Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Motivation: Finding it, Cultivating it within and Keeping it

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. -Winston Churhill

This past weekend, I motivated myself to get moving. I would say, "something motivated me", but I've been thinking about what that something might be, and I can't come up with an answer other than, I just did it myself. So, I cleaned my kitchen, fixed the problematic kitchen sink again, that is always getting stopped up, did a ton of terribly dirty dishes that needed be done much sooner, cleaned some of my bedroom, my bathroom (with help of a replacement shower curtain sent to me by a funny friend who read my post here about the ripped up shower curtain I hadn't replaced!), did three loads of laundry, and generally felt better about life in my apartment.

I tend to go into a state of feeling absolutely futile, incapable of creating the changes that need to made in this apartment. This is not something unusual amongst people I have met who deal with mental illnesses. When I used to go to a NAMI support group, numerous members revealed they were hoarders, and that was before there were any TV shows on hoarders. It is very common amongst the members of my family who have bipolar disorder, that they are extremely disorganized and messy. I do think it is partially a learned behavior, which I learned from my mom. I also think it's related to my mental illness. But these are just factors; they are not excuses for letting the problem get out of control. When I let the problem get out of control, it's when I'm depressed and overwhelmed, and I just, plainly, give up.

I decided this past weekend to stop the giving up part. I decided to take control of the reins again, and start actively working on these problems in my apartment rather than hiding from them by staying away from home, or staying preoccupied with TV and the internet and sleep when I am home. And so, I got some things done. I also studied, took an online test I was anxious about, got an A on it, and felt good about accomplishing something with school. So far my two Bachelor's classes are not very difficult. I have not had any assignments yet in one of them, however, so I am not sure how difficult it will be when we have our first test soon.

But I have this tendency to worry about assignments and tests, fearing I will fail, and then I end up getting an A. This is something I do frequently, as my mother has pointed out to me more than once. "You always think you're going to get an F," she'll say, "and of course you always get an A! Why do you DO that?". I suppose it is related to self-esteem, and of course I know I have problems in that area, but another aspect is that I put things off for too long. I tend to procrastinate, waiting for myself to come up with the necessary motivation to finish a project, study for a test. Luckily, I usually do come up with the motivation, right at the last day the thing is due, and I get it done.

But why do I put myself through this procrastination? It is that difficulty with motivating myself. Sometimes, like this past weekend, and tonight, when I went back to the gym to exercise for the first time in months, I do get that motivation going for myself. And in those moments, I can feel satisfied and proud of my accomplishments. Other times, I flounder, waiting for the motivation to come to me. And it doesn't come.

As I write this, I am watching a documentary program with Lisa Ling on the new OWN (Oprah) network. It's a show called "Our America", and it's focusing on faith healers, specifically one named Todd Bentley, and people who go to his revival church hoping to be healed from various disabilities and diseases. I am familiar with Pentecostal Christian churches and revivals, because I grew up in them. I also came to disavow that religion many years ago, as a fifteen-year-old, and I don't believe that there is such a thing as a real faith healer.

It's interesting to watch these people who do believe, though. I can see that they find their motivation through their belief in God. They expect that God will come and give them healings, miracles, answers to prayers. They get their answers from his supposed words. I don't believe, so I have to be more responsible about where my motivation comes from. Since no God is going to hand it to me, I must search for it within. In some ways, I envy these people of faith, with their speaking in tongues, rolling on the floor, screaming out to Jesus, and believing all the while that they will be healed. But what happens when they do not get healed? Back to square one then. You're still dealing with your disability or disease, and now the ball is in your court. I find that eliminating that whole process of believing in faith healers can really just save one time and simplify matters for you.

Sometimes, I do hope that some strong motivation, and some physical energy I do not normally possess, will come to me. I hope that I will wake up feeling energized, not tired, but with Sjogren's and Fibromyalgia, I often wake up tired. I hope that I will feel a zeal within to hurriedly clean my entire apartment and pack everything up for the upcoming move. But that does not happen. I can spend a lot of time waiting for it to happen. What I realize more and more, is that I spend too much time like that already. I have to do more active motivating of myself like I did this week, to clean, to do school work, to go to the gym, to take care of myself and my life. I have to force that one foot to go forward, and the other foot to follow, no matter how exhausted, depressed, or overwhelmed I might be. I won't always be able to do this. My body won't always comply. But I have to try, and try more often.

A year and half ago I had lost fifty pounds. Part of the reason for that was a diet pill that suppressed my appetite and ended up causing me cardiac problems in the end. But another part was that I went to the gym regularly, really watched what I ate, and was very strict on myself. There are many memories I have of being rail-thin with anorexia and starving myself. I do not wish to go back to that life, ever. But I do know that I have the ability to be more of a self-monitor now than I have been recently when it comes to what I eat. I also realize that because the medications I take caused Metabolic Syndrome and led me to gain a huge amount of weight which I have not been able to lose, the losing of it will be no easy task.So it's not just as simple as working out and getting fit. With Fibromyalgia, there is no simple working out thing that I can do. The amount of exercise I am able to do is very limited compared to healthy people my age.

But I need to do what I can, and for the past few months, I was giving up and I was not doing much at all about exercise. I need to cultivate a feeling of motivation in myself.

Unlike the people on this TV program, I know there will be no miracles for me. I believe that medical science offers me a lot of help, but there are no cures there either. I must take care of myself the best I can, and that unfortunately involves maintaining mental stability by taking the very medications that cause Metabolic Syndrome and weight gain. They are fat pills, and in the case of my injections of Risperdal Consta, fat shots. I hate them, but I need them at the same time.

Getting ready to move is going to take a lot of motivation. It is also going to require me to get good sleep and stay as organized as I can. I don't have the time to lose with wasted days when moving is coming up maybe next month. I need to fuel my energy into tackling this issue. There is no way around it.

When it comes to the smallest, every day tasks, for most of my life I've had this habit of counting to motivate myself. When I count to 100 forwards, then backwards, for example, I'll get out of bed. I do this when I'm feeling really low on energy and I force myself to get moving with this method. It works for me, and it causes no harm, so I will continue to do it when necessary, however silly it may sound to other people. It's like having a timer inside your head. I just turn on the timer, and when the time runs out, I get going.

I also use music to motivate myself. I play loud music when I'm cleaning, and at the gym, of course there is always loud, up-beat music. I think this technique tricks the brain into going into "active" mode. Similarly, I use soft music to help me sleep. I can't sleep without it usually.

So, to sum up this post, I think that motivation comes from within, but can also be enhanced with various techniques.

Thinking about this makes me wonder what others reading this do to motivate themselves, or where they find motivation in the world, if from somewhere outside themselves. So where do you find it? Do you have trouble getting, or staying, motivated? I'd be interested to know!


  1. Motivation is a tricky thing. Sometimes it is just there of its own accord, other times you can't find it no matter how hard you look.

    I think habits are probably important in getting things done. When we've established a habit, good or bad, we tend to keep doing them. So in my case, I have developed the habit of getting up, having breakfast as quickly.

    I try to wash and iron things promptly, and I try to exercise twice a week, going running at least once, and going to yoga at least once. I also try to go to bed in relatively good time, so I am sleeping and waking around the same time every day.

    These things don't create any kind of nirvana, but they do keep me moving and somewhat stable.

  2. Jen, this post makes me feel so happy for you!! Yes, you are absolutely correct, there are so very many of us who get overwhelmed and have our environment suffer due to mental health issues. I think lots of people have been there to some degree. It is hard, but when we consistently do whatever we can when able, it can work out to be better on the whole. You are not alone, Jen. Check out this post:

    You can go to her main page to see the next post, but she is making progress.

    Maybe the following site could help support you in your effort to have the environment you deserve -


    I can picture you in a pleasant bedroom, sleeping comfortably on smooth sheets the way you deserve to. I use garters on the bottom sheet and tuck all the bedding in under the corners of the mattress at the foot of the bed so I only have to really make the bed a couple of times a week and I can still be comfortable. The days that I don't need to really make up the bed, I just pull all the covers up to the pillows and call it good enough. Perfection is a crock. Let me know if you want any short-cut or work-preserving tips for making or maintaining your environment. It's kind of become a special interest of mine (because necessity is the mother of invention).

  3. Hey, Jen. I made over my bedroom 2 1/2 years ago out of a fairly bad disaster. All of my shelves were very disorganized and jammed with junk, there were several piles of papers and stacks of books on the floor pushed up against the wall on one side, all my dresser tops were cluttered and choked with dust and there were no personal touches in there. This situation was not helping me AT ALL and I really needed something better than that sad and dismal space. I have PTSD and a dissociative disorder and it is tiring, but I found little ways to start fitting the progress of a better home environment into whatever space my inner environment will allow whenever it will allow it and THIS is where I started, just like you in one determined burst of energy to get started:

    You can do it, Jen. It doesn't have to be perfect. My bedroom is not perfect right now the way it looks in my old post. The plants died during periods of flashbacks and dissociative episodes and I need to dust in there right now, but other than getting a messy desk from time to time, I still have a nice bedroom. You can, too. I can picture you in a nice room right now and you look very comforted.


  4. Music is a motivator for me. I listen to it while working out. I just get on the cycle and listen to something fast paced and pedal to the beat. It feels good. We can lose the weight girl...it just sucks that for every two steps forward you take one back when you take the medicine that makes you feel able to work out. Oh the hypocracy.

  5. Hi Jen, tonight I couldn't get to sleep, so I went online and researched inexpensive rowing machines because I decided within the last few days that I have to return to a diet and exercise program. I found one and ordered it and then I went to your blog and saw the image of the dinosaur and the person running from it with the word EXERCISE and I started to laugh.

    Tomorrow I vacuum my living area and maybe, just maybe wash some dishes. I find I can let the chores go for a week or two but then I have to step up to the plate again. Vacuuming does wonders and lifts my spirits, but it's a new thing for me to be doing it semi regularly. I also listen to music while I work.

    As for dieting, I haven't been and I've put on a chunk of weight, too much. There's no way around it, it takes definite discipline to lose weight. The last time I tried I was very good about it all for around five months and that's as far as I took it. The Anne Collins site definitely helped me, so I paid the annual fee of $19 and joined again. I have to try and keep trying until I can lower my weight out of the obese range. I do believe it is possible. It's weird, but I found that I had to make eating fun, get a little food obsessed (and measuring obsessed) and put effort into making healthy meals.

    Congratulations on cleaning your apartment and returning to exercise!

    Kate : )

  6. Just read your post and was so glad to hear that you were getting things accomplished at your apartment. I think it is more common than you realize that we all let things build up and then get motivated to get it together again! I look around me and so many things need to be done! UGH! You sound great! Enjoy it! From the funny friend! ha ha :)

  7. Motivation, wow, that's a tough one. Well, first thing I do is try to make sure I have enough sleep, since doing anything without sleep is really hard.

    I've been trying to use mindfulness techniques to help unpleasant tasks seem less unpleasant. Instead of trying to rush through things, I use them each as a mindfulness exercise. "Here I am putting a sock in the washer. See how dirty it is. Here is a shirt. I am turning it right side out, slowly, feeling the fabric." etc. Then the next time I do laundry, I can motivate myself easier since it is "mindfulness practice" not laundry.

    I've also been trying to find aspects I like hiding in the things I hate. I hate doing my treadmill, but there are things I like about it that I concentrate on to make it easier to motivate myself to do it. I like it when I manage to get out of bed. I like it when I manage to change out of night clothes. I like it when I do something proactive about my health. Etc. Sometimes this is enough to weigh against the pain to get me going.

    And as other have mentioned, I try not to be perfect. I try to be "good enough". I can do a lot more that is "good enough" in one day, and never get one perfect thing done :)

    Adventures in Anxiety Land

  8. PS-I meant to say that I loved the "motivation" picture at the start of the post, plus the Winston Churchill quote. Churchill's words have kept me going many times, I'm glad that they inspire you too.

  9. Thank you all for your comments! I think motivation is an issue many people who deal with a mental illness can struggle with.

    Blue Morpho: I agree that trying to be perfect is setting yourself up for failure.

    Ethereal Highway: My mom mentioned that flylady site and there is another one called Messies.com, I think.

    D.R.: Yes, I like that Churchill quote. It's good that you have such a schedule to keep yourself going.

    In the Pink: Yes, we will lose that weight!!

    Kate: Good job getting the rowing machine. I remember when you had a really strict diet. Perhaps being a little more lenient this time will help keep the weight off? I think it's great you're trying again, and I know you can do it!

    Janet, my funny friend, it is nice to be able to take showers again!!! Thanks again! :)


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