As you probably know from reading this blog/my social media/having any conversations with me ever, I'm really into self-development, self-discovery, and personal growth, in basically every form I can get. I do yoga. I meditate. I journal. I read personal development books. I listen to podcasts. I go to therapy - which I do both for my illness and learning how to work with/understand it, and for my personal growth that may in some ways be related to my illness and may in other ways just be related to me as a not-perfect human being, as none of us are. There are plenty other avenues for personal development and growth. These are just my (current) preferred methods, though it's likely that therapy, yoga (I'm a yoga instructor), and journaling (I'm a writer) are among my go-tos for the long haul.
I say all this because I've been really delving deep into some particular development work, and I've noticed that almost every area that I want to work on comes back to one theme - wanting to be enough, and not feeling that I am. The thing is, depression and anxiety lie. All the time. Depression likes to tell you that you're nothing, that you're not capable, that you aren't worthy. It tells you that you aren't as skilled or successful as others, or that even when you do feel successful that it's not real/just lucky/short lived. It gives you all the "yeah but"s you can imagine. "Yeah, you have a Master's degree, but you're not really using it as you could be." "Yeah you ran your own business for years but you had financial help and you didn't get where you hoped". "Yeah you accomplished xyz, but others accomplished that AND abc." "Yeah you did this thing that makes you feel successful but here are all the reasons it doesn't count". Anxiety likes to play a similar game. It tells you that you'll fail/get rejected/embarrass yourself. It tells you that you can't/won't be able to handle something. It tells you that ridiculous things that you logically know aren't true but it tries to convince you of anyway -that people are just being nice and don't really like you. That you're only being invited to stuff/included because people don't know how to get it out of it or feel bad. That that you really didn't do a great job on that thing you actually did a great job on. That any minute the other shoe is going to drop, and that everything that's been going well won't be. Anxiety analyzes every conversation/text/tweet/post, everything you wear/say/do, trying to find a way to convince you that they're somehow going to have some negative consequence, that there's something wrong with it and you. And ultimately, what all of these things that depression and anxiety boil down to, at least for me, is this one fundamental whopper of a lie that's horrendously convincing to the emotional part of my brain: That I'm not enough. And I'm learning through this work that I'm doing, and through (many years) of therapy, that this thought influences virtually every aspect of my life.
Every time I don't go after something I want to, it's because secretly, I think I'm not enough. That I'll fail or get rejected and it'll be proven that I'm not enough (aka imposter syndrome). Virtually every behavioral habit or pattern that I don't really like but can't make myself break is because I feel like I'm not enough. I'm not good enough to break that pattern or habit. OR, that pattern or habit makes me momentarily feel better, which momentarily masks the terrible feeling of not being enough. Every time I don't set boundaries it's because I feel I'm not deserving enough of whatever respect I'm asking for. Every time I go against my nature, try to change myself for someone else (note: not compromising/adjusting, I mean trying to change my authentic self at the core), it's because I don't feel like I'm enough and therefore somehow they must be right and I must have to change to be enough. Every time I don't stand up for what I believe in, or allow myself to be guilted/shamed/etc into something -either by my own brain or someone else- or allow that guilt/shame to sink in and make me feel badly about myself, it's because I don't feel like I'm enough.
And quite honestly, I've had enough of not feeling enough. I want to change this fundamental lie that my brain tells me, because I can see the domino effect that will happen if I can just manage to understand this one thing. I see all the areas of my life, including relationships with those I interact with, that can be positively impacted if I can come to truly believe, to truly understand, that I am enough. It's a journey that I'm beginning to embark on with this fresh vision, with this knowledge of exactly how much impact this lie of not being enough has on me, and it's a journey I'm both excited and scared about (because, you know, anxiety). And to be super clear here, all the self-development in the world won't get rid of my depression or anxiety. Mine are lifelong - I have a genetic condition I was born with and will always have. I can't think my way out of my mental illness (cyclothymia, in my case) no more than I can yoga or smile or kale-eat my way out of them - which is to say, I can't. But if I can learn to recognize the patterns, recognize that it's depression and anxiety and not really the core of me, recognize the lies they tell me as lies, I can work with them, at least some of time, And knowing how to work with my brain, instead of simply always battling against it, could go a long way.
I'm not writing this post because I want anyone to feel bad about how I feel. I'm DEFINITELY not writing this post for unsolicited advice (note: this goes for anything that anyone writes about ever, unless they say "I'd like some advice", in which case, it's not unsolicited). I'm writing it because: 1.) It's been in my head, and I think it's important to put it "out there", so to speak. It takes it from being something I technically, logically know in my brain, to being something that I'm willing and able to "speak" out loud, and that goes a long way, at least for me, in taking the next steps to address it. 2.) Surely, I'm not the only one out there that feels this way, but it can often feel like it. So if you, too, deal with this, I want you to know that you're not alone, that I get it, and that I'm here to listen if you need to talk/vent/discuss/connect about it, or if you just need someone to say "I get you". 3.) People have a wide variety of ideas about what mental health and mental illness look like. And yes, sometimes it does look like bouts of crying on the bathroom floor, or severe worry over something that appears minor to the observer, or some other more well-known symptoms of depression or anxiety (or other illness). But sometimes, it's not as obvious. Sometimes it looks like a multiple business owner, newly certified yoga instructor, recently published author, who's traveled to six continents, sat on multiple boards of directors for years, and has the support of family/friends/loved ones, but who internally continues to think/feel that they're never enough.
Please understand that you don't always understand what's going on under the surface. Even with someone like me who's extremely open about... well, almost everything, but in particular my mental health struggles and my illness, there's so much that you don't know. I share a good amount, but there's still plenty that I keep internalized. There's still so much that I haven't yet processed or even discovered about myself. While I can't speak for anyone else, I personally am an open book. I am happy to answer questions, to discuss, to share (note: STILL not OK with unsolicited advice). Don't judge or assume. And understand that underneath all of it, at the core, is someone simply wanting to be enough.