Motivation Against The Odds & I Am Not Rubber, I Am Velcro

I had a little thought about motivation. Only a little one. But it inspired me enough to try make sense of it. Some of you may be aware that I have spent the last 5 weeks in St. Pats with a mental illness – something I may feel ready to discuss in detail, and in its entirety, with the world someday. I’ve spoken of elements of it before – depression and anxiety, and the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder – but the whole story I may save for another day. As it stands, I trip over the words when I try to tell someone outside of the hospital scenario what it was I was in for. I am in part ashamed at myself for giving in to the pressures of stigma, but also aware that I am under no obligation to tell anyone about the things I suffer through. The only reason I do tell anyone anything is in the hope that they will understand me, and that they will in turn (if it’s relevant) maybe understand things about themselves.

I digress (slightly).

Some of you may also be aware that I’ve deferred from college this year. I wasn’t happy about that decision initially, but after a week or so in the bubble that is hospital, I realised it was the best thing I could do for myself in the long run, while I continue with recovery. Others still will have noticed my ongoing absence from work – but don’t worry, I will be back as soon as I’m ready :). It’s hard to remember or even imagine that anyone might miss you or notice your absence from anywhere when you’re feeling as low as I got, and I’m being presumptuous in thinking anyone DID miss me apart from those who told me, but for those that did miss me: I’m still around and I’m almost okay now. I promise. 

What I got thinking about, though, in the last couple of days since I got discharged, was what actually motivates people when they are in the depths of despair? Before I went into hospital I had no motivation to do anything except suffer. It was so easy to suffer, because that’s all I knew how to do at the time. I knew I wanted to get better. I knew I wanted to go into hospital to learn how to tackle this illness head on so that I might be able to go into a shop without having a panic attack, go to work without feeling like the world was ending, go to college without having to physically force myself to open the front door and face the world. I hadn’t seen my friends properly in a long, long time. I was missing out on life as it passed me by.

Maybe that was my motivation. To not watch life pass me by anymore. To achieve what felt like the impossible and recover. Get to a stage where I felt like I could do all the things the mentally well take for granted 99% of the time and can usually face with no issues. There are little things which motivate you in the depths of despair that you can only begin to fathom. I think as humans we have a desire to survive. We have no reason to survive, really. We are autonomous, thinking life forms. We are aware of life spans and of the pointlessness of existence. We are aware that there are billions of us on this planet and very few of those billions will be remembered in one hundred years time. In the time it takes for the newest born baby right at this second to live out to the maximum expected life span – you, who is reading this right now, will probably be forgotten.

Terrifying, isn’t it?

I used to think about that a lot. It scared me. I would have panic attacks thinking about it. I could not think about anything other than the inevitability of death and how it wouldn’t really matter when I left the earth because it just didn’t matter. 

Despite feeling all that, though, something motivated me to get myself admitted to hospital. To get myself the help I needed  deserved. It made me really determined to get better. The more time I spent inside, the more time I couldn’t wait to have worked hard enough that I got to leave. In truth, I don’t understand where the motivation came from. I guess part of it was not wanting to let my boyfriend or my family and friends down, but I feel it was more innate than that. Those are all circumstantial reasons to want to get better (that sounds clinical and awful, but it’s true). What really motivates a person, against all presenting odds – and certainly in my case, where I felt the end was nigh and I was going to eventually do all I could to make sure the end happened had I not gotten help – has to come from an animal instinct, somewhere.

That does not discredit anyone who DOESN’T survive against the odds. I had such a hard time getting professionals to cooperate with me to get me into hospital, it became quickly very clear to me that there were probably many people who were in my position before me who gave up when faced with the impossible wall I was presented with, and there would be many people after me who just couldn’t handle the lack of urgency at which a lot of mental illness facilities operate. What I am really trying to say is that I have thought about it a lot and ultimately don’t understand it.

What a lot of words to have written without any sort of point.

A final thought I had on the whole thing was that since I’ve come out of hospital, I’ve started to realise that I am not rubber. Things do not bounce off me. I am not thick skinned or immune to the words of others, or immune to the effects of feeling other people’s emotions. I am not a carefully crafted machine that can deflect all feelings, thoughts, words and emotions that are thrown at me (far from it, actually). What I have accepted is that I am velcro. Things stick. I carry them around for a bit. But the beauty of velcro is, after a time you can pull the sticky things away and the velcro is almost as good as new. This is a vast improvement of pre-hospital me, who was not rubber but was superglue instead. So many tiny things weighed me down until I felt like I was drowning.
Progress is so very gradual. There are still a lot of things I can’t do. But there are a lot of things I can do that 5 weeks ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of being able to do at all ever again. My motivation comes from somewhere. I just don’t know where.

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