PN Week 1: Life’s Purpose

It Has Been A Hard Week

I started the week off strong by making plans and showering. It was all well, but then I just fell into this depression, and I could not seem to get out of bed. I had enough energy to take my daughter to school and return to bed. I have had no real motivation to leave the room unless I really have to.

It is upsetting because I was doing so well, or so I thought.

The week looked hopeful, but it just seemed to drag on forever. I fell into this depression that had me sleep all day. My body and brain felt so weak and tired. The only good thing about it was that this time I did not have to force myself to go to work and work hard to make it through the day.

Being Without Work

As some of my close family and friends could tell, when I was without work, I fell into a deep depression. My whole life, I worked hard to make a life for myself and my daughter. I worked long hours, and I tried my best at what I did every day. One of the things about me is that I took great pride in my work on my good days, but living with mental illness, there are some days when I struggled to keep myself from wanting to just quit and “throw my life away.”

There were times when I would YouTube or research how to keep a routine and be successful at it. I was that kind of girl. I wanted to be on top of things. I always have wanted to be on top of everything. I wanted to know everything I could about everything, and then in the middle of the research, I abandoned it. I always do. When I am deep into something, I lose interest in it and move on.

It was hard to wake up in the morning and get dressed. Sometimes I would not shower for a week or two and wore the same socks to work for a few days. My mental state would have me put my health and basic hygiene onto the back burner. It was hard to brush my teeth or have a routine. I would try to establish one as often as possible, but I never kept up with my ideas as I was too tired to care at the end of the day.

“I survived,” I would tell myself. “I at least survived another day.”

Despite all of that, I was a fast learner. I would eventually understand the criteria and go on about my day. Growing up, I was reminded daily that what you did for work mattered. Your job is status. Your job was your ticket to freedom. Your salary was significant, and you would not live your best life without it.

I grew up thinking I had to be much more than I could handle. I wanted to not just survive but live a life where I did not have to worry about rent or where my next meal came from. I wanted to just be able to enjoy life and what it had in store for me.

Since being out of work, I felt I had no real purpose. I lost. I lost what I had worked so hard to achieve. I could find another job, but I cannot find one I can handle right now. I find it hard to leave the house to take out the trash some days and, most days, to go out in public. It has been such a hard time adjusting to not having much to do. I could join clubs or do things in my downtime my mental illness kept me in a tight bubble. I found no real purpose in doing anything.

If I landed a job somewhere right now, I would go and break down in the bathroom because I would not know how to handle society. I would still feel the heaviness of failure.

The funny thing is, this all came out of the left field. I, myself, would not understand how someone could just not go outside and do what they must do. I now understand pretty well.

I Am More than My Job

Talking to my therapist, I always returned to the topic of not being much of anything because I failed. I failed in school, in work, and in my life, and I was not successful in any way.

The way I rated success was all that I mentioned above, and I fell short right when I thought I was going somewhere.

It was difficult for me to explain to myself that I might be unable to “make it.” My brain shuts down, and I cannot control my moods and focus on what I need to focus on. How does that feel? It feels like the days when you overwork your brain that you get frustrated and your head hurts. Your brain gets fatigued, and you keep reading your material repeatedly, over and over again, which does not seem to make sense most of the time. It feels like you need a break to regroup and start again. It is all of that, but constantly. It has always been a daily thing for me. I must fight my brain to register what someone is saying and connect the dots on what I am reading in my text, like writing this blog post. I cannot seem to finish this in a setting or two. This will most likely be completed after the thirty-first setting, which is frustrating. Because it is all up in my brain, I cannot seem to be able to do what I want it to do. Then there is being distracted. Then I start to procrastinate and tell myself that I can finish this later when I know for a fact that I cannot. I will not return to it until the night before to finish it all and force myself to try and focus.

At the moment, a thousand thoughts are swirling in my mind, and I cannot shut them off. I have to work so hard to focus.

There were so many other factors as to why I dropped out of school (being homeless, lack of support, lack of funds, etc.) Everything I had going on and, on top of that, my mental illness. I set myself up for failure. Because I had demanding expectations of myself and the disadvantage of being able to learn like most people, I just gave myself an arduous task, and I am beating myself up for it.

The therapist explained a little about it to me but also made me question why that was considered important to describe my identity.

It was like a freight train came over and ran me flat. She was right. I put so much importance on my ideologies and made them into my identity. I made my job, my failed degrees, and all my academic failures a part of me. It was as if I had no achievements; I was nothing. I was nothing without them. It then sounded stupid to me. Why would I make my job my identity? My job was something I did, not who I was.

She proceeded to ask, “Who are you, Norma? Do you know who that is?”

No.

I simply said, “No, I do not know who that is.”

She laughed a little bit (not at me) and told me that she might have a few ideas from what we had talked about.

“Norma, you told me what you love to do and what you do not like. You told me about what you have gone through and the strength it took to overcome those obstacles. You are courageous. You are brave. You are so kind. You seem to be shy, but you are so much under that. You take things head-on, and you do not give up. You have been telling yourself you failed, but I do not see a person who has given up. A person who stops trying is a person that has given up. You are not a failure but a person trying to find where to go from here. Going out and getting help is the first step, and you are doing it. Taking the first steps to better yourself is an accomplishment. You are studious. You are an artist. A writer. A musician. A person who lives and breathes art. Why not drop the hard expectations you put on yourself and see who Norma is under all of that. That is who you are, not what others tell you to be.”

I was on the brink of tears because no one had told me anything like it before. I always thought I was whatever I did and what I had accomplished. It seems silly to think about now. To think that was honestly my thought process when I thought about my identity.

I was, in fact, none of the things I accomplished or worked towards, but someone who did all those things aside from who I am. It was like an epiphany; what she said started to make sense.

It was hard to accept because it felt like my whole life was a lie. Everything I learned about status, happiness, and sense of identity was a lie. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I associated that with making an identity for myself.

I don’t know if that makes sense. I am working on that at the moment. I am looking at myself in a different light, and it has brought me happiness I did not see coming. No expectations. Not pushing my limits to fit a narrative I gave myself. No more pretending that I love everything about the things I associate myself with. It brought me the peace I needed in my life.

I am Still Trying to Figure Out What I Want To Do

At the end of the day, it is not important what I do for a living. What is important is what I do on my own time. What I do in my downtime is more important to me. I could work a mundane job that does not always spark inspiration or makes me excited to go to, but I can have the love and spark I am looking for in my own personal projects. I have been learning to love my hobbies and projects with no intention of making something out of them but to make me happy. It gives me a purpose that a job could not provide me. I worked for a job that was my dream job, and at the end of my employment, I was not happy. I dreaded going to work by the end of it. It was hard to figure out what to do next.

After a lot of thinking, it became clear to me that I should do a job that I do not mind doing every day instead and that I am naturally good at to support my hobbies and lifestyle. I do not have to make the things I love into work; it can be things I love to do for me.

One of those things is my blog. It isn’t for anything more than something that makes me happy and helps me unwind from what is going on in my head. Whether it helps people or not is not the main focus, but it needed to be something I did without the heavy burden of doing it well for others to enjoy it. Reading about other people’s struggles helped me know that I did not suffer alone and made me feel like I did belong in the world after all.

If they are fighting like hell, so can I.

I Hope This Helped Some of You

Watching people achieve so many remarkable things has been challenging, and I felt like I was wasting my life and beating myself up for being mentally ill. Reminding myself that life is much more than achieving milestones at a particular time but enjoying all the beauty and ugly that comes with it. My ugly truths are just as important as my achievements. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to do things on your own time. It is okay to not want to be “anyone important,” but do whatever you do with pride. I hope you have found the little things that make you happy. I hope you are not so hard on yourself as well.

A friend of mine advised me to allow myself some grace; it was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.

If there is anything I would like for anyone to take away from this is to please give yourself some grace and enjoy your life without the heavy burden of expectations.

I will catch you guys next week.

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