Hello, dear ones! One of the things that I often see is people in tears saying “I’m trying so hard and it’s just not helping!”. I see spouses who say they’re trying hard to battle their behavior or illness and their spouses is not seeing any difference or people who are so caught up in fighting their depression or anxiety or whatever it is, that they’re just miserable all the time and it doesn’t seem any better.

Wanting to Change

My perception is that in cases like this, we’re throwing all of our mental energy into wanting to change, but not being very effective about how we spark or maintain that change. Let’s say I’m trying really hard to remember to take the trash out every Monday morning. Now, I’m going to devote quite a bit of mental energy to remember to do that, right up until Monday morning. I’ll get in my car, get halfway to the office and start cursing because I just remembered that I failed to put the trash out.

I’ll beat myself up for forgetting. When my spouse gets upset because now the garbage stinks to high heaven, I’ll get defensive and say that I’m trying my best. And in truth, I was! But I didn’t add any new tools. We made the assumption that I wasn’t acting the way I wanted to because I didn’t have the willpower or motivation but in this case, that’s not true. I didn’t have the tools. If I tried setting an alarm on my phone reminding me to take it out or put a sticky note on my keys Sunday night or did other things to help remind me, I’d probably be more successful and with less mental effort.

What You Need

This is commonly true with mental illness. We feel that if we just muscle through it, we should have the strength and skills to fight it! Why would we need new skills? This is something we should be able to tackle on our own! But that’s not always true. You can still be a complete, whole, awesome, incredible human being and struggle with things that come naturally to others. We all have to work hard at something, maybe your “thing” is taking care of your mental health. Other people’s “hard thing” might be remembering to call family members for their birthdays, wash the dishes before bed, brush their teeth, get to work every day, taking care of their physical health, etc.

There’s no shame in needing different tools than other people. Think about how willing loving parents are to give their kiddos different tools/skills to overcome problems. Kids who are learning fine motor control often benefit from having a chunky crayon or pencil. We give them that without thinking that they’re weak. Be this loving towards yourself. Give yourself whatever tools you need.

It is OK to:

  • need medication
  • need therapy
  • need daily reminders in your phone
  • surround yourself with people who help you be the person you want to be
  • use a journal or another app to track moods

Get Help

Find new tools if you’re struggling with something and not seeing any progress. You may need to adjust your battle tactic. That’s OK! You may need to adjust expectations. If you get frustrated every time you “fail”, you’re setting yourself up for perfectionism and that’s frustrating as all get out. It’s drenched in shame.

Find some new tools. Let someone help you think of tools. Please stop trying to solve a new problem with old tools, especially if those tools are shame or perfectionism. They’re not meant to help you grow. They’re meant to shrink you into a tiny little box that’s “acceptable”. Grow with me. Reach out.

Sending you lots of love and light. Have a fantastic week!

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.