Today’s guest post is by Sheryl; who runs “A Chronic Voice”, a health, wellness and chronic illness blog. She had a mini-stroke at 14, followed by multiple blood clots, seizures, heart rhythm dysfunctions and surgeries over the years. She also has a gore-tex band in replacement of a heart valve. She shares her experiences in hope that it raises awareness on silent disabilities, and to let others know they are not alone in this. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
*Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide, suicide ideation, and depression. This article is based on my personal experiences and is not to be taken as medical advice.
This is Just One of Many Methods I Use to Combat Depression
I’d like to preface this piece by saying that this is just one of the many methods I employ to combat depression, and the lack of motivation that comes with it. I do have days where I just let myself be and lie in bed all day, which isn’t a bad thing either. Sometimes that’s necessary. Yet at other times, the opposite methods works too, and this piece describes how it helps me when that happens.
I wrote “Seven Reminders for Those Dim Days When You Lose Your Way”, which is pretty much the opposite school of thought from this piece. But I do believe that both ways of thinking are equally as important to have in my mental arsenal.
An Aimless Cruise Through Life
For the longest time, I had been trying to motivate myself to no avail and started to wonder if I had simply grown tired of life. I had reached a stage where, if given a choice, would pick a painless death over the fulfilment of my happiest dreams. What’s the point to life, when you need to deal with pain on a daily basis anyway?
I’m Not Alone
To my surprise, I realised that many others with chronic illnesses also struggle with this issue and that there was a term for it – passive suicidal, or suicide ideation. People like me aren’t actively thinking of ways to end our lives, but wouldn’t mind if we were to drop dead this very moment. You don’t have to worry about coming home to find me in the tub with slit wrists, yet I endure our days, rather than enjoy them.
A Clinical Cause
My psychiatrist believed that my lack of motivation stemmed from depression; in fact, it’s one of the main symptoms. Yet somehow I didn’t believe that medications could fix it. I mean, it isn’t a feeling like happiness, sadness or anxiety, and is more of a catalyst to action, right?
Well, after a year or two of trying various medications, a new drug, vortioxetine, became available in my hospital. She gave me a special slip of paper to collect them, and when my motivation climbed upwards over the next few weeks, I was astonished. Vortioxetine 1, my ignorance 0.
Thoughts that Emerged from My Dull Routine
While this unmotivated period in my personal history wasn’t exactly a bad one, it sure wasn’t great either. ‘Meh’ would be a fitting description. No matter the activity, I got through each day without much aim or desire. It wasn’t that goals weren’t attainable, but they either didn’t exist, or I wasn’t fussed about reaching them.
This gave me a lot of time to think about motivation and all its connotations, and my personal conclusion is that it’s overrated. Sure, it’s a powerful catalyst that keeps you going, but you can still get there without it, albeit with less enthusiasm.
What Motivation Means to Me at Present
My current take on motivation and life is to ‘just do it’, no matter how I feel. Purpose can come later, but regret is always too late. It’s an investment in myself, in hope that one day I’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of my efforts and patience. I’m sure the vortioxetine helps a great deal, but it’s also a thought I hold dear regardless.
Feelings do influence our actions a great deal, but they’re not always real or right. How I cope now is to set my emotions aside, and focus on getting things done anyway. Deep within us all there lies a compass which always points in the direction of life. It’s what we’re drawn to by instinct; even a baby gravitates towards it without thought. Our passions are the lighthouses which signal the way, even on the darkest days. They may be a little dim in this depressive fog, but keep your eyes peeled, for they are there.
When Meaning Failed Me
I used to believe that having a reason to live is what keeps a person going, but this perspective failed me once severe depression entered the picture. When it did, everything that once brought me joy seemed meaningless, even frivolous.
Now I just get up and write that blog post, finish my work, do the laundry. I try not to overthink them. I don’t need motivation to clean the house – I still have the capacity to complete this task even without it. Of course I do get bad days where I’m in a pain flare, and I do stop to rest, then. There is a difference between getting things done, and not being able to do so due to the reality of certain situations. It’s important not to get them mixed up!
When Dark Thoughts Resurface
While thoughts such as ‘I just don’t feel like doing anything at all’ still surface, I’ve decided that I’ve given them too much of my precious time and consideration. I try not to struggle against the feelings of hopelessness. They can follow me around in sulky silence like a fly at the border of my brain, while I get my tasks done. I may be moving at a crawl, but I know that I must keep going, even if I think there’s no point to it.
Having said that, feeling aimless in life for too long is never a good thing, and you need to work with your therapist in times like these. They are there to guide you back onto the right path, because sometimes our brain gets confused, and our perceptions become distorted.
Live Life to the Fullest, Anyway
We’re supposed to gain clarity and wisdom with age, so perhaps one day we’ll understand what it all means. How satisfied will we be if we looked back upon our lives, then?
But if we are keep working on ourselves as human beings right in this very moment, we can still end our journey on a good note. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, ‘he lived a great life’ or ‘she was an amazing person’, after they have passed away. Even in my depression, I was able to recognise such facts.
So live your life to the fullest no matter how you feel. It isn’t so much about conquering physical mountains, as overcoming the ones within us that block out the light. Travel at your own pace and time, but move towards it anyway. Deep down in our hearts, we’ll know that we lived a good life, despite how we feel or think.
What other methods do you use to motivate yourself when feeling down and defeated? I would love to learn some of your coping strategies, too!
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill