Moderation Itself Can be a Kind of Extreme

If you’ve been following my reflections, you’ve probably noticed a lot of common themes. Stuff like “advocate for myself” and “communicate openly” are repeatedly featured, though they’re often worded differently or an implicit part of one of my other themes or self-directives. I’ve been trying to put them into practice and, between last night’s meditation (that quickly turned into sleep since I made the mistake of sitting in bed to do it) and this morning’s reflection, I’ve noticed a lot of interesting results.

Thanks to the way I’ve focused on the direction of my thoughts, the meanings and sources behind my various anxieties and moods, and the reminders I’ve written to myself, I think my overall mood is more positive. Maybe not in a major way, but I’d say the change is statistically significant. I don’t feel much better from moment to moment, but I have noticed I’m less likely to get caught up in my once-frequent small thought spirals or anxiety dust devils. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has helped my depression other than the exploration of my metaphor for talking about my mental illnesses and that only really helped me be more precise in seeing how my mood changes happen.

It’s too soon to see a lot of results, since I’m still trying to open up to people and advocate for what I want more often instead of trying to be constantly accommodating, but it feels nice to be making progress again. In today’s therapy session, I was able to tell my psychologist about all of the progress I’ve been making, thanks to the meditation and tracking everything in this little notebook I’ve got. Having her affirm my progress and talking about the things we can do to help me continue to make progress felt wonderful.

When I was seeing a psychologist in college, back when I was at the peak of my reflection and self-management game, most of my sessions would be me trying to convince myself that what I knew was the right solution was the wrong solution and my psychologist patiently backing up the part of me that knew what the right thing was. Once he pointed out what I was doing, we wound up meeting less frequently since I was good at figuring my own shit out. I still occasionally needed official confirmation or a bit of help when I couldn’t figure out what was really wrong or what to do about what was going on in my head. If I’d continued to see a psychologist after moving to Madison, I’m fairly certain I’d have maintained that skill and maybe have avoided some of the problems I ran into. By the time I started seeing a psychologist again, I was so caught up in how awful I felt and how my life felt like it was being taken over by my OCD, anxiety, and depression that I didn’t realize I was no longer certain of what was going on in my head on even the best of days.

Now, I feel like I’m getting back there. I feel like I’m starting to get a grasp on what is going on behind the veil of my thoughts and can start making progress at working on fixing what I want to fix. There’s a lot these days, but I feel confident I can keep making progress and that I’ll get there eventually. Since I’m making progress on my own and more effectively managing my moods as a result of being even more conscious of my thought processes and how to constructively combat the thoughts that come from my mental health issues, it lets my therapist and I work on some other stuff during our sessions. While I’m a bit concerned about keeping everything straight in my head and how much reading I’m going to wind up doing before meditating two weeks from now (I’ve already got almost two dozen pages of notes and reflection questions to review).

Progress is good, but I’m also worried about getting so wrapped up in trying to make progress and keep track of everything that I lose sight of what I’m trying to do. I want to be better, yes, but I don’t want to sacrifice everything else going on in my life. I want to write more, I want to get out more, I was to improve my mental health, I want to improve my ability to manage myself, I want to get back to working out regularly, I want to enjoy my summer by going camping or taking trips to the beach, and I want to keep paying down my debts.

As soon as I start lumping everything into one phrase like “making progress,” I run the risk of losing sight of the trees because of the forest. Sure, it’s mostly semantics when you really think about it, but semantics and framing are really important to how I handle things. “Progress” requires measurable change every day, but I can’t go camping and write more. I can’t pay down my debts by taking a day off to go to the beach. I can’t work out if I’m spending hours meditating and reflecting. Daily progress isn’t possible when it comes to collectively addressing my goals for this summer, so I need to focus on them individually and incremental progress. I can easily plan a trip after spending time reflecting, or figure out how to make a camping trip cost-effective so it doesn’t break my budget. If I work toward at least one goal a day and make sure to track everything with a checklist, then I can avoid feeling like I’m floundering or panicking because I’m trying to do too much.

As I’ve repeated many times in different words, I have a tendency to let obsession replace discipline. I need to proceed thoroughly and carefully. I need to exercise restrain and caution so I do not get over-invested in a particular way of doing things or in how I expect things to work out so I can avoid the crash that accompanies flawed expectations. That was the result of today’s reflection and something I am repeatedly emphasizing to myself. After all, what is the point of trying to improve myself and work on my goals if I just transfer my unhealthy habits from where they are currently to the idea of getting rid of unhealthy habits? It may seem like an impossible oxymoron, but I’ve already done it before and that level of recursion creates mental hurricanes when it gets disrupted by sensibility reasserting itself.

It can be an incredibly frustrating balancing act and just trying to sort it out in a way I feel explains it well is giving me a headache. I know what I’m trying to do and, even if I can’t properly explain it here, I know how to do it. That’ll have to be enough for now. Maybe I’ll figure out the perfect explanation at some point. Maybe I should meditate on that tonight, since I feel asleep while trying to think about it last night. We’ll see. I’ve got a long weekend to work on it.

This whole thing is kind of funny. It reminds me of the lyrics to one of my favorite Andrew Bird songs, “Lull.”

“I’m all for moderation but sometimes it seems
Moderation itself can be a kind of extreme”

I can take anything to an extreme. Moderation is key and moderating myself requires I do it moderately. Talk about meta.

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