It’s Hard to Do the Right Thing

I want to be healthy, physically and emotionally. I do! Yes, it’s unnerving at times, in the way that you feel uneasy sometimes in unfamiliar places. Yes, it means giving up patterns I have repeated for years, I understand that. And it’s okay with me; it’s worth it to be healthy.

Am I kidding myself when I write that? I feel like I’m sincere. I can pull out all kinds of evidence and say, look, really, I’m trying! Look how I quit my unreasonably demanding job. Look how much time and money I have put into therapy, doctors, medication. Look at how I’ve learned to meditate. I’ve stopped eating sugar and grains. I don’t live the same way I used to. It’s a lot, right? I want to be healthy.

But on the other hand, you could also pull out your own list of evidence that I’m not willing to make the efforts I need to. For example, I know that exercising makes a difference. Going to yoga makes my body feel better and soothes my spirit. But this is what I keep reliving, day after day: In the evening, I decide I will get up the next morning and go to my yoga class. During the night, I toss and turn and wake up every 45 to 60 minutes. Usually I can go back to sleep, but often I’m awake for an hour or more before I sleep again. In the morning, I’m exhausted. My eyes are heavy. Some days my head is groggy. The idea of getting in the car and driving through traffic to get to my studio, to make an effort and move my tired body… it’s just not appealing. And so I don’t go.

I try to make it easier: I lay out my yoga gear the night before. I read about yoga before I go to bed, and I look forward to the class.  And I genuinely love this studio. But the exhaustion and discouragement and apathy of the morning swallows me up, day after day.

It’s easy to slide into negative self-talk: What is wrong with me? I am so lazy. I am such a pseudo-yogi. I don’t even deserve to be studying yoga…

I carry this into therapy with me on Wednesday, telling E, “Okay, I know that berating myself isn’t helpful, but I hate this behavior.”

E reminds me how hard it is to change. She agrees that scolding myself won’t help–humans are not motivated by being scolded. What if I just recognize that I’m trying to do a lot at once? What if I acknowledge the challenge my insomnia poses to my life, while also honoring the aspiration I have, longer term, of being a person who regularly gets up and goes to yoga?

It sounds right, at one level. But frankly, it’s hard to hang onto. Last night, I was again wide awake in the middle of the night, even though I haven’t had restful sleep in weeks. You’d think my brain would be fighting for sleep, not racing around thinking in circles, but no, every night it’s more of the same. I started to panic last night; there’s something about 3am that lends itself to catastrophic thinking: oh my god, it’s going to be like this forever, I will never get my life together…

Deep breath.

Today I’ve struggled some all day. I’m tired, discouraged. It’s been easy to think about how long I’ve been trying to get better, without feeling well. And I’m feeling alone with it. My friends are busy and haven’t had time to meet up with me. My husband is his regular loving self, but busy and a little distracted.

Deep breath.

I try to rally the wise woman deep inside myself, the one who stays calm, who knows what is needed. She tells me: Don’t put too much energy into thinking ahead, about how long it all takes. You might have insomnia for months to come. You might start sleeping better next week. This isn’t something you can know. All you can do is take care of yourself, right now, in the moment. Offer yourself some grace. Practice yoga when you’re able. Exercise when you are up to it. Keep eating well.

And then she tells me hardest thing: When you feel alone, you often withdraw and isolate yourself. Try not to do that. See if you can reach out, just a bit more, to feel connected. There are people who care about you, and it might help for you to know that. 

Yikes, she’s right maybe–but reaching out is hard too. Sometimes it all feels hard.

 

10 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Do the Right Thing

  1. It is really hard to let go of the idea that you need to push harder instead of just letting yourself be, exactly because of that feeling you’re describing that if you don’t push yourself you will be like this forever. And however much you “know” that those feelings are a lie and things will get better, there’s still a little voice in your head that goes “this time is different, this time it really will last forever”. What works for me is to try and consciously restrict how far ahead I try to look depending on how well I’m doing (and at this point feel free to imagine a motivational poster illustrating this idea with a stupid platitude like “focus on the path and not the mountain top”, and then imagine scrunching it up and setting it on fire and throwing it back at me 🙂 )

    Reaching out is hard. It’s hard to take the risk of being rejected when you already feel bad, and the reality is that it’s not *just* self-isolation – people turn you down even when you’ve tried your hardest to reach out, simply because you’re lower on their priority list than other people and other things. It is totally unfair, and it’s also not your fault.

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    • I agree with the approach of restricting how far I look ahead. It reduces, a bit, the feeling of being crushed. Still, this isn’t the way I want to live my life, and I keep feeling like I’m doing it all wrong.

      Reaching out IS hard! Thank you for acknowledging that. This time of year it’s always compounded for me, too, because 1) people are so busy with the holidays and 2) my stupid birthday, which I wish didn’t even exist.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, or maybe one or two just before bed? I don’t know about doing one in the middle of the night.. it’s so cold these days… but I know the next time I’m awake at 2:45, or whenever, I’ll think of you and this idea. Maybe I’ll try it. 🙂

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  2. Of course you wish to be healthy Q – that there could be any doubt is surprising to anyone who reads your blog.

    I really relate to the insomnia. I’ve always had trouble staying asleep, but now menopause hit, it became ridiculous – I’d wake up every two hours like clockwork, or more. At first I thought it was a worsening of my various psych problems, then I realized that it was hormonal. And trying to get out to a voluntary activity would just become impossible with that level of sleep deprivation. The world outside can appear so unappealing and the effort involved in going out so great that it is just impossible to go. I don’t think that’s personal or to do with any lack of effort on our part. We do need motivation to act, and lack of rest can erode motivation and the best of intentions.

    I’ve found some supplements that help a lot, so now, I’m back to a relatively good sleep, though I still struggle at times. Not sure how old you are but wanted to throw it out there that you could be having hormonal challenges quite apart from the emotional ones. Now I’ve got some rest, I find it possible to go out to things I have planned.

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  3. Thank you for this–it’s a good description of what I feel (“the outside world can appear so unappealing and the effort involved in going out so great…”). It’s validating to have someone get it, though I’m sorry you know this as well.

    It could be hormonal for me, too. Tabitha did suggest that I talk to a gynecologist about it; I just haven’t found one yet that takes my insurance and isn’t just about pap smears and birth control. It’s on my list, though, to keep looking. It’s encouraging to hear your sleep is better these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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