Thanks to that arguably click-baity title, if you’ve even landed on this article – chances are you’re not feeling 100% fulfilled in your life. Whether that can be attributed to different areas (e.g. career or relationships), or you feel your life has just become a demotivated veritable shitshow, something is clearly awry.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself trialling self-care measures with gusto, then – after a measly couple of weeks – loudly vilifying them for doing ‘shit all’, only to fall gladly back into the self-destructive patterns you’d tried to replace. Then stubbornly wondered why something’s still wrong.
After all, those self-destructive patterns are just that – patterns – which are, by their very nature, familiar and comforting. And hey, it’s freezing out there right now, so why wouldn’t you want to settle back into the routine of necking bottles of wine under twelve blankets, whilst the life you want passes you by? Hitting the gym at 7am in this weather? Girl, you really are cray.
With a predisposition for being a mood-hopping mardarse (thank you, BPD), I understand this pull back to the messy familiar more than you know. Pessimism was (and sometimes still is) my lifeblood – you’d find old me judging a sober person in a bar, or scoffing at the concept of mindfulness whilst dragging on a cigarette – so, where exactly do I get off writing something with a semblance of self-help to it?
For about 13 years, I spent my time acting like nothing mattered. Nothing apart from my achievements – which I saw as my only true value to the world – and whether or not I was deemed as desirable meant a jot. And when either of those pinnacles of ‘worth’ crumbled, so did my entire sense of self.
Feeding a sense of self on achievements and morsels of affection from inconsistent lovers, unsurprisingly, does not work. When those lifeboats sink, you’ve not built up enough of a foundation within yourself to stay afloat. So you clutch at whatever’s nearest to numb the pain – enter alcohol/drugs, more toxic relationships, avoidance of self-care and most damagingly, the inability to take responsibility for your own destiny.
By using a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure to distance myself from the fact I wasn’t getting where I wanted to in life; I was miserable, but I was safe. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right? You can’t fail if you’re too busy drinking your evenings away or chasing relationships like your life depends on them. You can’t fail, because you’re not trying.
It isn’t the nicest sentiment to swallow at first. There’s definitely a wilful percentage of you who’ve just mentally flipped me off and told me to mind my own business. But unfortunately, it’s right.
When I was living in my ‘fuck it’ bubble – where mental illness and its self-destructive pals ran the joint – I deluded myself over and over that it was okay not to be trying, that I’d been dealt a shit hand, so I should just continue wallowing in the destiny I thought I had no control over. That just surviving was enough – anything else was a bonus. Resigning myself to a life of feeling misunderstood and isolated? That’s just how it was.
With the help of therapy – which has come as a giant stick up the arse – and the wonder of hindsight, teamed with a desire to unravel the person I’d been smothering under self-hatred; it became clear that I was the only person in control of what happens in my life. Hand over the reins to your poison of choice and it’ll do a great job of distracting you, but – in the cold light of day – you’re on your own with this big scary life thing and you’re the only person who has the power to make it better.
This process looks different for everyone. For me, the hardest part has been growing up and taking ownership of myself. Realising that as much as I let myself fall off the rails – nobody else can fix my life for me and the only person I’m truly hurting is myself (and the people who really do love me). Quitting drinking has been another eye-opener, as Drunk Eb took a lot of responsibility for time-wasting and life-ruining.
Whatever you need to do to reassess factors within your life – and whether or not they deserve a place in it at all – it’s your fight. People around you can help and champion you along the way (and if they don’t, fuck them off and message me on Twitter – cause I sure will) – but you’ve got to put the legwork in and take responsibility for your own happiness. My past was fucking terrible, but as of earlier this year, I’m finally learning that my future doesn’t have to be too.
If this piece resonated with you, drop a comment below and share a) what you want to achieve and b) what’s in the way of you doing it. Alternatively, you can share with me on Twitter @Ebzo.