When I first started seeing my current therapist last year, he told me that part of my problem was that I thought I was SUPPOSED TO do too many things. There are, of course, things that one really IS supposed to do, like eat and sleep, pay the bills, feed the dog, etc. Those items were getting accomplished, but I was also thinking about all the other SUPPOSED TO things. When I came home from work in the evening, I was doing the same stuff other people do–eating dinner, checking the internet, reading, watching tv–but in the back of my head was this flashing, scrolling marquee that read, “I’m supposed to be writing! I’m supposed to be posting to my website! I’m supposed to be doing something productive!” Half the time I didn’t even have anything in mind for the “something productive,” but it really bothered me that I wasn’t doing it, whatever it was.
At the height of the SUPPOSED-TOs, I wasn’t enjoying anything I was doing, because whatever I did paled in comparison to some nebulous task I should have been accomplishing instead.
Last night I got home from work at 6, hot and tired from my commute. My evening plans had fallen through, so I had some ideas about other tasks–putting hooks in the bathroom for swimsuits and extra towels, moving the folding chairs to make room for the vacuum cleaner, straightening up the living room, and so forth.
But then I decided to finish watching the episode of True Blood* I’d started on Tuesday, so I got in bed with the dog and my computer** and watched it. Then I didn’t want to get up because I was comfortable, so I put on a South Park episode, and then I fell asleep. When I woke up at 10, I took the dog out, called my boyfriend, read a little, and ate some grapes while watching another South Park. Then I fell asleep again.
And I didn’t feel guilty about it at all. The scrolling marquee in the back of my head hasn’t disappeared, but it’s off a lot of the time these days. I can come home and watch TV and fall asleep on the bed, and when I wake up three hours later, instead of thinking “OH MY GOD I DIDN’T GET ANYTHING DONE!” I think, “Gosh, I must have needed that.”
In part I have therapy to credit for this, but I think I’ve also come to terms with what it means to suffer from chronic (albeit well-treated) depression and anxiety. To keep myself on an even keel, I need to get enough sleep. I need to leave the house every day. I need to eat right and try to exercise. And sometimes I need to turn myself off and do absolutely nothing. If that means I get fewer things done than other people do, that’s okay. Those other people aren’t me.
And I’m getting pretty good at recognizing when I need to turn myself off. Having my brain is pretty stressful most of the time: I overthink everything, I’m always planning and planning and worrying about worst-case scenarios, and I almost never truly relax. A brain like that can’t keep going without a little rest, and whether that rest is sleep or just spending an evening doing nothing at all doesn’t seem to matter.
I’m off work all next week, and for awhile I thought I wanted to take a trip somewhere. Why waste my week off staying at home and doing nothing? I thought. But look at this list of places I’ve been so far this year:
Long Island, NY
Des Moines, IA
I’m planning a trip to New Orleans this month and a trip to Minnesota for a wedding in September and a trip to St. Louis for Christmas probably, and who knows where else I’ll go. When I thought about that, staying in Austin started to sound pretty good. I can read and sew and do stuff to my apartment, I can go swimming a LOT, I can take day trips to San Antonio and the Guadalupe.
Or if I want, I can do nothing at all.
*This show is not good. But I’m invested in the plot for the time being, so I watch it anyway.
**When I go to work in the mornings, I leave the bedroom A/C on and the living room A/C off, since the former has a thermostat and runs more efficiently. I turn on the living-room unit when I get home, and then hang out in the bedroom until the living room cools down. This makes for a lot of watching DVDs and such on my computer after work.