Sunday, 27 October 2019

Mental health checkin

Back in January 2018, I wrote a post about recovering from some pretty bad experiences. Nearly two years on it's time to check in, celebrate success and declare myself completely ok again. Because that's how mental health works, right?

Yeah, I'm fine. No problems here.

Reading back, I'm reminded that two of the most powerful things I did back then were to set my sights on some things that made me happy (partly by identifying some of the things that didn't) and create positive feedback loops around them. I was getting back into the habit of creating things and achieving some of my goals. I was starting to lose some weight and work at my fitness. Now in the future I have to take a hard look at myself and see which areas have worked, which haven't and which are at risk of backsliding. Then I can set some more targets and attempt to achieve them.

Why am I writing a post about this? Well, as I've written about before, writing helps me arrange thoughts into something logical and practical. It's like rubber ducking, but with a keyboard. It also puts out a public declaration of intent. While nobody will ever hold me to these, it helps me focus my mind by declaring a definition of done. It's possibly a negative experience to force myself to do something because I've committed to unnamed Other but it does work as a motivation, so it'll have to do at the moment.

On the health front, I managed to lose a huge chunk of weight (hurrah!) then I put an annoying amount of it back on (sigh) which has resulted in much unhappiness. On the plus side, I am significantly healthier than I was at the start, so this isn't a yoyo situation because my yos are different sizes. However, emotionally this journey is a total failure. I'm going to have to adjust my diet and eating patterns again, and mess with my exercise routine. This is something I (like many others) find very rough and the key needs to be finding some exercise I really enjoy and want to really commit myself. And lo, time problems.

Speaking of time, I built up some bits of hobbies (primarily coding and game writing) which worked well. More recently, however, I've been finding that I haven't had time to code and I've not been impressed with the quality of my own writing. Some of this is a lack of energy and I place a significant amount of the reason for this on work. My job changed again and settling into the new role has, for a variety of reasons, taken a toll on me. If I'm going to keep doing it, there needs to be some changes. I need to be more rigorous about leaving at a sensible time each day, and I need to find ways of experiencing positivity as well as crushing waves of negativity.

I've also got other hobby-related problems to sort out. They are supposed to be fun, so I need to recapture the enjoyment. I'm not going to go into specifics, but most of the things I used to enjoy have slowly turned into a grinding chore and I need to find a way of fixing that or put an end to them before they become yet another drain of energy.

This is all very negative. Before, I found positive experiences and amplified their effects as well as shut down some negative behaviour. At the moment, everything in my head is about fixing sources of unhappiness, which means lots of DON'Ts. Almost nobody finds that approach motivating or uplifting. I am struggling to turn this around as so much of my time is rammed full of draining activities, adding something positive just feels like a chore.

The point of writing these posts is to take a step back and really think about what is going on. This time, it is all about managing my time - and I think it's important that it's not about optimising my time. I can't just cram more in, I need to get much much better at creating time. That way I can "waste" more time on activities I enjoy, while still keeping up the useful things that I do. I have found that simply having spare time - time not pre-allocated - is something that makes me happy.

I wonder if Hermione can lend me her time-turner?