Motivation Saturdays: Motivation through Depression

Hi lovely readers,

For this week’s Motivation Saturday, I’m going to talk about how to continue to achieve your goals when you are depressed. I have Bipolar, and when my medications aren’t working properly I experience long episodes of depression. During these episodes of depression, the world looks grey, nothing brings joy, I have no energy and life seems utterly pointless. Every minute of everyday during these times, I feel like I am on the verge of tears or falling asleep. In the past, I would use my drug of choice to cope with these episodes and ‘function’. But as I think most would realize quickly (I have to learn by doing… over and over and over again) that is a temporary solution with terrible consequences. So, with a lot of support, I stopped. But, I was still having a nighttime cocktail to aid my sleep and to provide relief at the end of the day.

Recently, I decided to quit drinking to help with my process of staying clean from my drug of choice. Either because I was sober enough to notice my medications were no longer helping me, or because quitting drinking triggered something in my brain, I went into a deep depression at about the same time. I was sleeping from 7:30pm to 9 am and taking naps, I was angry and unkind to anyone around me, I had no appetite and even walking from one room to another was a challenge. I have experienced periods like this many times before, but this one was especially bad. The worst part was that I was unkind to my mother, who was trying to take care of me, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from snapping all the time. I went to bed feeling worthless and ashamed every night.

But, this time, I did a few things differently. There are many tricks I have up my sleeve now, having been diagnosed with bipolar since I was 18 (I’m 23 now). I know what takes away, and what gives, my brain serotonin and dopamine. I know how to change my receptors from seeking immediate gratification to rewards from masterful or meditative tasks. I stayed completely sober, I worked out almost everyday, I studied for my summer exams, I called my sponsor most days, I cleaned my room, I did my best to make it up to my mom… Were there things I failed to do? Absolutely. Did I still lie in bed crying sometimes? Yes. Did I still forget a few meals or eat absolute junk? Yes. Did I cop out of a few runs? Yes. But ultimately, I’m sober, I made it to my commitments, and I’m physically and mentally healthier than I’ve been in a long time.

My medications just got adjusted, and they’ve been working wonders. But if I’d decided to drink myself into oblivion one night or pick up my drug of choice, I would have no idea if my meds were doing anything. I’d be right back in the pits of depression, dreaming about the day I’d see my little brother at my Narcotics Anonymous medallion, knowing it might never happen.

This is the first time I’ve made it through a period like this without using anything since I was 19. And at that point, I was underweight, drinking energy drinks and smoking cigarettes all day, and by no means a good daughter, friend, or girlfriend to anyone. At first it was sheer willpower and brute force that got me through a few days, but that is very difficult to maintain. It was a tip my group therapist gave me that made a world of difference: Find your selfish ‘why’.

For years I have known why, technically, I can’t do drugs or drink. It is a slow death for the people that love me, it causes me to do terrible things that impact others financially, mentally, and physically, it ruins relationships. But as for what it does to me, it didn’t matter. I hated myself and every aspect of being alive, so when my cravings were really bad and I was feeling selfish and beyond frustrated, I always lapsed. Times when I felt okay or happy were easy – there were so many exterior factors to motivate me to stay clean. But the moment I felt unbearably sad and exhausted, I wanted to feel better so badly other people didn’t matter anymore.

So, upon receiving the advice from my therapist, I made a list in my bullet journal of personal reasons I don’t want to be anything other than sober. Reasons like: I will be proud of myself, I’ll get to have a medallion and a party, I’ll look better, I’ll ultimately feel happier, I deserve a good life, I want to finish school so I can do what I love, I’ll be able to accomplish my fitness goals, etc. Telling yourself you deserve a good life after you’ve done some of the things I’ve done is really hard. But I really put my heart into writing that list, and in order to validate what I was writing I thought hard about the person I’ve demonstrated I can be when I’m sober and giving my life 100% effort.

I have cravings most days still, but I remember my ‘why’ and I stay sober. I am sober. And healthy and taking care of myself and my responsibilities.

This truly can apply to anything. Think of yourself as your best friend – what do you want for him/her? Do you want her to finish school? Have a tidy room consistently? Lose weight if it would make her/him healthier, or gain some if that would be healing? Why does she/he deserve to be happy or accomplish something big? If you’re not ready to tell yourself that you’re as deserving as that person you love, write down what makes your best friend/favourite person so wonderful, and find the similarities. Then make your ‘why’ list about yourself.

It will always be hard to stick with difficult tasks that reward long term, not short. Sometimes I don’t love myself enough to find my ‘why’ compelling, and in those moments I revert back to the sheer willpower I was previously using. I tell myself that if in 24 hours, I still desperately want to pick up, I can. But by then, I always regain my trust in my ‘why’ – I picture my potentially wonderful future, and I am strong again.

I hope this is helpful to you, lovely reader, and if you feel compelled, please share your ‘why’s’ in the comments. They help me, too!

Thank you so much for stopping by and enjoy your weekend.

Lots of love,

Liz

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