I’ve been a self-improvement nut pretty much since I hit puberty. There’s a journal entry from the summer before I started 7th grade (so I’d just turned twelve) in which I wrote detailed plans for mastery of several virtues. I was going to focus on one each day of the week. I’m not sure how long that whole thing lasted, but the mindset remains.
I’m also pretty hard on myself, like a lot of people. It seems like people have always told me to quit being so hard on myself. Mental health professionals tell me to practice self-compassion. One of the social workers at the partial hospitalization program repeatedly told us all to give ourselves grace.
It wasn’t until fairly recently (like the past 6 months or so) that I recognized and accepted that I can’t just push through my mental illness. In some ways I knew that. I’ve always known that just snapping out of it wasn’t an option and that it couldn’t be cured by sheer force of will. But I think I sort of thought that if I attacked it hard enough–got therapy, took meds, used coping skills at home–that I could annihilate it without having to alter my life in any significant way. I didn’t have a realistic idea of exactly how much practice and work it was going to take to recover from borderline personality disorder.
The past 4 months in particular have shown me that I have to make recovery my top priority even if that means sacrificing some other things. I had to take time off work. I’ve put the process of applying to/selecting a grad school on hold. I’ve adjusted my expectations of myself.
I think that this is a good, smart thing. But I don’t want to stop moving forward. I want to give myself space to rest and not expect too much of myself, but I don’t want to quit accomplishing things. Right now I’m working 30 hours a week, and I’m happy about it. I’m making enough money to pay for stuff and I get to keep my insurance. I also don’t feel overworked. However, most days when I get home I don’t feel like doing anything else that I feel like I “need” to do. I don’t want to exercise, make good eating choices, or clean up around the house.
I don’t know how to balance giving myself grace and making progress. Am I taking care of myself by deciding to read, play video games, spend time reading about/talking to people online about recovery instead of exercising or cleaning? Or am I just being lazy? Would I be protecting myself by staying home from a close friend’s wedding because it’s 5 hours away and travel and crowds make me very anxious? Or would I be a shitty friend to miss it?
I don’t want there to always be a reason I can’t do things. But I also want to take care of myself, focus on recovery, and not drive myself into the ground.