I may still be human, but I just can’t accept having harbored such petty crap inside myself. I forget, sometimes, that I need to forgive myself my past failures and move on. And yet, it’s so tempting to wallow in failure and castigate myself as a fraud and a failure.

And I know that I shouldn’t, just as I know that I shouldn’t use the word ‘should’. Or any version of ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have to’… Is it a human condition, to constantly hold ourselves to unmeet-able standards? Or is it purely an artifact of depression, some left over bit of coding in my firmware that means I’ll constantly look for ways to break myself?

I’m thinking this partly because I’ve been sick, and so I fell off my own bandwagon of good work habits. I was doing so well, too. Sickness, however, is a very valid reason to cut myself some slack.

There you have it. I’m feeling physically ill, and then the mental/emotional part of me gets in on the act too, and I start cycling down the damn drain. This never gets easier, I tell you what. I wish it did. For me as well as for everyone who has to suffer through the brain gremlins of depression.

So I have some techniques for battling off the gremlins, and I thought maybe I’d share them, as they can be very useful.

  • You start out by being as aware as possible that in many ways, you are not working normally right now. Your brain is compromised. Don’t trust it, don’t trust that wee voice in the back of your head, and assume that objective reality is vastly different from subjective reality.
  • Next up, imagine that every negative self defeating thought you have is wrong. Prima facie wrong. Incorrect and the utter opposite of the truth. Try to believe that.
  • I love lists. So a big part of my process involves lists. Make a list of three concrete things you can get done today. Check them off when they’re done. Make them super simple, like ‘wake up,’ ‘put on a shirt’, or ‘sweep the floor’. You totally get bonus points for each item further you get done. Write those down too, and then cross them off! It’s fun, trying to see how many crossed off items you can get. Make it a game, and give yourself a prize at the end.
  • Give yourself prizes! You need to have something great as a motivational prize at the end. What motivates you? A bubble bath? Pizza? Time with pen and paper to make crazy art? Make the thing you get happy about into your prize. And here’s the cool part: you get your prize even if you don’t cross anything off. Because you’re just awesome and wonderful, and you deserve great things.

Stop assuming failure means you get to beat yourself up. This goes for me, too. Failure doesn’t mean you get punished, it means you have to try again later. But you get points for even fucking trying, damn it. You get a prize for showing up, for getting out of bed (even if you got right back into it.), you get a damn pony for being you.

Stop punishing yourself for every little thing. It’s counter productive to keep on beating yourself up. Just like dog training, horse training and raising kids, if you beat them all the time, they don’t learn anything, they never improve, and they never find joy. What makes you any different from a dog, horse or kid? Whatever you just thought of, that thought? is wrong.

I’m sick as shit, coughing up bits of lung, and trying to remind myself of all of the above. Here’s my three item list from today:

  1. sweep the floor
  2. feed and water the animals
  3. do something somewhat work related

All done. And in fact, over done. I swept the floor, picked up laundry and put it in the basket, rearranged stuff, threw things away, put stuff away and generally tidied up. I fed my pets and my roomie’s pets. I redid the audio page on my work blog, set up a spreadsheet to track audios, bios and bio audios, as well as group blog audios, tried to link livewriter to my work blog (I need a different set of permissions for that) and answered emails.

Booya! Not bad for sicky sick girl!

My prize? I got to play WoW for three hours. And I reveled in it, let me be the one to tell you.

Set yourself small goals, do your best to meet them, and reward yourself like you were a member of royalty. It works. Trust me. Listing it out like this? Has made me feel so much better.