So I go to look at my blog, to see when I last wrote here, and find that I’ve completely forgotten about Adding to the Pile of Good Things! Definitely making a note on Habitica to start writing those again! My last post, more or less as I expected, was back in January 2020. Then Covid happened and self-help, reckoning, rumbling, helping myself get better, looking into my own mind, all fell by the wayside. And that’s okay, and when I friend and I decided to do tarot readings for each other five days ago, I definitely didn’t expect it to end up spurring my first blog post in a year and a half.
Maybe this card could mean that you should have an honest conversation with yourself about why you haven’t been trying to take more care of yourself?
A couple of days later, I sat down, summoned up the Brain Frog, to whom I haven’t spoken in a very long time (and who has become a more benign entity than it was at the beginning), and had a serious conversation. And here it is.
brain frog: abbey
me: lalalalalalala so I’m gonna write a cissamione fic, that sounds cool
brain frog: abbey?
me: also I love cheese
brain frog: ABBEY
me: oh my GOD. what?
brain frog: we need to talk
me: or, alternatively, we could not talk
brain frog: you haven’t been resting properly
me: I know
brain frog: do you though?
me: I mean, yes. I notice that by the time I have my evening rest I’m usually knackered and desperate for it
brain frog: okay, so you’re not entirely obtuse. there’s hope for you yet.
me: thanks I’m so glad you’re in my brain
brain frog: you should be. ANYWAY you’re not resting properly
me: ugh I knowwww
brain frog: and obviously you need to be
me: I KNOW
brain frog: so why aren’t you?
me: I dunno
me: cause I don’t want to?
me: it’s boring and it feels like a waste of time when there are so many other things I want to be doing
brain frog: I get it, you’ve got a lot of urgent things that can’t wait
me: well, not urgent per se
me: I mean, okay, things I’d rather be doing. like chatting to my friends online. since I never get to actually see them because I’m too ill. or like transcribing. that’s important! it’s for accessibility!
brain frog: true, risking making yourself more ill is definitely a good way to make the world more accessible
me: I’m going to pretend you never said that
brain frog: so why are you doing these other things instead of resting?
me: I never get any better when I rest, so why bother
brain frog: is that true though?
brain frog: well? is it?
me: I don’t know, okay
brain frog: you sure about that?
brain frog: I’m just saying, you don’t sound sure
me: I don’t think I do get better when I rest
me: but I think I do feel better
brain frog: [very quietly] yeah
brain frog: yeah?
me: and… there’s a chance that it helps me not get worse
brain frog: a chance?
me: okay a strong possiblity
brain frog: and?
me: and I think it helps me keep more in touch with how my body is feeling. it’s harder to ignore stuff when I’m just lying there not doing anything else
brain frog: I think so too
me: and I do feel better when I rest properly, definitely, even if it doesn’t make my overall capabilities any more
brain frog: it’s almost like productivity shouldn’t be the main point of life
brain frog: so, back to the original question, why aren’t you resting the way you know you should be?
me: because it takes deliberation, I think. much easier, much more natural just to keep the status quo of sitting at my laptop, at my window, chatting, writing, reading, transcribing, whatever. and because I like those things more. both of those things
brain frog: you think we can change that?
me: I think… that would be a good idea. but how? because the fact is that those things are more enjoyable than lying around doing nothing
brain frog: well, you know you work better with a routine, so why not start by making an extra rest in the middle of the day a routine thing?
me: that could work, if I can manage it. it’s easy to do it for a few days and then just go back to what I was doing before
brain frog: well, a few days isn’t long enough to form a new habit
me: I know, I know, it’s just that I know I’m not always very good at that, when it’s something I don’t feel very invested in it. and I know I should be invested in my own wellbeing, and I am, it’s just that I’m not really invested in… this. another rest in the middle of the day. picking up having one rest day per week, that’s another thing that helped and I’ve stopped doing.
brain frog: but you’ve kept some of the other stuff. you still rest in the mornings and the evenings
me: yeah, that’s just something I do without thinking about it. I think that’s the difference. I do it because I do it. they’re part of my routine. but with resting in the middle of the day, that means I have to stop doing something else. and with a whole day of rest, that means, well, embarrassingly, first it means just remembering to do it, and secondly it means actually forcing myself to keep on at it throughout the day, and since I haven’t been having carers in, there’s not an I rest the day after my carer comes routine.
brain frog: okay, so these are two slightly different things. let’s consider each one separately. why don’t we take the full day of rest first, because even if you aren’t having care, the week is still a structure and that’s something we can work with.
me: I guess. half the time I’m not even sure what day it is tbh
brain frog: well, what about a weekly routine? try to start doing certain things on certain days. it might help your brain feel better in general. you always prefer certainty and routine
me: I do prefer those things. I could try that. it’s quite an appealing idea, actually.
brain frog: it’s almost like I’m part of your brain and know what makes you feel better
me: okay, well, that’s definitely a thing I’d like to work on. I think it could help me prioritise things in general too, and make sure I’m doing a range of things instead of defaulting to the same activities all the time
brain frog: wonderful! now what about incorporating an extra rest into your day?
me: urgh we already solved one problem though
brain frog: ahem. a) we didn’t actually solve it, we just thought of a potential solution that has yet to be put into practice or to succeed. and 2. these are not mutually exclusive problems; solving one doesn’t mean not solving the other, you turnip. also, iii, we’re on a roll now
me: I hate rolls
brain frog: you love rolls
me: you do make a fair point
brain frog: so! come on! how do you make sure you actually do this resting thing?
brain frog: set reminders? a reward system?
me: I’m really good at ignoring reminders, is the thing
brain frog: true, but you can always set more
me: more? like… how many more are we talking?
brain frog: every half hour? hell, what about every ten minutes through a certain period of the day?
me: that would be a lot harder to ignore
brain frog: you think?
me: yes, okay, yes!
brain frog: what about a reward system? that’s science, you know
me: I feel like I’ve tried to implement reward systems before and then just forgotten about them
brain frog: have you? or have you just thought about doing it and never actually given it a proper try?
me: okay, maybe that second one, actually
brain frog: you see? so why not really try it this time? like, properly
me: okay, that’s not a bad idea in theory, but what do I use as rewards?
brain frog: well, what do you like?
me: food. books. doctor who. buffy. having a clean and tidy living space.
brain frog: okay, well, not that last one because much as you like cleanliness and tidiness using those activities as a reward might not be particularly motivational
me: you’re not wrong. but books and things are kind of pricey, and I’m not sure how food would work as a reward, to be honest. I already eat as much as I need to eat
brain frog: okay, but what about tea?
me: ooh, I do like tea
brain frog: exactly! so there’s something. you made yourself a cup of your favourite tea, whichever one it happens to be that day
me: but I don’t always want it every day
brain frog: that’s fine, we can think of other things. we’ll have a session where we put together a system. books and so on can be rewards for bigger achievements, like if you rest during the day on 20 days out of the month
me: okay, I can work with that
brain frog: are you sure?
me: yeah, I think so. I think this stuff could work.
brain frog: good! so, I’ll just recap. we’re going to create you a weekly schedule of specific things to do on specific days, and maybe we can add in rewards for that too. and then we’re going to set a whole bunch of reminders on your phone and laptop, like, really really often, and we’re going to devise a system of rewards for doing this stuff.
me: and hopefully after a few months doing these things will become routine for me, expected, I do them because I do them, and then they won’t be so difficult
brain frog: exactly!
me: wow. thanks for this. I think we might really be onto something here.
brain frog: I’m glad you think so
brain frog: so. anything else you want to chat about now?
me: nope, I think I’m all chatted out
brain frog: I’ll let you get on with it, then. in fact, why don’t you go and have a rest now? you’ve got a perfect slot of time before you have supper and go to bed
me: although, I could do a bit more work on the transcript I’m in the middle of
me: resting. I’m resting.
Reader, I rested. I rested yesterday too, and I’m about to rest again once I’ve finished putting this blog post together. I’ve downloaded the app Habitica onto my phone, which gamifies having and meeting goals. It’s completely customisable and you can even put your own rewards in. My goals are all extremely simple: I get rewarded every time I rest, and I also have a goal for resting during the day specifically. There’s also a to-do list function, which is super handy. And on top of all that, the friend who did that original tarot reading for me has also offered to send me monthly reward postcards! I will work SO HARD for that! Or rather, rest hard.
I don’t know whether this signals a return to my self-help journey or not. I’d love it if I did (and Adding to the Pile of Good Things is definitely going into Habitica as a reminder!), but I also don’t want to try to do too much, get overwhelmed, and then end up giving it all up out of stress. We’ll see! Either way, I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made during the last week, and I feel fairly confident that I can sustain at least some of it.