One of the things I like least about my experience with PTSD but which has perhaps been one of the most important lessons for me is that I don’t have enough energy to go around.
Anxiety, depression and my misprogrammed neurons suck up most of the energy I have, leaving not much else available. What is left goes to maintaining myself (food, bathing, drinking water, staying somewhat organized) and working, which means that I have very little left for anyone else.
I now avoid a lot of people, crowds, noise and social “obligations” because I do not have the capacity for it. If it is an energy suck (and a lot of people from my life before PTSD are), I do not engage, or engage at a minimum. The capacity to do so is just not there. I got called a misnathrope the other day, which I think was unfair. If my mental illness were visible, y’all would be shocked that I do as much as I do. I think that is true for a lot of us with “invisible” illnesses.
But please know that I see you, and I respect and admire what you are able to do and who you are able to be. So often Life finds a way, even in the darkness.
And this is very different from my life previously, in which I had so much energy for other people and building community and volunteering hundreds of hours a year and working long hours and working out 7-11 hours a week and dating guys that put very little effort into our relationship…which is a different story.
I’d like to be able to direct more energy externally, I’d like to not have to qualify relationships by how draining they are for me and I’d like to be out and about more. But I don’t have the capacity, so I do the best I can with the people I can and go from there.
I admire Tim Gunn so much. I think he’s brave. I think he’s thoughtful. I think he’s present. I think he’s kind. I think he’s a good mentor and compassionate and authentic and dapper. I would like to hang at his place for apps and drinks at the kitchen island and end up staying too long because he was imparting wisdom to me.
He’s known for the phrase “Make It Work”, which has so much appeal.
We love work. We love making things. We love making it work. It’s really the ultimate American statement of encouragement and challenge and grit and character, and it’s what John Wayne did.
On the surface.
Tim Gunn is known for being the mentor on Project Runway and throwing down the “Make It Work” challenge when a designer is lost or stuck making something horrible but time is running too short to completely start over unless you really have it together in the sewing and construction department. I relate, because I went to design school and we did that a lot – your design is really bad until you are up against the clock and you have to pull it together and produce something by the time class starts. Sometimes you get really efficient and focused. Sometimes your ideas come together and you produce something worthwhile. Make It Work is the way forward in those situations – take what you have, no matter how bad or messy and make something out of it.
Really though, sometimes you can’t make it work. And I think that’s where you have to dive a bit into the statement. What isn’t said? What else is in those three short words?
Make It Work For You.
And if it isn’t, then get your hands on something that does. The fabric was a terrible choice? Maybe there is another one available if you look around for it. The design was horrible and unflattering? Conjure up a different design. Your collection isn’t cohesive? Scrap some things and get real with yourself about what does work and else you need to complete the picture.
It wasn’t just an admonition to make the best you could of the bad situation and being stuck with the bad situation, it was evaluating whether the situation was even working for you, and if not, scrapping it in favor of something that did.
It was and is really good advice. Thanks, Tim! You mentored me too.
As I near 100 days of being intentional about healing, the thing that is most evident is that I still have a long way to go. Nothing has become easy, none of my challenges have miraculously disappeared, I’m not some enlightened being, I don’t have my shit together, I still have trouble setting and maintaining boundaries, I didn’t achieve my fitness or weight loss goals, I don’t have better friendships or the relationship of my dreams, I don’t have a flush bank account or a wildly successful business or anything spectacular.
I have the ability acknowledge the small things that quickly build to big things when live with severe anxiety. I have the belief that I can change and grow, that my spiritually holds a critical place in all of this, that I can hold two opposing things to be true at once, that discipline and hard work are available to me, that I’m not trapped by my circumstances or by what life hands me, that I can have a life I deeply enjoy and that the magic is not in achieving the things on the horizon but in appreciating today for what it is and what it teaches. I can be and have been present, and I can be increasingly present in my life, which is what I have not been able to be for years. And that alone is worth the effort.