Like many people, the new administration has stressed me out of typical anxiety, past every-so-often feelings of depression, and brought me to the brink of despondency. However, I think I found a way out! While tentative, I think it’s a breakthrough worth sharing, in case it helps anyone else.
I’m no stay-at-home brain scientist, but I do have a few weeks anecdotal evidence to share (which does not a sound-experiment make–sorry, graduate school). After feeling very low for weeks at a time, I noticed that even while running or doing yoga, spending time with loved ones, working– or any number of the things that typically help keep me balanced and healthy– my inner-dialogue kept returning to self-criticism and low mood even during said pleasurable activities. I was 24/7 11s on the brow, agitated and tearful.
Prompted by a friend, I began considering a new writing project–writing not about parenting, not LTYM related, and not a topic I’ve exhausted over 9 years on the internet. The idea gave me a brief surge of adrenaline to the extent that I told a few friends about it–atypical for me, given my preference of completing things before I even whisper a word of their existence.
At the end of my next run, I realized I’d thought about this new project the entire time. For 60 minutes I wondered, considered, and dreamed with no negativity or fear. For 60 minutes I felt lightness, creativity and curiosity without any interference by anger, fear, or my personal favorite “not enough” perfectionism (which translates effortlessly to any and every. single. area. of my life).
By starting something new, I broke through the negative chatter playing Red Rover across my limbic system. I experienced a release from depression–a lift and relief that has kept me afloat and given my brain something new to play on the playground. Also, having a new idea take up residence in my brain conveniently takes space and time away from my addiction to the news cycle.
If you feel low, noticing that all of your thoughts seem to cycle back to some form of despair, why not give this a try? Start a new practice, project, hobby, exercise–whatever–but it has to be NEW; something totally different than you’ve done before. Also, choose something that won’t drive you ego-crazy; something light that interests you, that can keep you enthused and fuel your curiosity. Finally, it’s vital that you dedicate yourself to the process OVER the end product, so you don’t give up when you face the inevitable “is this any good” resistance. Promise yourself upfront you’ll see the process through, regardless of your opinion about what you think it is and what if any merit it possesses. I promise you–I promise me–I’m going to finish this new manuscript, even if I never mention it here or to you, ever again. Red rover red rover, let good come over and go away forever. Good shmood.
Wait..ummm Ann–isn’t a writing project something totally ego-driven for you? Yes and no. Yes because I’d love to have this project turn into something, but no because I’m clear that for now the process of simply doing the work takes precedent over what it might become. I’m not in a rush to get to the finish line, because I see how the journey is good for my brain right now. I’m also approaching this writing project in a new/different way, with the open mind of a novice structural engineer endeavoring to build something solid, rather than a jaded interior decorator with a tropical-print papasan chair who waltzes in with matching curtains/bedspread/wallpaper already picked out. Pretty.
Doing something new opened a door in my head, and I’m taking my time swinging around this jungle gym instead of short-circuiting around the same tired negative Red Rover feedback loops. I’m glad I told a few people what I’m doing, because staying true to my word is an efficient motivator for me. If you want to dedicate yourself to a practice and maybe have a breakthrough, feel free to use me as an accountability partner. Message me on facebook or leave a comment below. OMG I’m not selling you anything I promise, except for a spectacular Red Rover metaphor.
We announced auditions for my last LTYM Madison, and I sure hope you’ll give us one last chance to hear your story!
It’s now or never to participate in the original project as founded in Madison, but not necessarily never-forever because LTYM is getting a new life in 2018 through Miracle Or Two Theatrical Productions (which you can read about here).
Here’s something funny/tragic I wrote to cope with the impending demise of our public school system. Enjoy/sob: