In the week preceding it, through the month after New Year’s Day I hear the question, what’s your resolution? a lot. Instead of rambling on how putting that kind of pressure onto yourself is only going to make one less likely to follow through, I ask us to simply refocus our attention onto goals instead of resolutions.
For probably about five years, my resolution was to smile more, because I was afraid I would disappoint myself with anything more involved. I am a bubbly person, so I smile even if I am depressed. Easy Peasy! But last year I gave myself permission to set a goal (yes that means one I might fail). Without a specific timeframe in mind, I felt a decreased pressure to live up to a very strict, high standard I hold my ideas up to in my mind. Finally, I was permitted to think of creating something to help others feel less alone (like I had) while suffering from mental illness. That something became Mxiety.
Step zero: relieve the pressure
My depression monster has always said horrible things inside my mind, which often effects the things I give myself permission to do. Most often, I do not let myself even consider that I can make anything that isn’t a waste of time for the reader. To let myself off the hook, I set a small goal: to write something, anything. Whatever I wrote, I could then use help me dive further into what I might want to create. A poem. Two words. A sentence. Something that I would not proof-read, but just type onto the screen. I was still so scared. So unforgiving, even with such a small goal. I took a leap above my thoughts and wrote. It ended up being over 200 words.
Step one: start somewhere
For the next year and change, I would use this method to talk myself into writing. I was already fortunate enough to have an amazing editor in an incredible friend (whom I will not mention for privacy but deserves all the libations in the world). I knew he could sense when I hadn’t proof-read, but he always believed that I could make something decent, so he patiently advised and offered revisions. I didn’t always go back to follow through with re-writes but I finally saw value to my thoughts. Overall, because the thoughts were out of my mind and onto a page, I started considering them more and being more patient with their evolution as I edited the pieces I found worthy. Those pieces had some idea in common, but I was not sure what it was.
Step one and a half: get obsessed with an idea that feels bigger than your personal comfort
I have lived with mental illness for as long as I can consciously remember. When depression would come around with awful ideas, I would wonder what all of this suffering was for. I didn’t give into the horrible thoughts, but felt like that had to be for a reason. I was hanging around, barely living with all this head noise, I needed a purpose to keep going. I decided that one day I would do something to help people like me. I didn’t know how, but I promised I would keep coming back to this idea. Depression is worth having if I can help others get through it. Bizzare, yes? But there is it is.
Step two: find someone who believes in you + step one
One day, I jolted out of bed. I could never write without a pseudonym if I dared to post my writing publicly, which I desperately wanted to do to reach out to others who may have felt like me. Mxiety was the word that woke me up. I sheepishly laughed off the notion as I explained my idea to my husband. I had been mulling it over, but now I had said it out loud. He loved it. “Let’s grab the domain and user names,” he suggested. I was worried it was a stupid waste of money, just like other things I had started. “I’d be willing to be out $10 if this isn’t an investment,” he explained while entering our credit card number.
Step Three: steps one and two combined, repeatedly
After doing lots of research (aka being scared and finding reasons why I should stop through every step of the way) I started an Instagram page—a leap. I started a free trail for a website host—another leap. I worked on the website—another leap. I paid for a full year of hosting and the site became public—another leap. I showed it to my friends—another leap. I kept writing—holy crap, I am doing this—leap. I showed it to more friends and made a Facebook group—leap. I started a Twitch stream, which I then edited into a YouTube video-Huge Leap!
Before I broke up my goals, I was facing a roaring river, attempting to run across without drowning or getting hurt. With each goal, it was as if I set a stone. Once I jumped onto that stone, I placed another one before stepping forward. And so on, until I was on a path, with so much determination, that there was no way I was returning to the same shore. Even if I am not sure what is on the other shore, I knew I wanted to start moving towards it.
I am well into the river at this point. I am still freaking out. Every night before a broadcast, I panic. Who am I to talk on such a sensitive subject? Who cares what I think? What makes me special? But more than anything, I just want to keep going. I am so grateful that I have this much support to keep leaping across mine.
I broke my resolution into smaller goals without deadlines. And with that, got ahead of my mind, leaping faster than my negative thoughts could catch up. I hope you find the courage to start the journey across your river. And if needed, I hope I can offer a steady hand to you as we go.