“If you try it out on ‘easy’ mode for now, at least you can accomplish the challenges and feel proud, moving on to ‘normal’ and then even on to hard as you feel able”

I really liked this piece of advice from the crisis nurse who visited this morning. We were talking about how my psychologist had been trying to get me to approach my mental health and our work together without my unhealthy drive to achieve with perfectionism and avoiding my crippling fear of letting anyone down. This has meant using a somewhat unusual approach of not having targets other than the loose aim that I try ‘some things’ out and note how they make me feel and thoughts that occur – but with no specific targets, no specific activities that I have to try, no aim of finding something that I enjoy…just that I’ll try something at some point and see how it feels. And for this past week it has actually worked in that I’ve been able to do some activities (albeit very briefly and infrequently) and observe their effect on me – with much more success than had been achieved with the more usual approach of laying out targets (albeit small ones) to achieve each day/week and those targets being reported back to whichever mental health team is currently in charge of my care (recovery team, crisis team, inpatient team etc.) – because then I end up in some combination of working myself to the bone and making myself more unwell in order to achieve things that I’m not yet ready for and/or crippled by guilt and self hatred because I’ve let those helping me down by not achieving even the simple tasks set for me. I realise that this is quite unusual (my brain appears to be confusingly wired, complicated and quite opposite to most in this way) – most people find small defined targets formed and reviewed with mental health professionals to be incredibly helpful in times of crisis – so I’m certainly not suggesting that this will work for everyone (or even many): like everything with mental health, it’s important that everything is tailored to the individual, and unfortunately this tends to mean a lot of trial-and-error; however, I think the message of the analogy that spurred this post applies to all of us struggling with mental illness, especially when in crisis, in whatever approach we’re taking. Anyway, this long rambling brain-dump is much more eloquently summed up by the nurse who visited today, so I’ll leave it to his apt gaming analogy (we’d just discussed that one of the things that I’d been managing to dip into using this approach was gaming):

“If you try it out on ‘easy’ mode for now, at least you can accomplish the challenges and feel proud, moving on to ‘normal’ and then even on to hard as you feel able. The important thing about this is that goals are achievable and without pressure – if that goes well you can build on it, rather than going in at ‘hard’ and beating yourself up about ‘failing’.”