Okay, time for another honest conversation about my mental health. For those of you new to my feed, this is something I do from time to time. Partly because it helps me, and partly because it helps de-stigmatise discussions about mental health.
This will be long, rambly, and personal. Imagine you’re on livejournal. There’ll probably be typos.
For the last three weeks I’ve been using a new mood-tracking app (iMood Journal), and I’ve been pretty happy with it compared to what I’ve tried in the past. I have it randomly sampling my mood throughout the day, and it means I can check my subjective experiences versus my recorded evidence.
It would be reasonable to describe my long-term mental health right now as “adequate”. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. You’d probably not come to this assessment if you’ve interacted with me at all, because of the dual factors that socialising makes me feel better, and I will find excuses not to socialise when I’m not doing great.
I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at what I’ve been doing well and poorly, so lets discuss individual factors:
Despite the fact that I can report all manner of achievements and appointments, my natural motivation is pretty much non-existent right now. Almost everything I’m doing is achieved either through fear (public speaking is great for fear), or cognitive willpower. Both natural excitement (I’m really enjoying X) and Annoyance Driven Development (I’m going to fix X) are presently absent.
Being motivationally challenged isn’t much fun. It’s very easy to fall down with basic human maintenance, like maintaining a tidy work/home environment, sleep, nutrition, and exercise. I’m aware of these risks, and so I’m trying to correct for them, but doing all that using willpower and fear can be exhausting in itself.
This is the most difficult thing to talk about, and also the most relevant to my mental health. I’m an extrovert, and it’s very apparent that I perform extremely poorly without socialising. But there’s a bunch of challenges for me:
I know an intimidating number of people.
A little while ago some of you may remember me posting about Sharknado 3. I realised there’d be no way I could squeeze everyone who expressed interest into my home, nor would they likely form a cohesive social group, so instead I thought I’d be clever and arrange to watch bad movies with everyone who responded and their existing friend circles. That tab is still sitting open in my browser because the idea of scheduling that many folks into my life is intimidating, and so I’ve scheduled none at all.
Yes. This is silly. It’s even sillier when I say “I should schedule time with X”, and then worry that I should also be scheduling time with everyone else, and then schedule time with no-one.
I know from years of playing “The Sims 2” that the solution to this is to throw parties, but those are intimidating because I wonder where I’d host them, how I’d make sure everyone would have a good time, and how I’d get a chance to have meaningful conversations with everyone in the limited period of time. Plus there’s motivation (see above). Mostly I rely upon other people scheduling parties.
I lack in consistent, recurrent socialisations
Most people have folks they see regularly at work. They have partners, or family, or other individuals who they interact with on a regular basis. A lot of these interactions happen by default, they don’t need to be planned, they’re just part of everyday living.
I don’t have these right now. I’ve been doing well with socialising in general, but—with the exception of housemates—it’s rare for me to have seen anyone more than twice before hopping on a flight to somewhere else in the world.
It’s hard to fix this. Because I travel so much, whenever I’m in a town I try to catch up with as many people as I can, which limits how often I see each individual one. Much more insidiously, part of me doesn’t want to try because no matter how much I want recurrent and consistent interactions, travelling will throw a spanner in the works after a few weeks regardless. There’s also a completely illogical fear of taking up too much of people’s times.
When other folks aren’t around, and sometimes even when they are, it’s easy for me to feel lonely. There are lots of factors involved with this, and while I’m pleased to say that I’m managing this much better than I have in the past, it’s still something which I need to be mindful of. Feelings of loneliness will consistently make me socially averse, but because I know what that feels like and how it develops, I’m much better at nipping it in the bud rather than turning into a hermit.
Travel: fixing everything while making it worse
I honestly don’t know how to feel about travel right now. When it’s properly planned, it’s amazing. When I visited New York I got to see almost half my friends there, because I know an intimidating-yet-manageable amount of folks in the New York area. Conferences are great for meeting new people (which I love) and seeing my conference friends, who sometimes feel like the closest thing I have to consistent, recurrent socialising.
Travel is also very easy for me, and really hard to refuse. If I’m invited to speak (with expenses paid) in London, or New York, or Austin, or Tokyo, then of course I’m going to want to say yes. And very often these result in amazing opportunities; they give me audiences and contacts. When I’m trying to change the world, travel is an amazing force multiplier.
Not travelling can also be problematic. If I feel I’m in a place for a long time, I can stop functioning properly altogether. Rather than having consistent, recurrent socialisations, I instead just don’t see my friends at all, partially due to the mistaken belief that I have plenty of time to catch up with them. Plus not travelling causes decay to my ties everywhere else in the world.
Travel also means that no matter where I am in the world, I’m also missing someplace else. Plus distances and timezones wreck havoc with any sort of ties with other humans.
Stories and role-models
I don’t know a lot of people who have the same or even a similar lifestyle to what I have, and this makes things just a little more tricky when wondering “so what do I do now?”.
- I’m motivationally challenged, but great at hiding it.
- My ongoing happiness level over the last month has been “adequate”.
- I travel a lot, which makes socialising hard.
- I lack good stories and role-models for this sort of thing.
- There’s no real take-away from all this, but it’s good for me to talk about it.
- You’ve read all the way to the end? You’re amazing! <3
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