One Reason Project882 Is Harder Than My Other Projects (Trying To Respond To Mental Illness The Same Way As Just Being Sad)

July 28, 2017

I struggle a fair amount with really (really) understanding mental illness. (I have a few posts in the queue about it.) Trying to really understand like what’s in my head, what’s for real. How much is my attitude part of it?

And, I think that thinking about that more, I’ve started to understand better one (of potentially many) reasons why Project882 has seemed SO much harder and more taxing than my other projects.

When I was trying to do other projects (52 half marathons, 52 volunteer activities, etc.), I was just trying to figure out how to make my life even better than it was. I was trying to focus on areas where I thought I needed improvements. But my base life was fine.

I was able to get through workdays totally fine. The idea that I’d have to cry alone in my office for a while would never have even crossed my mind.

Granted, I have cried in my office before all this happened. I’m not saying I never had a really really hard day, or got some bad news right before work, or anything like that. I am a human being person who has shown emotions and cried before.

But I never had to worry that I’d cry on a dime – that I’d hear a word that would just get me and be toast.

I didn’t have to take all the strength I have just to get up and shower.

Again, I’m a human being person. I was exhausted sometimes. There were days sometimes when I didn’t have to work where I would not shower and laze around. But they were few and far between and they’d make sense because I worked really hard and deserved a break sometimes – as opposed to just a way of life where every single thing is hard.

If we were to look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when I took on the other projects, it was like “physiological – check! I’ve got shelter, clothes, food, and I am so super capable of taking care of myself.” “Safety? Oh heck yeah. I feel safe. My health is tip-top. I’ve got a good job, and if I lose it, I have a strong network. And my bills are low anyway. I feel safe and secure.” “Social belonging? Oh, bam! I got you! I’ve got a lot of wonderful relationships. I live in a safe and friendly community. I have a small group of close friends whom I trust with no inhibitions, and I have a large group of less-close friends as well. I’ve got everything I need in that department.”

So, sure! I can work on those top levels of building my esteem even more or self-actulaiztion… Whatever’s up there on the next levels, I’m ready!

And that, to me, is why it was so relatively easy for the other projects to be relatively successful.

I still had ups and downs within them. I still had troubles sometimes. I still had issues with people in my life sometimes. It’s not like every single level was 100% perfect every moment of everyday. But there were no giant cracks in my foundation. Things were solid and good.

And then…

All of this happened. And every level was affected. (Now let’s go backward from where we’d been confidently placed before)

“Social belonging? Oof. I am pushing everybody I know out of my life because I can’t handle people. I’m jumpy/anxious/mad/embarrassed/in trouble. This level is not firm.”

“Safety? My bills are higher in New York and the network of people I know is thinner (and even the amount of available TV jobs are fewer). So, that part of safety is not as strong. I was new to the town when this all happened. And the one person who welcomed me in and was kind of my bridge to living here is the person who assaulted me and gaslit me and made my life a living hell. So, the people I could know or lean on know him better. So, I feel very lonely. And it doesn’t feel exceptionally safe when the few mild connections you have know your rapist so well. Physical health got worse. And having PTSD in and of itself leaves you with a sense of not feeling safe i general. So, okay, that level’s not good.”

Physiological needs? Sure, I have clothes and stuff. But there was definitely a time where I had trouble doing anything. So, do I have a toothbrush? Yeah. Do I have the wherewithal to actually be able to take care of myself like a normal human being? I dunno!

And that’s why I think this project has been so hard. It’s like I’m trying to learn how to walk again, and I decided the way to do that was to go about running a marathon, because I’m “weak” or “lame” or something(?), for needing to learn to walk again. So, I’ll just show everybody I’m cool by running a marathon – and then potentially hurt myself in the process.

Am I still living and still making it through the miles? Yeah. So, ultimately, I guess everything is fine. I believe I’ll finish the project, and I don’t think it will stunt recovery beyond repair or anything. I do think some good comes from it too… I don’t think it’s all bad. But I do think I at least understand now why this project feels painful and impossible – it’s because I’m not coming from a base of being able to welcome improvement. I’m coming from basically no base at all. I’m trying to furnish a house that’s been destroyed by a hurricane without making sure the roof is re-attached.

And if I’m lucky, the design can still be pretty, and the details can still be filled in better once I get that roof back on.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?