It continues, all month, to be organisation month – or ‘get organised’ month as I think it’s more properly called. But before we get into more posts about how I organise myself, I want to talk about a really important consideration I make – organising around my depression and anxiety.
I cannot always predict when I’m going to be worse. Sure, I can guess with some things. I know, for example, that if I’ve had to go and do something with strangers or in a place I’m not familiar with, I am likely to need more recovery time or to have a flare up shortly after. A bit like aching the day after you’ve exercised.
That makes it hard to plan and organise, sometimes. So here are three ways I try and accommodate for my mental health & disability.
1. I don’t over-schedule myself; I leave space.
Broadly, I can find as much work to give myself to do as I want to. Because there’s always something I can be doing, even if my ‘need to do/must do’ pile isn’t giant. In fact I deliberately keep that pile quite small, so that I have the flexibility in my schedule for when things go wrong.
Broadly, there are three categories of thing I must do each week: these blog posts, streaming, and Patreon. That’s it. Everything else is a bonus.
Sure, those bonus things are things that I need to do in the sense of expanding my portfolio and job and so forth, but those three categories are the minimum for keeping things running. Knowing this really helps, because it means on a bad week – like the week I’m writing this, where I’ve been bedridden with a feverish cold – I can relax knowing that I have space.
Even with those bonus things, I try not to schedule too much. I review my to-do lists each day (these are now digital – I’ll post about that soon!), and each week. So every Monday I’ll sit down and go okay, what do I want to achieve this week? Then I’ll spread it out through the week. Each day I’ll review that.
Sometimes I move things because I know that I’m exhausted, or as with this week because I’m ill. I try my best not to feel guilty or beat myself up about needing to do this. It happens. Even healthy people need to bump tasks regularly.
That extra space means when things go wrong, I can move things like that. I can cope with it.
2. I schedule things that will help me recharge, or make me stronger.
One of the ways in which I’m very much still recovering is in my stamina. My spoon allotment. I’m really lucky that I have a condition where I can ‘train for spoons’ – a lot of chronic health conditions don’t have that. But with my depression and anxiety, if I make myself stronger and more resilient, I become more able to persist in the face of difficult thoughts.
This is the kind of self-care people are pushing over baths and face masks. The kind where you are maybe a little bit hard on yourself but with the goal that you will ultimately be much better off. I’m going to talk more about my morning routine soon, but I started it just before the new year and it’s been really good for my self-discipline. Honestly, I have more spoons now, thanks to getting up at 7.30am and immediately doing yoga and meditating, than I did when I was sleeping in until noon.
I know that sleeping less makes me stronger. But I am not talking about sleeping unhealthily low amounts, I must stress. I oversleep terribly because of my depression, and also because of my medication.
So I’m talking about getting 7 hours of sleep instead of 12 hours of sleep. I know where my body is comfortable, and most productive, and it’s definitely not in the double digits! Maybe that seems like an ironic thing to include under ‘things that help me recharge’, but it really is one of them.
But it’s not just a lack of sleep or an addition of exercise that I schedule. I make sure that I’m always scheduling something social – easy now that we play tabletop games every week – but that I’m not scheduling too much that’s social. Too much will just overwhelm me. I get tired even on the weeks where our once-a-fortnight game occurs in the same week as our once-a-week game.
Anything, really, that helps ensure I’ll be able to do more in the future. Oh, but one important thing – if I don’t do it? That’s okay. I’ll manage it more times than not, and sometimes I just can’t. That’s okay.
3. I have the privilege that allows me to organise all this.
Although during the early years I was living on government benefits, for the majority of the years I’ve been with my fiance (10 years this November, terrifyingly and wonderfully), I have been primarily dependent upon his income. Despite this, we are (and always have been, even when I haven’t been working), very well off.
We also have safety nets on both sides. If anything ever went catastrophically wrong, we could be living with family in a matter of hours. We spent a year or so living with his family whilst we saved to buy a house, for example.
I mention this because it is the major reason that I am as healthy as I am. No joke. No hyperbole. If I had not been born white, lived in a country with free healthcare, been born into a (admittedly lower) middle-class family and then acquired a partner in a (basically upper) middle-class family, I would not be here.
Because I would still be stuck in the benefits system, forced to constantly prove either that I’m still sick or that I’m truly genuinely trying to find a job. Or I would be in a job, and I probably would’ve been in a job earlier than I could cope with.
If I had a huge relapse tomorrow and had to stop this blog, my streaming, my writing, if all of my Patrons cancelled their pledges – it would be fine. We’d be fine. Most people aren’t in this situation.
I mention this as its own point because I think too often, people underestimate how much of an influence socio-economic status has on mental health and wellbeing. It has a huge difference. It completely and radically changes everything. If you do not have the freedom that these privileges award you, you don’t get the space to recover.
And those of us with that privilege should never forget it.