Do The Work
I'm not entirely sure how or when the phrase "do the work" started in my counseling sessions but I know it's a phrase that was often used in the beginning. My relationship with that phrase ebbs and flows. Some days it’s my mantra, in fact it's the background on my phone. Other days I feel pissed off that I have to "do the work" just to be a normal person, or what my brain thinks a normal person is.
What I truly have learned though is that "doing the work" simply means to live all parts of life. For me, doing the work is focusing on nutrition and cooking at home, dancing and listening to music, taking a bath or long shower. Doing the work is taking my dog for a walk every morning and sticking to a routine. Doing the work is planning out my meals for the week, knowing my schedule and having a plan for all the hats that I need to wear. Doing the work is making sure I make time to meditate, journal and be alone. Doing the work is finding time to connect with friends and family. Doing the work means to live. To really live in every moment.
In April of 2020, just a month into the pandemic, I was freshly dumped, seeing my kids every 2 weeks, with $2 in my bank account, truly living paycheck to paycheck. To say that I was scared would do those feelings a huge disservice. I can't fully articulate how I felt in those days but numb, paralyzed, anxious, insecure, embarrassed, sad, hurt, abandoned are some words I'll throw out there.
I did not, though, contemplate suicide. I was proud of myself for that, but I can tell you I was very scared that I was going to. I was very much afraid that depression was going to consume me again. That is when I started "doing the work". All the work, and all at once. It wasn't like my previous half assed attempts to beat depression. This time I feared it truly would be life or death for me.
My focus in doing the work was to make sure the depression didn't come back. I had no real intentions of improving myself or my health but by November, I was feeling like a completely different person. I was happy, I was smiling, I felt calm and content and for the first time in my entire life I was feeling what it feels like to live without anxiety. Doing the work and getting healthy has led me to this less anxious life that I live today. I had no idea how badly I was living with anxiety until I was no longer living with anxiety.
I then began asking my counselor the questions, "How do I get others to see that they have work to do?" "How do I get others to see how much anxiety they're living with?" "How do I convince other people that if they just consistently did this stuff, they'd feel better?"
The entire counseling experience is an incredible journey that I encourage everyone to try with an open mind. I've spent the last 2 years wondering how counseling has had such an impact on my success. What does that space provide, what does my counselor do for me?
What do I even mean by success? On paper my life looks pretty much the same as it did when I first started.
My success is in how I feel. I feel calm. I feel peace. I feel confidence. I feel joy. I feel happy. I feel secure.
My wife left me in the middle of a pandemic with $2 to my name and I got better. I can't explain that other than to tell you.... I did the work!
Here's some of the work that I did...
Learned to cook at home - The summer of 2020, I relied heavily on donated food, either through the events in the community or the donations we received at my job. This is where I learned to prepare (and love) vegetables.
Dancing/Music - Music has always been a tool of mine for the panic attacks. Music is a great distraction for when the brain wants to obsess about all the horrible things going on in the world. Dancing on the other hand has never really been a part of my life, unless it was 3am @ Good Times. During the pandemic though, I started dancing while cooking. It always puts me in a better mood and is fun exercise!
Creativity - I started doing puzzles and diamond art! Very calming.
Breathwork - During my panic attack days, I learned a few breathing techniques that I used occasionally. I started using an app where I learned several other techniques. I used a different breathing technique 3-4x a day, every day. This is the cheapest, quickest, and easiest way to r