Mad Cow Disease

Non-Mad Cow in Manitoba.

One of my red flags for depression – OH GOD SO SICK OF THAT WORD.

Quick sidebar:  For the duration of this post, depression shall be referred to as ‘Mad Cow Disease’. Alright, here we go:

One of my red flags for mad cow disease was how much time I would spend laying awake in bed, going over all of the things I had failed to do that day. Clean out the fridge. Study for an appropriate length of time. Eat well. Go to the gym. Walk the dog six times. And on and on.My heart would pound; my hands would become clammy, and my eyes would stare widely at the ceiling.  Many, many times I just got up and stayed up – I’ve pulled more all-nighters than a med student.

Now that I’m in a head space where I am trying to change habits, and since sleep has become a much simpler process (Thanks, cipralex), it occurred to me that I could change this one.

I’m not much into meditation because oh-so-very-boring, and I’ve gotten sick of berating myself for not being able to sit still and hold my mind in one place for very long. I’m not a meditator. I can accept this. What I can do is lay in bed at night, after devouring a few chapters o whatever delicious book I’m currently eating, and go over the things I’ve done well that day.  This is not always a complete list – I’m not back at the gym regularly yet, I still hate cleaning out the bloody fridge, and my eating habits are much as they always were. But. I do walk my dog a few times a day, I do eat fairly well, I do – as it turns out – quite a few things right on a daily basis.  I was just focused on the wrong things.

Much with everything else around mad cow disease (snicker) I’m looking back on that old behaviour and thinking, bloody hell.  Where was that getting me?  Overtired, irritable and anxious, that’s where. (Yes, feelings are now places.) These days, even if all I manage in a day is a shower – which may happen one day – I’m focusing on that one good act, rather than all of my perceived failings.

I used to think that if I didn’t beat myself up, I wouldn’t get anything done. The truth is that if I reward my brain with some positive reinforcement for the things it does well, it’s more inclined to go to sleep and do even more the next day.

Hmm.  My brain is a two-year-old. I suppose that’s okay. Anyhow, those are my musings for today.  What about you? What do you do to reward yourself for good behaviour?



8 thoughts on “Mad Cow Disease

  1. What I do when I do something good or accomplish a lousy errand that I hate to do, is I allow myself some good old-fashioned guilt-free loafing. During which I usually but not always read something that I like just because I like it (guilty pleasures ftw). 🙂 I also have experienced the sad tendency to ultra-focus on things I haven’t done, and beat myself up, so you’re not alone (this does explain why there were furious bovines hanging around during those episodes, though…). 🙂

    • It’d be great if there really were a bunch of pissed-off cows that traveled to the homes of those who were being unnecessarily unkind to themselves. Then we’d know, you know? It would be like – “Oh, the cows are here. Righty-oh. I’ll ease up.”

  2. I have an old habit (eight years or so I’ve been doing this now and then), that when I do something well, or finish something I’d been putting off, or just anything at all (or sometimes nothing :), I phone myself and leave myself a wonderful message. I tell myself how great I am, how my intentions are always the best, etc. etc. I just list anything I can think of that’s great about me, and sometimes I just make things up that I know I’ll like to hear when I check messages. I tell myself I rock. I love to listen to my confident voice telling me all these things at the end of a day. It helps if I’ve forgotten that I did it (and I’m good at that); then I get a nice surprise from guess who? Me. 🙂

    • You know, I have a vague memory of hearing something like this – no – reading it (sometimes I confuse the two) in a Macleans article, or some such. Instant AND delayed gratification, it was called.

      • Well, I didn’t read it anywhere, and there’s no instant gratification in it for me … it’s the delayed part, the little feel-good reminder that comes from me to me at the end of the day, that gives me a nice boost. In the end, we criticize or congratulate ourselves for what we’ve done – most of us hand out plenty of self-criticism – so this, for me, is a way to help balance the scale. 🙂

  3. Well, I do the daily inventory thing too, and it really isn’t productive unless you remember the good as well. Kinda like only doing half of a balance sheet, if you don’t fill in both columns, it looks like you’re failing miserably.

    I’ve developed another way of giving myself positive boosts throughout the day, which can then be added on in the inventory – I find that my mind instinctively finds the negative, so until that changes (and slowly, it does change) here’s what I do.

    There are lots of little, simple, manageable things that make me feel good – things like making the bed, clean dishes and kitchen counters, washed car etc. Little things that are easily avoided due to time, or simply because they are things I don’t care to do. But what I’ve learned, is that I like it when they have been done.

    So, I want to be the guy who comes home in a shiny car to a clean kitchen and a made bed – the only way to BE that guy, is to do those things in advance, keeping in mind that it will be worth it. When I open my door and see the result, I get an unconscious boost of self worth, accomplishment and positive reinforcement for continuing the process. But that’s secondary. What I DON’T get, is feelings of failure, guilt and shame that would leak in otherwise because I hadn’t done something I intended to do.

    So, that’s how I look at it – how I feel tomorrow is a direct result of what I’ve done today. My little way of manipulating the future, at least the small slice of it within my control.

    Love ya, keep writing 🙂

  4. First of all, yes, herd of cows as a tell – great idea! ‘Course then we’d be prey to a whole host of other issues – like so much fresh manure, blocked streets, munched gardens. Hm.

    But really, good question. I think I’m better at rewarding myself when I’m working. So when I’ve been working hard and getting through the things I put off and that require more brain, I allow myself a short break to do whatever I like to break up the work session. This might be a tiny dance party in the kitchen (or office, if folks aren’t around), going for tea or having a gab.

    But in life? This is something that I’m working on, because I think I still seek my rewards externally “Very good, Rosie, that’s a great picture of a tree and a lion! You’ve done a great job of being human today!”. So in practical day to day adult life, if I’m feeling like I haven’t done anything at all, and feeling low about it, I check in with a pal or my sweetheart. Which maybe isn’t really sustainable.

    I do agree with Andrew, though, about doing things that automagically swell me with satisfaction, like cleaning my floors, or the bathroom. In fact, I think that feeling of satisfaction is my reward for doing a number of things – evening meetings, for example. Maybe I’m already tired out, but then I go and I feel like I’ve done what my best self would do. Feels good.

    Thanks for asking!

    • The thing that is the biggest challenge for me sometimes is that, once I’ve become aware of the problem and know I want to change it, I’m stumped. You seek reward externally, which I think to some extent is just fine – but hey, I get it. You need to be able to know you’ve done well, even in a vacuum. How can you reaffirm that to yourself? Because let me tell you, all that crap about standing in front of a mirror and telling oneself how wonderful and beautiful one is – that does NOT WORK on folks like me.
      And as little comfort as it may be, Leanna, you ARE folk like me, and I’m damn grateful for the normality you bring to the world of smashitis and crazy. Damned grateful.

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