Willfulness: Personal Enemy Number One

As my physical anxiety symptoms make their unwelcome return, I have been reflecting on the last few weeks.  What were the triggers?  Why is anxiety increasing instead of improving?  Well I think there is one obvious trigger—the stress and uncertainty of the election.  Add to that continued worry and difficulty with my fertility journey, and the physical toll that changing hormones and fertility medications are taking.  Add to that my irresponsibility with my bipolar medication routine; it turns out skipping your mood stabilizer for too many days in a row leads to hypomania symptoms and drastic mood swings.  There are times when I miss hypomania—the feeling of being on top of the world, unstoppable, and energetic.  Now that I know more about my mood cycles, the real truth has become clear—hypomania presents in different forms, and it doesn’t always mean you feel great.  This seems to be a common misconception with bipolar disorder.  Mood swings don’t exclusively present as a back and forth between super happy and depressed.  This time, my hypomania feels uncomfortably wired with an overactive brain, racing pace of thoughts, trouble focusing, irritability with a short fuse, and impulsivity with self-defeating urges.

I can’t help but judge the actions that have landed me back in this position—thinking about all of the things I could have done differently that may have helped avoid this heightened state of emotion and anxiety; but it’s not productive or effective to ruminate over the ‘could haves’ or ‘should haves.’  For me, acting effectively starts with acknowledging the willfulness that is rising in me, and then turning my mind back toward willingness—back toward healthy and effective behavior.  It seems obvious.  If you’re stressed about the election, stop checking the results every ten minutes.  If you are feeling physically unwell, stop consuming so much sugar and caffeine.  If you have missed your medication, get back on schedule.  If you feel wired and jittery, practice mindfulness or other calming techniques.  If you have impulsive urges to do things that will hinder your progress, don’t do those things.  I wish it was as simple as it sounds.

When my moods are not stable, and maybe even when they are, willfulness is enemy number one.

Willfulness is:

  • Refusing to tolerate the moment
  • Refusing to make the changes that are needed
  • Giving up
  • Trying to “fix” every situation
  • Insisting on being in control
  • Attachment to what I want right now

Bullheaded Obstinacy Stubborn Hardheaded Opinionated Implacability Persistence Defiance Rebelliousness

I have had to learn the hard way that I can’t beat willfulness with willfulness—I can’t out-stubborn it, out-think it, or out-smart it.  The only way back to willingness is to acknowledge that I am feeling and acting willfully, then turn my mind back little by little, over and over again.  Willingness is readiness to enter and participate fully in life and living.  This sounds much better than staying stuck in bitterness and resisting reality as it is with thoughts like ‘this isn’t fair’ and ‘why me?’  But that doesn’t negate how incredibly difficult this is for me—and likely for many of us, especially during this time of uncertainty and exhaustion due to the political environment and ongoing global pandemic.  Many of us are bitter and annoyed, questioning why this is happening, and resisting acceptance of the world as it is right now.  As our country heals, we will have to get back to acting willingly—back to using our wisdom to guide our actions, to remembering that we are all connected no matter our political opinions, to accepting what has happened in our world even if we don’t like it, and to effectively coping with the collective trauma we have experienced as a country.

So here I am—putting one foot in front of the other to find the path of acceptance and effective behavior/coping once again.  The judgment is flooding my brain.  I am not strong enough to keep righting the ship.  My behavior makes me a bad person.  This is too hard and I’d rather give up.  But this is not effective for my recovery.  Instead, I will work to acknowledge that I have caught this willfulness sooner than in past experiences, which demonstrates growth.  I have been able to turn my mind back to wanting to make wiser, healthier decisions, rather than continuing to avoid the problem.  And I truly believe I can right the ship before it crashes.  I will survive, like I always do, and I will try to take pride in this response, instead of hanging onto the guilt and shame that I didn’t do what I thought I should have to avoid being here in the first place.  That should will not help me.  So I will get back up from this fall, just like I have done with every previous fall.  And I will keep fighting.

Willingness is:

  • Readiness to participate fully in life
  • Doing just what is needed
  • Listening very carefully to your wise mind
  • Acting from your wise mind
  • Acting with awareness that you are connected to the universe, to people you like and don’t like

Enthusiasm Eagerness Open-mindedness Compliance Goodwill Amenability Readiness Receptiveness Problem-solving Flexibility

If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, hopeless, or willful—hang in there.  The circumstances of our world are challenging us, but we are resilient and we will survive.  Keep fighting, friends.

The willingness to show up changes us. It will make us a little braver each time.

-Brené Brown

To follow along with my mental health journey, enter your e-mail address below. If you want to share a part of your own mental health journey, visit my Contact page to send a message. As always, thanks for reading ❤

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