for the last few months I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed–frozen, like a deer in the headlights. I have so many opportunities and wonderful options in my life that I just don’t know what to do. When my daughter was an infant I didn’t have much time to do anything other than care for her, mostly due to sleep deprevation; she’s over a year old now and I have some choices to make.
I started a support group called MyAria Mental Illness & Addiction Awareness over a year ago now, the group meets once per week and also has an online presence via Facebook. I’m so lucky to have met a few lovely ladies that have taken a lot of responsibility and taken charge of the groups leaving me open to pursue other ventures. The support groups are an extension of my blog, when I began blogging it sparked a chain reaction, helping me through many tough times. Not long ago I started working with people who are on probation and in recovery, which is also related to my support group. Along with my groups I have been writing for the local paper here and there for a while now and I was recently given the option of writing for a second paper. Before that, I joined a group called LCAC (Local Community Advisory Committee). Oh, and I almost forgot, I also opened up a little second-hand store below my apartment for the benefit of the local volunteer ambulance services. Of course on top of all of these things I still take care of my daughter and my home.
The problem is that I have so many options that I haven’t been pursuing any of them. I’m simply stagnant. I have a great article idea and I haven’t pushed very hard to acquire all of the information that I need to finish it. I have been very inconsistent with my store hours because I haven’t made it a priority to open up. I have only written probably two blogs in the last 6 months and I spend my days taking care of menial tasks and thinking/stressing about what my priorities should be right now. I recently found a lady to clean for me once a week and a girl that is willing to babysit once a week as well so I can get some work done, but in all honesty the real issue isn’t time–it’s reluctance. I’m reluctant to completely throw myself into something when I’m not sure what I want to throw myself into, I haven’t decided what I want my life to look like. Can I do it all? Maybe with some time management but I have to make some hard decisions first.
The question I have to ask myself now is “What do I want–what are my PRIORITIES?”
Is being a stay-at-home mom enough, do I really need all of these other activities? Whatever age your child is, being a homemaker is a full-time job. There are diapers to change, meals to make, dishes to do and all of the other chores necessary to make my house a happy home. Why do I feel the need to extend myself and do more? Is it about money, self-worth, or are these things pulling me toward them because I simply enjoy them?
I’ve basically graduated from mental health counseling so I just see my counselor if something big comes up. Now is the time to use those skills I learned in therapy to find out what I want, set my priorities, and make a schedule that works for me.
First I need to account for the things that are already priorities. I won’t be getting full-time childcare so I still have to keep my daughter on a consistent schedule, meaning I have to be home and occupied at certain times and this isn’t negotiable. Sure, some days are different but for the most part I need to stick to a schedule. For instance; I need to get my daughter dressed, feed her breakfast and go through our morning routine on a daily basis. I can work during nap time and when she’s occupied with her toys and other things.
So, what do I want to do during her nap time? Do I want to write a blog, or a newspaper article, or open up the store downstairs, or do the dishes?? Should I pay someone to do the dishes, stop blogging and work for the newspaper? After many lists and much thinking I am starting to get a clearer idea of what I want to do. I had to think about where I see myself in the future and what I really want to do with my life. I thought about all of the goals I made in counseling and I remembered one consistent goal I have had for years is finishing college.
The first time I went to college I hadn’t been formally diagnosed with bipolar or PTSD and I was self-medicating with alcohol and marijuana to keep myself evened out. I was getting straight A’s and doing well when a manic episode came crashing down into a depression and I failed a class. I moved back home and life spiraled out of control. I didn’t pay off my loans and got into dept. When I attempted to get back in to school a few years later I realized that I was going to have to get myself out of default or pay out of pocket, neither of which were an option.
As of this month I will be out of default and able to return to school. So, what does that solve? Didn’t I just add one more thing onto the huge list of things I was stressed out about? After making the decision to go back to school I feel like a weight has been lifted, I absolutely loved school and learning. I feel like I’m in a much better position mentally to actually finish what I set out to accomplish. As for the other things on my list, after I chose my priorities, which are my daughter and school, I was able to decide how much time I could set aside for other activities.
I decided to close the store down for the winter and open back up a few days per week in the summer, it has been painfully slow during the winter so I feel like I’m spending time and energy opening up for no reason whatsoever. I’m relying on a member of my support group to fully take charge so if I’m busy I don’t have to attend, that way the group can continue and it won’t depend on my schedule. I will continue mentoring people on probation, it keeps me grounded and reminds me that I was once where they are. I will also continue volunteering for LCAC because I really enjoy it and it doesn’t take much time at all. That just leaves blogging and the newspaper. Both of these things are last on my priority list for the time-being. I love writing but I don’t want to devote myself to being a writer, it’s more of a therapeutic hobby to me. I won’t be attending school until summer term so I can write until then and then I can reevaluate my situation and see if I have time to squeeze any writing in or if I have to give it up.
When I started this blog my goal was just to prioritize my schedule and work some things out in my head but I ended up making a life-changing decision ( I literally made the decision half-way through writing the blog). There are still a lot of details to work out but I have a good foundation to work from. I’m so happy that I’m in a position to be able to set out to accomplish my dreams. My husband has been incredibly supportive of me which is another reason I’m confident I can finish school this time. I will have to be vigilant and maybe take winter terms off, as this is always the most difficult time for me during my bipolar cycle. When I started going to counseling over 4 years ago one of my primary goals was to return to school and I can finally say I’m doing it; life is good.
Two bits about higher education that stuck with me: you can never go wrong with bettering yourself through an education, and timeline be damned…basically don’t compare what schudule works for you vs. others.
Winters semesters off sound great! I did a bunch of low credit semesters so I could work and pay them off directly. It’s hard but paid off emotionally.
And I feel ya about the big P word. I struggle with this, and have felt very off track and lost recently. I like your idea of making lists including what is nonnegotiable use of time.
How much do you think committment is attached to priorities ? I know that continuing my education is a priority but I cant commit to any one track! I can see why your family is easy to prioritize..becuase you are lovingly committed to them ❤
Great blog, I hope you continue to find time to update it when it makes you happy to do so…sometimes when I want to write something it just NEEDS to come out…you know 😉
Thanks for commenting, I apologize for the delayed response, I’ve been thinking about your question. I would say there are different types of priorities; basic priorities that we must set in order to fulfill our standard of living and priorities that we set to improve our lives. Even basic priorities vary from person to person, taking care of my baby is a no-brainer for me—but unfortunately not everyone puts that at the top of their list. So, in short, I think that all priorities take some level of commitment but basic priorities take less effort to commit to. Extracurricular priorities are easy to stray from and may take more focus and effort commit to. Did that make sense because I can’t even tell? 😂 Hopefully you get what I’m trying to say!