I’m a good person who is acting out as a way to deal with the trauma.

If I heal the trauma, I can stop being what my dad despised and can start being a benefit to the world. In other words, I could finally be worthy of my dad’s approval.

When I feel joyful and lighthearted, I’m so disconnected from the childhood memories and the adulthood pain that they don’t feel real to me anymore. It feels like I made them up just to get attention. If they aren’t real, then they can’t be the cause of my bad behavior.

If I can’t blame it on what happened because nothing happened, how do I explain my behavior except that it is a character flaw? If my character is flawed, it means I’m bad at the core and I have no hope of being something better. This makes me permanently unattractive and unlovable (because that is what I understood my dad to have said).

When the pain disappears for a while, the proof of my underlying goodness disappears with it.

Maybe it is time for me to write down what happened. Maybe it is time for me to make a permanent record so, when I am afraid to let the pain fade away, I will know it is okay to let it fade – the proof has been captured and recorded somewhere other than in my body. If I am in doubt about my goodness, I will be able to go back and read what I wrote – I will be able to find proof of my goodness in my writing.

Yes, it is time to start writing. Soon.


  1. I am happy to see that you have discovered the joys of not “shoulding” on yourself. Also, my T also says that as human beings we DESERVE to sleep and eat, things that I do not allow myself to do when I do not have all of my daily, moment by moment goals completed. I am ruthless on myself but slowly learning the benefits of being kind to my spirit and letting my soul sing without feeling guilty. Good luck to you on your continuing journey of self-exploration.

    • Hi, Madeline –

      Isn’t it funny that we think that way — and that the people who taught us to think that way could think the same flawed way?

      For me, it is very much fear-based . . . I do it in order to avoid the disapproval of my father (who is dead now). It has only taken me four decades to catch on that this way of thinking is flawed. And, it sure is tough to change the programming I’m adhered to for forty+ years! But, I’m getting there.

      Thanks for your input! It is good to hear from you!

      – Marie

  2. I’m happy to hear you are giving “spontaneous” a try. I had a friend who has to have the lists and a BIG appt book – she goes nowhere without the appt book. She has to finish the list or she cannot do anything else, so, needless to say, the rest of us have moved on – we like to have a bit of fun now and then whether we got the list finished or not.

    Sending thoughts of serenity and peace.

    • Hey, Ivory –

      It is such an interesting phenomenon — this habit of self-torture. I’m so glad you have allowed yourself to let go of it and have some fun!

      Maybe your friend will be able to do the same someday . . .

      – Marie

  3. Congratulations. This sounds like a major change.

    I think there is truth in the saying: love your disease it is keeping you healthy – not entirely true of course. To see how depression has had benefits is a very big change I think.

    Great to hear how positive changes are happening for you.

    • Hey, Evan –

      This has been (and continues to be) a major change . . . there is something to be said about walking the fine line between over-managing every detail and keeping “life” structured enough to get the stuff done that really needs to get done.

      Thanks for the kind words and for your input!

      – Marie

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