Chris Zammarelli

The Sounds of Library Science

Category: Mental Health

I See Shadows Moving Around

One of the things that I have always taken pride in is my ability to pick things up quickly. I’ve had a lot of different tasks thrown at me over my career, and I’ve always been able to either run with them or at least fake it while I frantically research what I’m supposed to do until I make it.

So when I come up against something that I feel like I should be able to do and all of my usual tactics for learning on the fly don’t work, I feel gut-wrenchingly deflated.

I’m speaking from recent experience, of course. While I have been reasonably assured I’ve not let anyone down, it’s tough for me to think that this is true. I don’t think I realized how much pressure I put on myself to perform, so when I flopped, I got a bit weepy.

Once I dried my eyes and enjoyed a pint or two with an old friend, I expected to say that I could see clearly and got a new perspective . But I didn’t: I only gotten worse. I was irritable! Touchy! Frustrated! A bit of a jerk!

To whom the Thursday version of me can say, “Get over yourself.”

In hindsight, I can call upon all of those simple little lessons about learning from failure and knowing when to ask for help and not going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line and stuff like that. All of that is obvious now. But when I’m in the thick of it, even those most obvious life lessons are hard to access.

I like to think I generally keep cool and have a measured response to whatever comes my way, and maybe that’s even true. But every now and then I fall apart, like Bonnie Tyler in a boarding school, and how I bounce back from that is key.

I’m making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill here to stress the importance of checking your mental health. Be aware of how you are feeling, and if you are not feeling so great, talk to someone who knows you well. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down and admit you’re struggling. And don’t beat yourself up. We need you cool. Are you cool? Good.

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

We’re halfway through the year and I ended the first half of 2019 on vacation in Hawaii. That also means I spent a couple of weeks wondering why I don’t live there. I may spend the next couple of weeks trying to suss out the answer to that question before daily drudgery sweeps over me like a wave that I didn’t quite catch because I suck at surfing.

I take responsibility seriously, so seriously that I frequently forget about being stupidly irresponsible, which is more fun. I tend to put off the fun stuff until the serious stuff is finished, except that there is always more serious stuff. I have to make room for the fun stuff, not wait for the perfect time to do it. That’s a hard lesson for me to grasp.

So I was pleasantly surprised how I was able to let vacation envelop me. Maybe that’s because of where I was vacationing. But I think that a lot of it had to do with getting the hang of letting things go. I wasn’t perfect: I still got my usual pre-travel jitters and I had a couple of anxious moments during the trip. But on the whole, I relaxed in a way that I hadn’t for a long time. It was great.

Then I got home and immediately fell back into a lot of bad habits. Oh well. More work to be done!

Promise Me No Promises

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I shouldn’t write mission statements or apologies or anything when I inevitably try to revive my blog.

The thing is, this week is LIS Mental Health Week, and that is what inspired me to pick up the blog up again. I am working on managing my anxiety, so I would like to share a checklist that I devised to help me out.

  • Determine and prioritize goals
  • Block out time in a calendar to work on tasks
  • Make a daily mood check to assess how I am feeling
  • Write daily diary entries or other forms of writing (blog posts, poems, etc.)
  • Do something enjoyable
  • Beware of the drink when stressed or depressed
  • No devices at bedtime
  • Deep breathing when struggling to fall asleep
  • Doodle more
  • Separate what you can control from what you cannot control

It’s not perfect and I am not perfect at sticking to it. (Boy, do I ignore that “no devices at bedtime” suggestion.) But frequently re-reading the list has been helping me get through my daily grind.

I have also taken to heart something I read by Tammi Kollinger on the Bullet Journal blog: “Humans are messy and make mistakes.” In my mind, it is a corollary of the Cult of Done Manifesto. I should tape it to the wall and re-read it every time my creative destruction tendencies creep up again.

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