Sunday, September 7, 2008

If the Straitjacket Fits

Working in a psychiatric hospital for the better part of eight years was sure to leave lasting effects. I might be a bit of a mental health diagnosis hypochondriac.... maybe. Over the years I've wondered if I could possibly have Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Compulsive Eating Disorder, and so on, and so on, and so on. (I'm thinking it might be a good measure of self-preservation to disable comments for this post.)

Anyway, today I found a "syndrome" that I am absolutely certain I have and which, I am sure, is responsible for a significant amount of the frustration and anxiety in my life. It is called
"Preparing to Live Syndrome." The article I read was an awakening of sorts. While it was geared toward lawyers, I am certain that it applies to a much broader demographic.

JD Bliss sums it up this way: "Specifically, the problem is that 'we trade what we truly have'--the present moment--for a future that does not yet and might never exist. As a result, many of us seek relief in 'addiction, pay raises and promotions and all manner of frantic behavior.' Dolan points out that the present moment is 'the one moment of the only life we will ever have that we truly possess.'"

Hi, my name is Angela, and I am a compulsive list maker. I have more lists about more things than anyone I have ever met or even heard about. It's sick - no really, it is. I'm not going to lie, I've actually written things down that I had forgotten to write down but already done, just so I could cross them off my list. I am pretty sure if I started right this minute I could never possibly complete everything waiting on my various to-do lists.

When I'm feeling out of control or unhappy, I need only a pen and a piece of paper (or the back of an envelope, a napkin, my arm - just kidding - sort of), and I can outline all of the shiny happy possibilities for the future. I love imagining what I could potentially accomplish - later.

But every minute of the day, my precious lists taunt me, reminding me that I'm not accomplishing enough, not keeping up, not living my life to the fullest. I get so frazzled and overwhelmed that I check off very little. And I oftentimes have a difficult time enjoying the things I do accomplish or the time I spend with my family and friends. I always feel like what I am doing right now is at the expense of something I "should" be doing.

So, now that I have admitted I have a problem, what is the next of the twelve steps for this disease? "Dolan suggests that lawyers promise themselves: 'Today is the only day that belongs to me; I will live it the best way I know how.'"

Sounds so simple, right? Now if only "the best way I know how" wasn't open to so many differing interpretations... Maybe I should go make a list.

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