I hate to break it to you. When it comes to mental illness, there are pills, but none of them are magic. Living successfully means tackling healing holistically. How this manifests in different people varies, but I think there’s five areas where we consistently need to focus the brunt of our energy: Treatment, Rest, Diet, Community and Exercise.
To that end, I’ve spent 2019 establishing, more-or-less organically, what I call my non-negotiables. The things that I’m not going to debate in my head. For example, the moment my brain says, “I want to stay up instead of going to bed at 9,” I shut that noise down. It’s a non-negotiable, end of discussion. I remember my non-negotiables using a silly naming system. The list is pretty extensive so I’m going to spread these posts out a bit, starting with the first, Engage or Expire.
Non-nogotiable #1: Engage or Expire
I will do my best to accept invitations as often as I’m able
Isolation is the enemy when you’re living with depression. Too much of it leaves you way too much time alone with your brain, and sometimes that brain is looking to kill you.
I’m a die-hard introvert. That doesn’t mean that I’m a lizard. I am human, and therefore I need community. For all the times that I’ve said I hate being around people, what I should have been saying was that I love being around people, and I hate how hard it is for me. I’ve had to learn how to navigate social situations in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling super depleted. I need to go out, need to have a drink with friends, visit the park with other families, eat a meal at an unfamiliar table.
All that said, this only works if you’re serious about rest, and I’m serious about rest. I have days that are home days, non-negotiable. Evenings that are scheduled to be event-free, non-negotiable. If an invite shows up on a home day, it better be a hells-yes.
I will invite someone new into my home at least once a month
One of the first things that I did when I hit rock bottom about a year and a half ago was quit hosting. I decided that anything that was a drain on my energy wasn’t worth it and would only make things worse. The problem with that was not only did having people over usually satisfy a hunger that I had to connect with others, it also provided one more sense of meaning in life. I have a gift for hosting, did a whole podcast about it with another friend who loves hosting, and I cherish the idea of giving people a place to go and get fed and feel cared for. I don’t host as often as I used to, but I make sure that it happens at least once a month, and that it includes at least one person I’ve never gotten to host before.
I will go to church every Sunday
This is another thing that fell off my radar since my diagnosis. That was the last time that I served in ministry in any official capacity. After moving to Phoenix, it was weird to show up to church on Sunday and be relatively unknown and go mostly unnoticed. I took advantage of this opportunity to wake up on Sundays and go, “Yeeeeeah, we can do our own thing,” at least 25% of the time.
But church is important to me for a number of reasons. It’s a place where I have my perspectives checked, my reality challenged. It’s a place where I get to worship next to people that I would have never crossed paths with had it not been for this shared desire to worship. Whatever little I give to get to it, it makes up for in all I receive from it.
Maybe you’re non-religious. Find a place to be that’s not work, that has other people, with shared loves, interests, and a commitment to one another.
There’s actually four more items to this list. Maybe I’ll write about them later. Expect a new non-negotiable every Thursday for the next month or so. Next week: Rest or Regret It. Make sure to subscribe to Uncharted Chapter to get these delivered directly to your inbox.
That’s it from me. When it comes to engaging with others, what are some of your non-negotiables?