My eyelids scream to close, but there is too much that needs to be done. How can I sleep when I have school work that is yet to have been accomplished or projects midway through or a million streams of conscious thoughts that beg to be written down? The answer is simple. I don’t sleep because I can’t, because I don’t want to, because that is just the way it is. Insomnia comes with the territory of mental illness. Anxieties about who I will have to interact with at my internship tomorrow leave me sweating, fears around my ever changing body leave me squirming, and panic around the spaces my thoughts and memories wander to leave me paralyzed.
So instead, in these hours when I should be asleep, I make lists, lots of them, perhaps too many of them. But successful changes have been made to the nature of these lists. What used to be lists of what needed to be done, of what foods I could and couldn’t eat, of the number of calories that needed to be burned, or of reasons why I was a terrible person, are now lists of what was accomplished during the day. The emphasis being on the word accomplished, meaning things that are already done. I find to-do lists leave me with too many reasons why I should beat myself up for being lazy or incompetent because I didn’t do x, y, or z. But, when I write all the things that did get done, I feel like a million bucks and I am actually motivated to accomplish more.
I guess this method goes along with a concept my therapist has been trying to drill into my mind for over a year now. That after a slip up with behaviors, yelling at myself for being such a screw up or failure or weakling will only leave me feeling shitty and wanting to use more behaviors. Whereas, practicing self-compassion and reassuring myself that slips happen but don’t make me a failure in recovery will allow me to forgive myself and move on from the slip. I still roll my eyes a bit with the concept of self-compassion and think it is bullshit 50% of the time, but the other half of me notices the value in the idea. After all, I have spent my whole life beating myself down until there was nothing left to beat on and I think it is fair to say that this method didn’t work out so good for me. Instead, it landed me deep in a self-deprecating hole that I need a slew of professionals to help me climb out of it.
Nearly every night, as I start to wind down from the day I panic about having not accomplished anything. That is where my idea for writing lists of what was accomplished down as I ended my days. The routine started a couple of months ago when I caught myself saying that “nothing got done today” and realized the absurdity of that statement. Because, in that day two months ago I had written three papers, cleaned my apartment, cooked for the week, did laundry, and completed two paintings, and yet my self-defeating mind was trying to convince me that nothing got done!
It is moments like this where I know that my thought patterns are not rooted in reality, but at the same time they are. Because the fear of being inadequate and unaccomplished and lazy and unsuccessful is my reality most days. That is why I have to make lists that combat those fears. Lists that tell me all the things that I did do in the day. Lists that counter any dumb thought of mine that tells me I am unaccomplished.