A Journal. Project: treat burnout, depression, and long-term pain.
To treat burnout, depression and long-term pain are big words.
Let’s see what’s possible to do in the twelve weeks the projects last.
I plan to keep a journal where I’ll document something daily to share the whole thing every week. That’s to give you some insight into how this works. For me, It’s to see how things have been and how I have progressed. I hope it’ll keep me accountable and help me reflect. I’m not entirely certain how long the daily posts are supposed to be yet. If anyone is supposed to read the whole thing, I might benefit from not posting every single thought I have…
As I’m starting the project, I’ve already read the stop digging and acceptance parts from the book. Nothing strange there, which is why I’ve already started working less. It’s obviously time to change things because I can’t keep doing things as I’m doing them now.
Male in my thirties, average weight, standard height… But I’ve been far too busy for far too long, which might take its toll.
Too much focus on irrelevant stuff takes life in the wrong direction. I control my work environment myself, so I can’t really blame anyone else, can I? All of it is completely self-inflicted in an attempt to pursue some achievement. “Getting somewhere” and “getting things done”. That’s obviously tricky.
Today, it’s Monday 10th of October 2022. I’ve been trying to “just relax” for a couple of weeks but had an EKG done on Friday last week. The doctor didn’t look completely impressed with some arrhythmia he mentioned, so that’s due for further investigation. But if it’s completely dependent on life and what I’m doing, that’s what I’m supposed to change, I guess.
The symptoms I have as I start the project look something like this, if we divide the project in three:
- KEDS gives me a total score of 33 with the answers 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2, 4, 3.
- Stress intolerance. A little stress gives an unreasonably big physiological response.
- Heart palpitations here and there, and according to the doc, there’s something visible on the EKG.
- Sleep troubles, where I don’t really feel well rested when I wake up, including what seems to be bothersome dreams.
- Worse focus
- Lack of motivation and general disinterest.
- Far more nail-biting, joint-cracking, and general fidgeting than what’s reasonable.
Treat depression without anti-depressants.
- History of what an interested clinician would call dysthymia. As this starts, questions 2-10 on MADRS (found here), give 3, 3, 0 [Sleep question gives zero because if anything, I usually sleep more when I’m getting worse], 0, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2 = 21, which counts as moderate depression.
- The introverted parts of me make me unwilling to meet, greet, talk to and handle people at all times normally. Now, it’s notably more. People drain me of energy.
- Perhaps not ruminating, but brooding about irrelevant negative stuff.
Manage long-term pain to stop the suffering.
- The almost decade-old whiplash injury barely bothers me when I’m decent enough, but now it really makes itself heard. A few days ago, the tension headache made me completely useless. Most days, it’s just a little something, but still annoying.
- Pain in the upper back.
- Pain and tension in my jaws.
- The right shoulder doesn’t really do things as I’d prefer; it’s stiff and painful.
- Epicondylitis in the right arm. But it doesn’t seem to come from the elbow itself or the extensor muscles as they usually do. The previously mentioned muscles around the shoulder seem to refer pain to the forearm and elbow, which causes the problem.
I’m hoping I’ll get rid of the first list of stress symptoms, get the depression down to 10 or less on the MADRS, and get rid of the pain in my head and arm, and at least get that neck back to normal.
That’s high hopes. In addition to those, I hope this project could help me get going in the right direction, where I’m aiming for – and actually doing – what feels relevant and important. Working instead of spending time with the girlfriend and the kids is fine once in a while. It’s time for some reflection, and hopefully, this will be a turning point for the better, even though it’s kinda lousy right now.
I’m hoping I’ll find new routines to keep to and prioritize better during and after the project.
I’ll aim to get 1-3 little daily tasks done to get me going in the right direction.
Journal, week one.
I’m starting this on a Monday. So a week is a week in the order it’s supposed to be…
Today I am starting the journal. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep it up to post weekly for the twelve weeks I’m doing the project. I sure hope it’ll be helpful as it helps me remember stuff and reflect. It’ll be a mix between a medical journal, an ordinary diary, and a stoic journal for reflection.
Walked for four hours. Epiphany: I really should walk more. It’s pleasant.
I am getting off caffeine. I’ve weaned off for a few days, and I’m stressed enough, so the year-long streak of starting my day with 200 mg of caffeine is over.
I am getting back to the meditation practice I once had. I’m starting with once a day here, but I plan to work my way up to three times daily as the program recommends. Did today’s session in a warm bath. Comfy… Except for the summersaults, my heart did. Hm.
I got rid of practically all of the notifications on my phone. Spotify and my podcast application can still notify me about stuff, but I doubt those will bother me.
I spent my entire day practically doing useless stuff. Leisure! Woho!
The exercise of the day became a sunny bike ride for 90 mins.
I’ve been thinking a little, and I concluded that I’d likely get less stressed if I got rid of a couple of people and excluded them from my life.
I’ve started planning a little something to get an idea of how much time and energy I’d like to spend on what I should do now.
I do feel better when I exercise well, including cardio and strength.
My head and pain levels will get far better if I spend enough time on mobility, massage, and relaxation.
I’m quite certain the meditation will make an impact on that messy mind…
I’ll just have to come up with a plan and keep doing it…
I’ve returned to the fun stuff I enjoyed fifteen years ago. I’ve considered it since, thought about if I could enjoy it, but often brushed it off as useless and unproductive. But playing video games is obviously relaxing and pleasant. No wonder I used to do it as a kid. Most grown-ups today do spend an hour here or there on Netflix, watching series or movies.
So why couldn’t I?
This is kind of the same, but interactive, so once here I don’t really see the difference. There is the fact that one could sit around all day and see nothing but those video games… But I guess some people do just that with their TV as well. And in this case, it’s kind of the point. The point is to waste time… and enjoy it as it’s being wasted.
In addition to that, I spent some time on a bike ride.
Some social stuff.
… I think I could get used to this!
Progress of the day is a plan.
Or is it a wish?
During the first month of the project, I’ll work a maximum of two hours per day. In the second month, four hours, and third month six hours.
Weekends and days most people are usually free? Those are off.
Then, there’s some sort of movement daily. Ideally, that includes cardio, strength training and mobility/massage since I seem to be better off when I spend time doing all of them.
I start with a couple of hours of walking.
There’s a nap mid-day.
… And sure, there’s some work in the afternoon, but in a relaxed and comfortable way. I like my work. So spending a couple of hours doing something I like isn’t the problem. The problem seems to be balance. Never doing the other stuff was thought of as something productive and valuable.
In retrospect, expensive could be a better word.
I seem to have regained my love for food. Or perhaps rather found it again. Cooking, taking time to do fun dishes, and eating mindfully are things I genuinely enjoy, but those things haven’t been around for a while. But now, again, they’re here. There’s tasting and a level of thoroughly tending to and caring for food that I didn’t muster to implement a while back.
… Are still exhausting.
Sunday. Yesterday I was at a dinner. Pleasant and everything… But was there too much to drink – or could people and social stuff drain me?
More down and depressed than most days, and no energy in sight whatsoever. The biggest achievement I managed until noon was sitting upright. Around noon there was a walk. I could handle a little something in the form of housework after that. To my surprise, looking at the earlier parts of the day, I managed to compose a quite lovely dinner when it was time.
And then some running! Not necessarily long. Not particularly fast. But it still works.
Energy and happiness increase, and the body feels far better afterward – what else could one demand of an activity if you get those three?
I don’t manage to get out to run daily, even though I get reminded every single time I do that I should. Brains are baffling.
Finishing words for week 1.
During week one, I went through the first part: “Pillar 1, The Dolor detection and acceptance system – starting point with questionnaires,” where the point is to establish where I start with a big bunch of standardized questionnaires and questions about the client and life in general for Patric to get a good overview and know what we’ve got to work with. The questions range from age and weight to pains and aches, medical disorders and heredity, and food and habits relevant to said food. Then further on to exercise and psychological and social aspects, starting with broad enough questions like “How are you?” to then narrow it down.
One question is, for example, “Why did we get where we are today?”
With the addition
“We’d like an answer that is as thorough as possible. Preferably with several steps of causes. For example: “I’m exhausted and burned out because of too much work, too little sleep and not caring about myself. I usually don’t put myself first because I… That leads to a….” “
… The additional text that comes with the question might answer, at least in part, for me. I generally don’t put myself first. It isn’t interesting enough. It ought to be interesting, right? That would be a reasonable thing, but it’s obviously not.
So, to then get to the next level of why… Why isn’t that interesting? Is “Dysthymia” a valid answer as to why I don’t focus on myself? Or is that just the answer to why I’ve started doing things a particular way since I’ve “always” been like that? I’ll keep thinking about that one.
A lot of the questions are obvious to the receiver. Age, weight, objective things like pain, or if I’ve earlier on been actually diagnosed with depression or anything else. But the previously mentioned “why I’m here” is one of the questions I’ll carry with me for a while to deduce what I’d like to change to avoid it in the future.
The same goes for “What thoughts bother you the most and take up unreasonable amounts of time and energy?”
Those questions. I might sit with those for some time…
What do I want out of life?!
This seems to be a big part initially. To get me to understand that I ought to know what I want from life.
Pillar one also includes a couple of texts named “What do you really want?” and “Where’s life taking you? …Or where are you taking life?” (Both are included in the book!) where the first one underlines that it’s impossible to run after everything and that it’s important to know what you do want to avoid running after too many (perhaps different – or opposing) things.
They both encourage me to figure out what I want out of life. I’m guessing there will be quite some reflection on that topic in the twelve weeks. That’s why I’m here, though, and one of the first paragraphs I wrote here was, “Today, Monday 10th of October 2022, I’ve been trying to “just relax” for a couple of weeks but had an EKG done on Friday last week. The doctor didn’t look completely impressed with some arrhythmia he mentioned, so that’s due for further investigation. But if it’s completely dependent on life and what I’m doing, that’s what I’m supposed to change, I guess.”
… So, I’m fully aware. I also read through the “Lifestyle Design” post a few weeks ago. Same point. I’ve got to do the stuff I enjoy and the things that matter – or the “essential things” as it’s put in the blog post about Essentialism. Sometimes it feels as if I’m quite sure about those things. When I’m as tired as I am today, that shows me that I might not have a clue.
Day 8, Monday
Completely exhausted. Not just yesterday – but today too. Is, or was it, worth it?
I napped for almost two hours.
I got a couple of things done on the computer and managed to be a nice, pleasant representable person almost all the time when I met people. That’ll have to do for today.
Day 9, Tuesday
I woke up energized! Hurm… Even though I had been flailing in my sleep. I was told I hit somebody’s nose in the middle of the night.
I might as well get to the boring got-to-dos for a few hours when there’s energy, right?
Great idea. Because then there’s fatigue as fuck from around lunchtime… and I was stuck on the sofa for the rest of the day.
Thinking about the exercise chapter in the book motivated me to get out and run twice, however. Nothing lengthy, and as usual – not particularly fast. It does feel good both as I’m doing it and afterward. More relaxed but still better focused. More contempt and at peace.
The day progressed, and a few hours later, I fell asleep during the evening meditation at around 8 PM.
Day 10, Wednesday
I woke up and was told I seemed done for the day as soon as I sat down for breakfast. Great start. After that, it was time for some of those got-to-do things. Getting stuff into Excel was one of them. Then I noticed that it crashed as I tried to save it. A FEW TIMES. An ideal example of something that just drains energy and will to live. Once I used another solution and got another software, things got smoother. And even though something sucks as it’s being done, it’s often quite pleasant to have it out of the way.
It turned out to be a better day eventually. I did get a little work done, which is just the point – a little. Then I got up and did other stuff. Around lunch, I got a nap which makes most days better! … Except for that, I spent some time running, had tea by an open fire, helped someone, and got some stuff done around the house.
Day 11, Thursday
In all, a good, calm day. I did a small portion of deskwork, spent some time in the garden, solved a couple of problems, did something pleasant, and kept a pace I managed to enjoy the entire day.
Pace… As in Pacing, which is mentioned in the book and the programs Pillar 2. It’s unfortunate and utterly illogical that it’s hard. Pacing has got to be a decent chunk of my problem. Priorities and total workload are definitely parts, but here in the last few days? Or yesterday when I woke up ruined? The workload can’t be the problem there.
Day 12, Friday
The day started calmly with a carb-filled breakfast with plenty of butter. Around noon, even more carbs and butter. Looking at the energy intake, this was a great day!
Deskwork with a subject that stresses me out, but the most stressful aspect of it is that I’m not done – so, as I’m making progress, it does feel better and better. I likely worked a bit too much and slightly too long, but I was pleased when I was done for the day and felt calmer thanks to said progress. Grateful for the help I got with the task and happy about the preparations I got done for the conference I’ll attend tomorrow.
A glass of wine and a calm evening.
Day 13, Saturday
Most of the day was spent at a conference with around 50 people. I seem to get better at relaxing. I almost fell asleep sitting up around noon and enjoyed talking to a group of people. That’s not generally my favorite thing in the world, but in this setting – and likely, with the new, slightly calmer me – that worked and was enjoyable. Cool.
Day 14, Sunday
I woke up rested enough. Do the social activities depend on who they’re with or the time of day? Does it help to be better rested before, as the pacing chapter tells me? Something’s obviously different from the other weekend when I was ruined for a couple of days after a decently social Saturday.
This ought to have been a pleasant day, looking at the circumstances. I spent time in nature with the kids and friends, but something bothered me. Something I seemed unable to let go – and something I couldn’t put my finger on – which made me annoyed and tired. So a free day where my most significant commitment was to fix hotdogs was ruined by something, and I am still trying to figure out what that something is. I ought to have a clue, but I’m clueless here, even as I reflect on it afterward.
I had to lie down for an hour and rest around 18.00. I avoided sleeping that close to bedtime to avoid ruining the night. Sleep CBT isn’t particularly comfortable short term, but avoiding napping just before going to bed is reasonable if I want to sleep better at night.
Finishing words for week 2.
As I look back, I am quite tired. That seems terribly boring, even though I’ve got moments when I get things done and enjoy stuff. As I’ve burnt the candle at both ends, I sure hope I’ve made up for that loss of productivity earlier. Because it often feels meaningless to do just nothing or things that should be restful. Here and there, I definitely enjoy “having vacation” and letting go, but I sure miss feeling productive, active and as if I’m doing something of value.
This first month, I allow myself to work two hours daily, tops.
Should I try to achieve as much as possible in those two hours?
Or should I rather chill and distance myself to work as I’m doing this?
During these two weeks, I’d say I haven’t even worked ten hours a week (perhaps slightly depending on how you look at “work”) because I’ve tried getting that distance to work.
How big is the difference to the world?
What’s best for me long term?
It is tricky to flip life on its head and change my attitude toward everything at once.
I have made progress, though. The most significant improvement in life quality and symptoms this week has been that I’ve noticed my troubling heart far less. I haven’t heard anything from public healthcare yet, even though it’s more than two weeks since I was there, and the doctor ordered me to avoid stress and work. I wonder if I’m to cry or laugh. That speed makes me even more grateful that I took action elsewhere, not just there. If nothing happens in a couple of weeks, why would three, four, or eight weeks make a difference?
As I’ve read pillar two, I’ve seen this part, which ought to be helpful to avoid more of those Sundays:
“My point isn’t for you to practice ignoring things in a thought-through way. When we practice, it’s supposed to be a tool where you learn to focus on this, right here, and a way to learn how to think, feel and act in a present and helpful manner. The point is to implement that into your everyday life to stay present and aware when you go about your day. If the practice calms you while doing it, that’s a lovely side-effect.
If you don’t know what you know, want, feel, or think, you won’t ever really be able to relate to it. You need to get calm enough to catch up with those things to act accordingly, rather than just reacting to the world and what happens around or inside you. If you’re too busy to notice that you need to go to the bathroom, you’re creating your own disaster. The same thing goes for thoughts and emotions. If you just let them roam freely – perhaps without you having a clue – they might grow big, strong, and horrific before you take care of them.”
Meaning, I guess, that the mindfulness practice ought to teach me how to get rid of, I’ll quote: “Something I seemed unable to let go – and something I couldn’t put my finger on – which made me annoyed and tired. So a free day where my most significant commitment was to fix hotdogs was ruined by something, and I am still trying to figure out what that something is.”
That would be comfortable because that lite phenomenon sucked.
Conclusion: Tired and obviously too distracted to even know what bothers me – but I’m making progress as I’m getting far less of a very tangible symptom. Quite unlike me, but I’m grateful and pleased with my little progress.
Day 15, Monday
Today, I woke up to meaninglessness. I don’t “feel depressed” daily, but some days I’m practically overwhelmed by how meaningless things are.
That’s likely why I’ve filled them with something I find meaningful. Work! But… just hiding from life in that area at all times isn’t a healthy long-term solution either, I guess. Particularly not when it takes me to where I’ve gotten. Hiding from what’s “meaningless” – and doing that to the degree where I’m working too much is somewhat close to self-harm and addiction. Interesting, as I’ve never really looked at it like that before.
I’ve been more or less nihilistic all my grownup life. Sometimes I’m sure the nihilistic parts have gone hand in hand with more or less misanthropic and cynical, which seems to come along well with the dysthymia – a morbid and meaningless fog.
Anyway, suddenly, the result of waking up to meaninglessness is entirely logical, and there’s clarity in why. But I have yet to come up with a solution. I guess I’ll have to find meaning in other things to get rid of the troubles.
So, I went whining to a friend about the matter.
“Are the small things necessarily meaningless?”
“Is life work and nothing more – even though you seem to do just that until you get sick?”
A couple of questions like these became the topic for discussion. One good point I was thrown at me was that those small things might very well be meaningful to someone else. I don’t care that much for housework, but the important one I live with does. She prefers to have things tidy. I’d prefer to have far less stuff, and that would solve the riddle… Or something. The point is that even if I don’t find those small things important, they could very well be because they’re important to her.
Let’s see if I can find meaning similarly elsewhere. Finding something meaningful is obviously a decent chunk of my task here. Find purpose and motivation to do things that don’t necessarily revolve around work. Because I know, too, that there ought to be more to life.
So, I spent some of the day reflecting on stuff – and I spent a decent chunk of it doing housework. I carried stuff, cleaned something, and most of my work-related time was spent with a client. Then I fell asleep on my GF on the sofa. She’s generally the one who does the couch sleeping. Generally about three hours before it’s time for me to go to bed. This has never happened before.
It’s strange times.
Day 16, Tuesday
More or less the same darkness this morning…
So, I got up and did something anyway to get rid of it. Behavioral activation at its finest!
I got my two hours of work done, but I also got my ass outside and did some shopping with groceries and gas. Most importantly, I went to a friend’s house for the day and did pleasant stuff. Walking, wine and cooking can save a horrible day just fine.
Day 17, Wednesday
Today, I woke up energized. Awesome. But now, we’re focusing on pacing…
Day 18, Thursday
Wrote to the same friend today. “Today, I worked for a couple of hours, but then I decided not to do more than that. Then I spent the day running and sitting around doing nothing useful!”
I got some support as a response: “Well done with your highly average accomplishment!”
Day 19, Friday
Pacing, pacing, pacing…
I could as well bunch these three days. This pacing part is like exposure therapy and/or withdrawal. Unfortunate. But if that’s the case – it’s necessary.
By now, I appreciate putting on relaxing music and getting down on a yoga mat. Hang out with a foam roller, a ball, and mash stuff that hurts. Bend, flex, and breathe enough to get things loose. I’m not much for doing yoga as a group, but the concept in and of itself to get things moving is great. =)
Day 20, Saturday
Lovely weather, and we’re at the weekend. So – I’m free! Or, rather, I don’t even have the choice to “try to do something productive”. So, instead of “working to be productive,” I’ve spent the day with my girlfriend. We started with a long walk, got great bread to make awesome sandwiches for breakfast, and then we got busy! At last, we could take up some old projects at home that we never had time for: some woodworking, renovation, some organizing, and some ordinary cooperation.
Day 21, Sunday
More awesome sandwiches! The girlfriend went to tend to her leisure as I focused on mine for a few hours. When she and the daughter got home, I had lunch going.
Sometimes, I wonder why I’m not too fond of free time. When I get the idea, it’s not that bad.
Finishing words for week 3.
A whole week focused on pacing. When it comes to energy, it seems to work just fine. Surprising. *Facepalm*.
The underlying questions of why this is necessary still need answering, though.
What are my values?
Why do I need to be productive?
And likely parts involving self-worth and self-esteem as well. One thing at a time, I guess.
I might have been without headaches this week. At least compared to earlier. I might have had a feeling here or there, but on a level where it’s something I have to look for rather than being incapacitated.
I’m not sure if I initially mentioned involuntary muscle twitching as a symptom, but those have vanished too.
Day 22, Monday
I started my day with a far longer to-do list than I should have now. So, I didn’t get it done – and after some thought – I didn’t care.
Worked out in the gym. I forget how much I like this.
The doorbell woke me from a power nap. I felt physiologically stressed for an unreasonably long time after the sudden awakening. I’m obviously not entirely done with the hypersensitivity to stress…
Worked a little with a client.
I happily worked on some stuff in the garage alongside the GF even as it got closer to evening. That’s rarely the case. I’ve rather tried to survive until bedtime, but what I’m doing here really makes a difference for my mood and energy levels. I’ve got an entirely new level of calm now than I’ve had in a long time – and I’m looking at it as if that’s my primary goal at the moment, which helps. I’m not trying to change the world. Right now, it’s enough to change mine. Being calm and getting projects done around the house while happily doing them at my own pace achieves that nicely. Right now, that “own pace” means most things are done for a while, and then I’m off to do something more or less “useless,” like watching TV or playing video games.
Strange times, but that is necessary right now.
So, this Monday, we got another project done. Nothing big and nothing really “valuable” or productive, but another little task no one has had the energy or “time” to care for, for far too long…
It’s pleasant to get these things done as long as it’s done in peace.
Once we were done, we got in and noticed how the kitchen was a total mess. So, we made the quickest and easiest of dinners and crashed on the sofa with a glass of wine – pleased with our day.
Day 23, Tuesday
Well-paced day with an hour or two of bicycling and a little errand or two done, but there’s almost as if there’s nothing much to mention here.
As I’ve understood how very focused I’ve been at work – and also that I might not want to be that focused on just one part of life – the stress and anxiety revolving around work have eased significantly. The economy is still a factor, sure, there’s got to be food on the table, and it’s pleasant to have shoes with soles, but what’s most important?
Health or money?
I’ll dig deeper into the values exercise, but I’m not there just yet.
Day 24, Wednesday
I walked with some jogging here and there for 2.5 hours in the morning and another hour of this in the afternoon after some lovely pasta and a sauna with a glass of wine.
Excellent – and incredibly simple – dinner and, in all, an ideal day.
Day 25, Thursday
The kids are free from school this week, so the day started with some morning snuggles, followed by pancakes. Then I got on my ass to kill stuff with my sword as they played with a friend for a couple of hours. Then we got everything into the car, and they’re off with their mother to her parents for a few days to play with their cousins.
As they do so, I get to a friend’s house for a couple of days…
Day 26, Friday
Day 27, Saturday
The Saturday starts with getting up and out in the yard. The weather has been great, and it still is. So, a couple of hours of carrying stuff and making a difference is a good idea. Then, it’s breakfast (brunch?) with some toast by the TV. Relaxing enough.
It starts to rain around lunch, so I try to get some reading done but fall asleep after a page or so.
Am I learning to relax?
Am I still that exhausted?
I don’t have to nap daily anymore. But that nap wasn’t entirely optional. I mainly see it as a luxury I can spend time on now. It shouldn’t be absolutely necessary anymore… should it?
Around 3 PM or so, I get home after a couple of days of mulled wine, sitting on a couch watching less intellectual stuff on Netflix, dog snuggles, walking, strength training, and yard work. Comfy!
I’m off to get groceries, and I’m well enough, even though I fell asleep almost unwillingly a few hours earlier. I could barely refuse.
Cooking and fin(n!)ishing off with sauna and some wine before I’m off to bed.
Day 28, Sunday
The day started with some running. Then I helped a friend sort and got some stuff out of her house, and I cooked a couple of dishes, so at least part of the food is done for the upcoming week. In all, I get to move my feet for a couple of hours, and I get some housework done. In all, a peaceful, comfortable, and pleasant day.
This shouldn’t be particularly exhausting or tiring.
I’m a housewife with nothing but my own demands as pressure.
How long does it take to get better?
Is something still draining me?
Finishing words for week 4.
I really do feel as if I’m making progress as I’m looking at my own little notes and reflecting on how things have been as how they are.
I really can focus on one thing better.
I really do have less pain and fatigue, even though I’m far from done with the latter one.
I really am less stressed, even though I easily get wound up…
I really seem to be less depressed.
MADRS (without the first question, which is for someone external)gives a score of 8-10 now instead of the original 20+ with answers of 1, 1, 0, 0, 2-4(focus and ability to concentrate depends on when and where and other parameters than just depression), 1, 1, 2, 0.
I really love how big of a difference this can make. Thought-through rest, reflection, and taking care. Who’d guess? I just had to be convinced that it was a good idea and do it in a good enough way. I don’t necessarily think everyone gets better by just leaving work. That would be incredibly stressful for most, I guess, including me.
Time to step up to four hours of work per day tomorrow. I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but it’s the plan – and I don’t know if it’s a bad idea if I don’t try.
Day 29, Monday
An ordinary day with today’s measures!
But there’s an unwillingness to work. I thought I’d begin working after lunch since I’ve got to begin at some point, and I thought that could be a better option than hurrying up in the morning.
Interesting twist, but not unheard of. I’ve heard of and met people who had major anxiety troubles in relation to work once they got out of there after their period of doing too much. Dreading even getting near that part of town is one part of the spectrum.
This isn’t really on that level, but still – going from thinking of nothing but that part, to unwilling to get going. That ought to count as some distance.
That ought to… count as progress?
Or is it a bad thing?
I get more or less my time done anyway, Some client work and I do “what I must”, but I don’t at all feel that drive, urge and absolute need to keep going after said time.
Except for that new phenomenon(?), there’s some chillin’, some strength training in the gym, some cooking and nothing out of the ordinary.
Day 30, Tuesday
I wake up early to get to an appointment. Six and using an alarm clock, rather than somewhere between 7 and 8.30. It’s the first time I have used an alarm clock since I started the project, but it worked just fine. I wake up and I’m alert and ready for my day – which is surprising. I haven’t been alert and ready for my day by six in the morning for a long time. After four weeks of this, I enjoy my morning by six.
So, I get up, get ready, and do my thing. I’m back home before eight. As I watch people around me on my way home I seem to be impressively calm and reasonable. At eight in the morning, people drive on sidewalks, pass other cares like maniacs and speed recklessly in front of preschools to get away to their thing, whatever that is.
It’s an amusing thing to feel superior at. I won the contest of being least hurried a Tuesday morning.
The meeting was not at all the healthcare I tried to get help with before the project. They still haven’t contacted me for a solution of any kind regarding the heart. Fascinating, really. Luckily for me, the heart-related symptoms really seem related to that psycho-social stuff rather than an actual mechanical biological[read: physical] trouble. I have a history of at least one other heart-related ailment, and I’m pretty sure they’ve seen something not quite ideal another time, but if said free healthcare just keeps waiting long enough, I’m sure it’ll pass. One way or another… O.o
The unwillingness to work proceeds. I’m calm and happy – but I don’t particularly long back to working manically.
Day 31, Wednesday
Working four hours a day seems to work out better than expected. Really grateful for that.
Today’s work hours were spent with clients. Pleasant meeting and nothing out of the ordinary… Or, rather, everything went as it should since I was calm and contemptuous. Spent some time outside moving and eating great food.
Things are as things should be.
Day 32, Thursday
An ordinary day at the office. I never laughed myself to death, but that’s how most days are, aren’t they? An ordinary – but good – day.
Day 33, Friday
Some time spent at the office and some spent with clients.
The evening was spent having dinner and booze with some friends.
Day 34, Saturday
Cheers for another really notable epiphany! I’m not completely ruined after a wine n dine!
Despite being in bed like five hours later than a normal day, which hasn’t worked for… urm, years. Plenty of food and even more to drink, in bed in the middle of the night, and then rise and shine more or less at the same time as I usually am.
That’s cool progress.
I’m not doing this to become a party animal, but it’s a very clear sign telling me there’s some spare energy in the tank now compared to earlier.
A couple of hours later, we’re off to the forest to take a long stroll. I had enough to drink yesterday, not to dare drive, but I’m still full of energy and in a good mood.
A walk in the forest and we were sitting by a fire for a while – then we’re off home to recharge for just a little while to then get up and get out to walk around town for another couple of hours.
Day 35, Sunday
The GF is off to spend some time on things she loves, and I spend most of my day solving things around the house in a comfy and relaxed way.
I fix the food, and she gets to do what she likes and then collapses on the sofa.
Nothing big, but a great day – just like yesterday.
Finishing words for week 5.
There’s energy, will, and interest.
I spontaneously do things that expend energy.
I don’t seem to crash for minuscule things anymore.
I’m amazed at what a big difference and change this made in a relatively short period. With some perspective, that month I’ve been doing it is nothing. Going from how I was – to being like this, and writing that things happen to be “as they should” and that I’m contemptuous and pleased… There ought to be a long way from said A to B. But it didn’t take that long.
Day 36, Monday
I woke up with a cold. And I don’t seem to be the only one. Sore throat, runny nose, and what seems to be a mild fever. I’m not dying just yet, but we’ll see where things go.
The plan is to work four hours a day – BUT – I’m supposed to be still and do nothing “when that’s appropriate”. Like weekends, holidays, and in this case, sick days. I haven’t had those for something this minor before. I’ve preferred to work as long as I’m physically able to, but now I’m practicing.
Is the chest pain back…? The chest pain is back, but… I’m thinking as I’m writing… I can’t say it’s just the same feeling. This might be more spread out and… dull? So, I might still be truly better from what bothered me. This does feel like something new. This far – a cold and no setbacks. Just another chance to practice.
I’ve done nothing of value all day long.
Perhaps a personal record?
Day 37, Tuesday
Not quite done with the little bug. I start my morning with some green goo, to then catch up on some reading. Tea and reading really should be a bigger part of my life.
I spend most of my early day around text. Then I’m off to take a long walk and offer what small comfort I can to a sad friend who’ve broken up with someone important.
The evening is calm as I hang out with an exhausted GF…
Calm, but seemingly emotional day. We, humans, seem to be kinda sensitive…
Day 38, Wednesday
My day starts with me rushing to a friend’s house. She messed up as she was backing up my car she borrowed. Material damage and no one damaged except for a complete breakdown and a panic attack until I got there half an hour later or so.
“There’s catastrophe after catastrophe today!!!!!!”
Material belongings and spending time taking care of said belongings.
What truly matters?
Day 39-42, T-S.
I didn’t write anything.
Finishing words for week 6.
What a shitty week. But I can’t say it’s my fault… Or something.
I’m doing what I can to be Stoic and resilient and simply endure and be pragmatic as the obstacles emerge. As I’m looking at others – or me historically – I’m not doing horribly, but I wouldn’t mind managing that even better.
People around me crumble and collapse, and I do my tiny part as I try to help.
- A cold endured most of the week. Not bad enough to hide entirely, but enough to be more sick and tired of everything.
- Someone crashed my car.
- Someone broke down, so I took care of said someone for most of the day.
- Someone broke up with someone else and has been sad as fuck all week, so I did my best there as well.
- Someone had to go to the emergency room, and I did what I could to help with that situation.
- Someone’s dog got sick as fuck and had to get to the emergency room.
- Someone got dumped and was infinitely sad.
- Someone is in far more pain than usual.
Kinda funny as all of them are… not me. Still draining me, though, as I’m trying to do what I can to solve something. Completely mad, though, that I’m tired because someone’s someone gets cancer.
Bad week, but useful for practice and to get time to reflect on those values. I’m not hurt, but it still takes its toll. I’m not the one in enough pain to have to go to the doctor… But I’m the one whining. Great.
Silly Stoics might just make me hate misery less. Daily Stoic, https://dailystoic.com/its-not-as-unfortunate-as-it-seems/ writes this:
“It’s fortunate when you get what you want, it’s unfortunate when, for whatever reason, you don’t. Right?
Marcus Aurelius proposed a different way of looking at things. Instead of telling ourselves that we’re unfortunate because our expectations were disappointed, we should do the opposite:
“No it’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it — not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it.”
To a Stoic, we’re only harmed when our character is affected. We’re only harmed when we let go of what we believe in or when we drop our own standards. It might not be desirable to lose money or a friend, to fail at something or to be criticized, but how does that make us unfortunate? We haven’t been deprived of our ability to respond. Our character remains intact.
There’s no rule that says you have to freak out about this or shattered by it or that you have to start getting anxious about the future. No, you’re still in control. You’re still you.
That’s very fortunate.”
Day 43, Monday
Half time. I’ve done six weeks, and I’m… notably better, of course, but last week just doesn’t make it feel like that. Tired and bummed out.
I did some deskwork in a relaxed way around ~9-15.30 and then some client work. So, quite a long work day, in contrast to what I’m aiming for, but it didn’t feel like a problem. The fatigue I’ve got hovering over me is kind of intangible and… strange. I could obviously go for a full work day, even though we did things a bit more relaxed since there are still sick kids at home. At some point, we took a break and conjured some cinnamon rolls out of thin air… and wheat. So the workday wasn’t stressful, but I don’t see how they need to be either.
Day 44-49, Tuesday – Sunday
I did get some journaling done… But nothing really worth sharing, or rather reading.
Finishing words for week 7.
This week, I feel I’ve done a decent job and done my best as a human being. I’m not sure anything incredible or exciting happened, but that’s like most weeks. I’m not really living an exciting life. ^^
The week summed up would be something like this:
We had the first decent snowfall, and everyone got surprised again. As we always do in this part of the country.
I’ve learned that yet another person I once held quite dear is slowly dying of cancer.
My mother told me a relative passed this week. Not anyone I’m closely connected to, but still, another reminder of death.
I’ve slept poorly because I’ve been dreaming too much and unpleasantly.
I’ve been tired and demoralized.
I’ve done what I can to be helpful, useful, and active anyway.
From the Biopsychosocial perspective, things are pretty decent in the first two, in isolation. In the third, it feels like everyone around me suffers and crumbles, and I’m just looking at all of the sadness and misery. That seems to be what affects most things…
Mellow sorrow and darkness. Fitting right in with the last weeks of November, of course.
This week, I’ve thought about three little quotes here and there.
Marcus Aurelius said, “You could leave life right now, let that determine what you say and do and think.” These last two weeks underline how fragile life and most things we’ve got are. I/We/You better appreciate it before it’s too late.
Epictetus, Discourses : “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” Rational. Reasonal… And how I usually try to think.
Rocky with his “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”
The things that have bothered me for the last week or two are outside my control. It’s just added external misery that is a natural part of life. The bothersome part of the social part of life. So getting bummed out is nothing but normal and how things should be. There’s not much to do but give it a few days.
I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got in the meantime…
Finishing words for week 8.
I’ll go for a summing up of the week once again. In short, it’s been a good week.
Until the weekend.
The work-week worked out as they kinda should. I felt quite fine after a couple of weeks of fatigue and life. Too much life in one sitting isn’t too pleasant. It’s like cake. Even though most people, like me, tolerate cake better.
The week started with a Monday, as they commonly do. This time that came along with some celebrations! Some wine and lovely food after a good day. Great!
On Tuesday, I felt as if I finished stuff in a good way.
Wednesday came with significant progress with a client and was, in all, just a comfortable day! I felt as… I want to. I did stuff, and things worked in contrast to how things have been.
On Thursday, the first of December, I was woken up by kids by five or so in the morning. Not completely ruined, so I could as well get up and make a fitting breakfast. Fun! That was followed by a good day.😃
On Friday, I had a good work day where I was just… generally pleased as things could keep rolling. Some Christmas baking and mulled wine finished the evening.
And then to the weekend, with too much of me trying to please and help people instead of getting that rest I sure as heck need.
Social stuff is obviously hard. This might be why I keep falling on my butt back to Pillar two instead of working with Pillar three in the program.
Part of the description for Pillar two, which is mainly about removing stimulus and getting some rest, goes like this:
“Ideally, this would be done with a big “Fuck it,” and you toss everything in your hands and sit on your butt. From the moment you read this, I’d love it if work didn’t matter and you’d be okay with ignoring all your problems for a little while. You’re on vacation now. You’re untouchable and here to rest, focus inward, and breathe.
That’s not life, generally. In some cases, people can do that. If you’re one of them, that’s great. Go for it. Fuck it, have a seat – and rest. That’s where we start. If that’s not you – do your best. You’ll have to start prioritizing, and I get that you can’t just drop everything. But it’s time to get some rest in there. That’s a decent part of why you’re doing this.”
It’s not quite just about sitting on my butt. There’s a bunch of stuff I obviously don’t quite master yet. *rolleyes*
There are, among other things, a wish for me to decently manage Mindfulness, eating decently once in a while, pacing, stillness (as in DON’T BE CONTINUOUSLY OVERBURDENED BY EVERYTHING), and trying to manage what I can control.
Pillar three, the “Dolor mitigation & aim and acquire system”. is there to get rid of what’s painful and go towards what’s good for me.
“We look at values, goals, and what’s essential in life. We’ll solve problems related to biological, psychological, and social aspects to get to where you want to be. Life shouldn’t be lived on auto-pilot – it should be built on thought-through choices.
You’ll reflect on what you want to spend your time, energy, and resources on to clarify what’s irrelevant to be able to keep what’s valuable and tend to that and nothing more.
You’ll write down the goal-setting and start analyzing the situation you’re currently in to localize – and then remove – stressors. Some start their projects with this part to clarify what they want to get out of the project. That’s often highly valuable, but this looks at life and where you want to be rather than just these weeks with this intensive change.
If necessary cognitive behavioral therapy could treat some things, such as depression and anxiety, that cost more than they ought to, and it’ll aid those with trouble sleeping to make sleep more restful. If rest doesn’t recover energy, things often deteriorate quickly. The energy part is a balance between gaining and spending, so they’re both important.”
So I sure ought to tend to both, that’s for sure… These last three weeks of sickness and misery have been a lot about the topic of Values, and I think that’s starting to sink in, even though a decent chunk of life still is about work.
Finishing words for week 9.
I’ll continue keeping them short. They’re more reader-friendly that way.
Monday was spent solving things I don’t like spending time on. That’s how I spent most of the day before as well. A couple of days of that – and the GF looked at me as if I were a slowly dying puppy Monday evening. Doing what I don’t want makes a dent. Good to know. Because… Who’d guess? *facepalm*
Tuesday, I started my day feeling just the same as Monday; exhausted and MEH. But, as the day progressed and I did pleasant things, I got far better. So, in contrast to doing shitty things – doing pleasant ones really works. Again. Who’d guess? And it’s not even anything particularly hard, complex, or expensive. Animals, nature, exercise, avoiding tech, pleasant, relaxing time with people who don’t drain me of energy, and enjoyable food and drinks. THAT should be obvious, but I’M obviously quite slow.
On Wednesday, I got out and got myself a Christmas tree. I’m not sure if I’m far too early, but we barely think about it once the holiday is over, so I might as well be a bit early rather than the opposite.
Thursday was another day with those sucky things where I feel like I’m wasting my life. After work I was pulled out of that sulking bubble through some Behavior Activation (TM). Worked better than I wanted to confess, since I mostly wanted to stay at home sulking when I was first asked. *rolleyes*
Friday reflection. Even though I “finish” stuff at work and even if I “accomplish” things there – it doens’t seem to make a big change in me. Unless it makes a change in – and helps – others. I rarely feel proud or as if I’ve done something important, unless I did something that helped someone else. What’s worth deducing out of that?
This weekend was uncommonly calm. Likely just what I needed. Long mornings, walking in a pleasant winter landscape, hanging around small groups of people in a calm manner, decorating the tree, baking and other Christmas-related stuff.
I’ve done my fair share of work this week, and I feel that I might even be able to work eight hours some days. When I’m not overwhelmed by bullshit I don’t want or like, that is. I should work six hours by now – but I feel like I’m going to keep to four hours until the end of the year. At least more or less. If I’m doing something truly amusing that throws buckets of energy at me, sure, I could keep going. But if I’m working just because “I should”, I might as well do the healthy choice instead.
The last snippet…
This last part covered the last few weeks around Christmas and new years’ eve. I focused more on doing what was pleasant and spent more time around family and friends. Free time doing stuff I like and avoiding a big bunch of Christmas presents. Comfy.
As a step towards “progress”, I talked with those closest to me about how I feel and how I experience their demands… If that’s even the right word or phrasing. I’m not sure they see things as I feel them.
I feel like they’re disappointed and that I never really can be good enough.
But then again, I have gotten the question back if I’d ever really be pleased with what I do, regardless of what I do or what I am. So, talking is one part. Practicing is another! There’ll be a lot of practice ahead, I guess. Doing things that “aren’t good enough” – and looking at them as good enough anyway. I don’t really see myself as much of a perfectionist, but I do seem to demand a lot of myself. The program does include a few snippets about Stoicism. Have I taken Marcus’ “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” too far..?
The point with high demands is one part of what I’ll take with me after this project and into the following year. Doing what’s important for me rather than just others would be another. Those little talks might make me more inclined towards doing what I want. Hopefully, I’ll begin doing what I need. As I’ve learned that work might be less important than I might have previously thought. So less work and more important stuff that makes life worth living.
The self-worth and self-esteem parts with grown-up discussions might have been the most noteworthy things during the period. Except for that, life moved on “as usual”… whatever that is.
But with that in mind, finding worth without being exceptionally productive – and feeling good about that – could be next year’s mission.
I guess it’s time to see how things worked out after something like this. I think it’ll be smoother if you check the top of the post to find out how things were initially rather than having me repost it. Looking at the progress and the reflection likely tells you most of the symptoms, even if you don’t scroll back up there.
- Both KEDS and MADRS are reduced significantly. I’m at single-digit instead of the previously worrying numbers.
- I no longer suffer from chest pains or any symptoms from the heart. That’s a comfort since the only thing I’ve gotten from healthcare until the end of the year, about three months after the initial meeting… is that initial meeting. I still haven’t had a check-up to verify how things are in there. So “don’t go to work” was what I got from healthcare. There was no sick leave or other interventions despite seeking help for stress-related chest pains. Luckily, the project helped more than that. Would it have worked even better if I were completely free to rest?
- I’m no longer bothered by my sleep. That’s fine seven days a week.
- The problem I had with being disorganized and having worse focus is, as far as I can see, gone. It’s at least far better, to the degree where I don’t notice the problem anymore. I sure hope I didn’t just get accustomed to being sloppy! Since I can read, write and do things decently again, I don’t think that’s the case.
- Lack of motivation and general disinterest in most things was a big problem, but by now, I’m rather fond of what I’m doing when I’m doing it. That doesn’t go for everything, of course. I still don’t like things I don’t like, but I’m back to liking what I DO like. That’s reasonable expectations. Loving everything would likely demand more.
- The nail biting persists. The general fidgeting and joint-cracking are “back to normal”. I’ve always been one of those who chew nails, and the problem has never really been… a problem. When things escalated like this, it escalated as well, though. I read through one of Patric’s texts about habits today, and after this, I’m thinking about breaking the longest bad habit I’ve got in 2023. We’ll see…
- My inner introvert tolerates people again. A couple of days ago, I spent my entire day around different people and in groups without any problem. I do see value in people, and I’d love to be extroverted, so I’d magically GAIN energy around them since it’s a big part of life and likely one of the most important parts… but that doesn’t seem to be my choice. This is the next best thing – at least not collapsing from being around people.
- The brooding is brighter and takes up far less time if any.
- I don’t remember when I had my last headache, but if I DO get them, I’ve got the tools to manage it. Care for the stress, duuh, and treating manually, stretching, exercise, and… well, enough things to care for it to get rid of it. But painkillers are generally unnecessary if I just get off my butt and do what I’ve got to. Because by now, it’s not even hard.
- I’m rid of the pain in the upper back and the jaws and the random muscle spasms I got here and there. And again, there are tools to care for it if I need to.
- The pain in the right shoulder is still there if I reach too far in a particular way so that one isn’t completely gone. I expect it to be quite soon, however.
I’m not completely cured as if I’ve been through a miracle or if I never was ill at all, but looking at the progress and seeing how long others walk around with this, I’d say it’s… almost close to it. I’m not done with everything, without a symptom whatsoever and superhuman after twelve weeks, but I’m far better and proud of the progress.
Some of the fatigue and stress intolerance still bothers me. It’s FAR better, but it’s still there. Some say it’ll hang around, and Patric’s experience says that if you’ve been exhausted and burnt out once, you’re more likely to do so again. If it’s because of external circumstances, you’re more likely to… And if it’s because of internal circumstances, like me wanting to perform and please everyone and do far more than I can, it’s even MORE likely to happen again… unless I change that. So, I’ll do what I can to avoid doing silly things. Making the same mistake again would be embarrassing.
The history of dysthymia is still there. There’s nothing we can do about the past, but the future might look brighter if I apply the right tools at the right time in the right way. Cognitive behavioral therapy seems to bring hope. Doing things that make me feel good and doing what IS good for me likely helps. I’ve never gotten a good explanation about why dysthymia is there and why some people are more blackened into their core and more easily embraced by bitterness. I’m not sure anyone knows. I guess we could guess, but I doubt it’s possible to find the absolute truth. Guessing is as good as it gets with psychology in a lot of cases… But I’m not sure it matters either, if I can just find enough tools to keep happy enough. At this point, I think I am. I’m not thrilled like a kid at a carnival – but I’m content enough. I’m normalized and back to how a decent human being should be.
Goals were reached, and I’m almost entirely free of symptoms. What more could I need? =)