Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top 10 All or Nothing Changes

I've written about this topic before, but an email from a friend reminded me of its importance. So...here goes. If I were at a 12-Step All or Nothing People Program, I would have to introduce myself by saying, "Hi, my name is Susan. I'm an all or nothing person, but I've been seeking a middle-ground for 30 days."

After the applause dies down, I'm assuming I will spend hours listening to dozens of other all or nothing people try to explain their lack of flexibility. What amazed me today was that I was able to give such good advice to my friend--when it's so difficult for me to try and break this cycle myself.

But, just in case there are other all or nothing people reading this, these are the Top 10 All or Nothing Changes I'm focusing on.

1. I don't have to post five days a week or feel that the only alternative is to stop posting all together. If I'm feeling depressed or if posting is beginning to feel more like a burden than a pleasure, I can post less often.

2. I don't have to develop new material for every post despite worrying about whether my readers will feel disappointed. After all, I've posted almost 600 times, and there is "old" material that most of my readers haven't seen.

3. I don't have to feel it's unfair to the people who read my blog if I don't read theirs at all or with the same level of frequency that they read mine. As I've written before, I don't find it healthy to spend too much time online, and I don't find it healthy to read blogs that have a negative spin.

4. I don't have to include every blog of every reader in my blogroll. Philosophically, I truly believe that people who consistently focus on the negative aspects of any illness won't heal, and thus I can't support blogs like this even if I personally like the bloggers who write them.

5. Since my blog is part of my wellness program, I have to do what's best for me even if it sometimes seems like I'm not engaging in reciprocal relationships.

6. Moving away from blogging and thinking about other aspects of my life, I don't have to do my best on every project in which I participate. There are times when I'm spread too thin, and I need to be more realistic in order to reduce my level of stress.

7. I need to realize that my expectations of others are often unrealistic, and I need to work harder on adjusting them. (What if someone is doing their best, but I consider the end result mediocre?)

8. Once a day, I should say aloud, "The world isn't black or white; it's composed of shades of gray (and try to believe it).

9. I am trying to convince myself that even if people don't act responsibly, it doesn't always mean they're bad people.

10. I am trying hard to convince myself that just because I can't follow through on everything I start (particularly during an increased energy spurt) doesn't mean I'm a bad person. (However, I always write a note of apology to those I disappoint.)

Well, if that isn't an honest assessment, I don't know what is.

So...how many of you are "all or nothing people?" What habits are you working on changing?


KJ said...

I love this post. I am such an all or nothing person. My whole life, whether it be religion, education, marriage, friends! Wow this really hit home. I love #8. I am totally going to remember to tell myself that every day! Awesome.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
Glad you like it. I just figured it out tonight, then I went to bed and realized I hadn't gotten it quite right. So I awakened and rewrote it.

The good news is it's now more reflective of my feelings; the bad news is that awakening to rewrite it was surely an "all or nothing" response.


Emma said...

Yes, I have also spent far too much of my life as an 'all or nothing' person. Your list is honest, refreshing, and as always, thought-provoking! Learning to accept the middle ground has been an unsettling process. It has been challenging, and exposed limitations, but also allowed possibilities and new opportunities. There has been a freedom in acceptance. I think as I strive for moderation, I am calmer and much happier!

Sheri said...

Great post, I could certainly take a lesson from it.

Toria/Deb said...

That's a wonderfully honest post. Very nicely written too. I like your honesty, and integrity a great deal. Something my psychiatrist said to me last time we saw each other was that I was a "geniune" person. People seem to respond to genuine, honest, up-front, no mind games types of people she went on to say.

Yes I'd likely write some of those same qualities on my list of 10 things. I do tend to be an all or nothing person, but do strive to see shades of grey. It can be hard, agreed, but I think we only grow as a person when you do see a shade of grey for a situation.

Take care and I hope the dental woes are past you. :)

Gianna said...

good post...I practice most of it already...though I'm hooked on keeping my blog going 7 days a week...but for me it really is what keeps me alive right now...not much to do when you're mostly bedbound.

otherwise all the other stuff I actively do...and it's been a process...some of it I've been good at for a while...other stuff still working on.

can't read everyone's blog...nope...don't want to...and that was a liberating thing to come to!! big time!

and all the rest of it too.

so sick right now...so I'm not thinking too clearly.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Emma,
It is a difficult transition, isn't it? And it does expose limitations. But, I believe that part of the entire process of healing is to identify the things we do that aren't helping us...and work hard to change them.

And we know we're doing something right when it results in happiness, and a more peaceful life.

Thanks for the nice words! You are a dear!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Toria/Deb,
Thanks for the "heads up" on this. I'm surprised and delighted that this post is eliciting so many thoughtful and honest responses.

I believe that what your psychiatrist said to you was the highest level compliment! Congratulations!

My therapist has said similar things to me. And I somehow feel that if this is the end result of all the pain and suffering I've endured, then it makes it far more palatable.

Thanks for weighing in on this issue. And thanks for asking about my dental issues. I'm feeling much better and will have my new crown next week. (I've delayed it a bit for the swelling to recede.)


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for commenting. I know how sick you are and genuinely appreciate your effort. Yes, some of this is truly liberating, and some is very hard work.

I'm hoping you'll feel better soon. I know you cut back on a lot of medication in the last week or so, and wish you the very best!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sheri,
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for commenting.


Danielle Says Hello said...

Oh this is such an honest post! I have been beating myself up about not being contemplative enough ~ thanks for giving me something to think about - I hope to have a post about it in a few days.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Danielle,
Let me know when you write about it, and I'll link to it from this post. Also, I haven't forgotten about giving you the list of memoirs; I just never wrote it on my "To Do" list.

So, I'm adding it to tomorrow's list. I can't do one more thing today because I've been gardening all afternoon, and I have my "pruning class" tonight. Does that sound like fun or what?


marja said...

I've learned not to be an all or nothing person. A long time ago I used to post every other day, almost religiously. Now I only post when I have something I'm just burning to say. Not often enough, I know, and I feel kind of bad about it. But I have learned that my off-line relationships and off-line work are more important to develop, especially when I don't have a lot of energy in the first place.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
It's always good to hear about people who have already learned to do this.

Actually, I love posting; it's just not something I can do when I feel severely depressed. Alas...

But, it's nice to know that we all devote our energies to the things that make us feel good!


marja said...

You're right, Susan. We need to put our energy into the things that make us feel good - things that feed us. Why do unnecessary chores?

I'm burning to talk about something tonight and will blog to my heart's content. And it will feel so good.

More Than Conquerors said...

Dear Susan,

Thanks for this great post! I love this list. I have so much to learn from you and I am so thankful that you are very willing to share your experiences with me and many readers. It is encouraging to read the comments of others and to know how we are all learning step by step.

Thanks for your email supports too! I need to reread what you have shared and put into practice by and by. It is a great challenge to me and I know I will need to be very patient and persistent! Thank you once again.

With love and prayers,

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
I just came home from my gardening class and found your comment. I can't wait to read what you're burning to talk about!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
You're welcome. I agree it's always nice to know that others share the same challenges we are facing.

One of the difficulties with having ebbs and flow of energy is that when we have a lot of energy, it's so easy to overextend ourselves.

And then, even if we just shift into a "normal" level of energy, we can't possibly accomplish all that we've committed ourselves to do.

At first, like you, I thought the answer was to stop whatever I was doing because I was overwhelmed.

But, then I realized that when I stopped blogging (other then during a severe depression), I missed the camaraderie and support.

So, I learned to cut back to posting a few days a week until I was ready to do more. (I've since realized that some people only post once a week and have for years, and that works for them.)

Or, when I was singing at my mom's assisted living facility, and just didn't have the energy to perform for 15-20 people, I realized that I could just bring a few people into my mother's room and sing with them.

So...I guess what I'm saying is that the most difficult part is saying to others, "I'm sorry, but I've overextended myself, and it's making me ill. I don't want to quit what I'm doing, but I need to cut way back. Are you willing to work with me on this?"

I've never had anyone say no.

Hugs and love from Los Angeles!


Jaleesa said...

I missed this post when I decided I didn't want to check my reader for a few days. Oi.

I'm one of those people and it's really hard to be all-or-nothing and, at the same time, thoroughly enjoy the dynamism of life as much as I do. Being THIS or THAT has really done a number to my healing path and because my family is full of all-or-nothing people who base their entire egos off of being THIS or THAT, it's really hard to start working on it as a problem.

I recently made the decision to stop attending group even though I made a promise to myself that I'd continue to see the therapist and my psychiatrist. I don't see where group fits into my healing path, to be honest, so I dealt with all the guilt of deciding not to go. I missed the first two weeks by accident and decided that, somehow, the universe was facilitating my deep desire not to go anyway, so I decided to take heed. I know what's best for me, and sometimes that happens to be the gray area.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jalessa,
I think it's worse if a person's ego is involved in being an all or nothing person. I'm that way, but it has nothing to do with ego, it's more that I don't see life as shades of gray.

Personally, I've never joined a support group. We're sort of fulfilling that function online, but the little research I did on them suggested that all people did was whine--mostly in unison!

How that would help anyone's healing process isn't clear to me.


Lily said...

Susan.. i find myself continuing to be floored, i just discovered that Im BP a few weeks ago, and have been reading up soo much about it in books and online. So i guess you could say Im going through the grieving process. I never displayed any of the classic symptoms (i hated sex and never had any money to shop, fortunately for me, i was never able to get a credit card in my life) so when i read this stuff about the certain "personality" aspects of BP, I am just floored. I am too an All or Nothing person. I can either be an exercise freak or a potato couch, constantly trying but never knowing what it really was that was holding me back from my true potential. I am in the mental health profession, and just learning about these disorders in college and in the DSM..you don't really get it until you are in their shoes. Now i finally see it. Im just so upset to finally figure this out now, and wish i had seen all of the signs earlier, or if someone would have said something to me. Kind of like blind love!
It is such a relief to that there is such a thing as this, and there are others exactly like me too (in being brilliant and excellent leaders) Which makes this all the more crushing for me.. I was able to wing it all these years. But i look forward to discovering my true true self, and maximize my creative skills. Thank god for the internet and finding you guys!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Lily,
It took 25 years for me to get a diagnosis. But, I must say that once I started taking all the medication I got sicker and sicker.

So much of what you discuss is so very important that I'm going to write a post about it on Tuesday.

While I could respond here, since this post is a few days old, people won't comment as much as if I write a post in reference to your comment.

So...thanks for writing. Stay tune. And we'll all concentrate on what you've written on Tuesday.

P.S. And, quite honestly, there are very few good books on being bipolar. Before my post, I'll skim the newest lot of them to see if there's anything I feel is worth reading.

For the most part, they're so negative that it's just too depressing for words. Everyone makes it seem like a terminal illness when I don't believe it needs to be so.

Keep the faith and don't let your reading and research get you down. So much of what you'll read is either "crap" from people who are funded by pharmaceutical grants or others who should know better, but don't seem to.

Lily said...

Susan, i look forward to your post. I just saw the movie, Benjamin Button, and it had me thinking, there are so many of us, really, we all are the same, just on other sides of the spectrum at one time or another. There's nothing different about any of us. My partner was getting sick of the word BP (as i was having flashbacks about all the significant events in my life "ohh, that must have been the mania too.." ) and i think she has some of it too, but she s on the other side.. very happy very active. :) So i said, would it be better if I used another word? So she wouldn't accuse me of being negative still. So she said something about blocked energy, and i said B.E. ! that really is the problem with us folks, we have blocked energy, and we have a problem with BEing ourselves. We need to just BE, and let that energy loose. :) So our discussions are much better now, positive sounding than negative with the BP stuff. I feel really disgusted too, being in the profession, and how we diagnose and medicate folks. Which has me thinkin about my job and what to do now.. (ack!) surely don't want to do anything impulsive yet at the same time I need to be real to myself..it IS stressful. See you Tuesday.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Lily,
Personally, I would stop thinking about "bipolarity" for a few days.

While it may make certain behavior more understandable to you, I think that ruminating on all your behavior and trying to categorize it will exhaust you, and I'm not sure how helpful it will be.

The truth is that even though you have a diagnosis, you truly aren't any different than the way you were the day before you got the diagnosis.

I spent years researching this illness, and all it did was to make me feel worse rather than better.

These days, while I try to share tips and advice, and also try to see if others share certain behavioral patterns (and find ways to handle them that might be helpful), other than that I don't see the importance of labels.

If it were me, I'd find a therapist I truly like, and begin sharing my feelings about the diagnosis, and whatever is bothering you about your job...so that you can get it all off your chest.

But...other than that I'd concentrate on doing the things you enjoy that have nothing to do with illness, whether it's exercise, meditation, art, music, gardening, or whatever.

I believe that focusing too much on a label and illness can make us sick. I think that receiving a diagnosis without being able to talk about it is very stressful. And I think that engaging in healthy activities makes us feel better.

And, I will still write my post on Tuesday. However, if you're feeling overwhelmed and need me to address all this on Monday, I'll write the post tomorrow night. Just let me know.


Anonymous said...

Dear Wellness Writer,
I would like to help you believe your #1, #2 and #4/#5 by presenting myself as 'proof.'

#1 & #2. I happened your blog while searching for Brain Mapping in a depression forum which linked to your two-year old article about Brain Switching and A.B. Curtiss. I've never seen your blog and don't know you, but that article was extremely valuable to me and you have given me something that may make a huge difference in my life. Even if you had not written anything else since then, you still would have had this impact.

#4 & #5. I do not expect you to reciprocate to this comment or to the fact that I'm reading your blog. I probably won't even notice if you reply to this comment to be honest.

In fact you have already done your part in writing the entry. It is I, the reader who should feel the need to reciprocate. Thus my comments here aimed, I hope, at supporting your fight against the All or Nothing Mentality - a fight which I share.

As a kid I hated competition because even then I thought, "If I can't be sure to win, then why even play?"

As an adult, I get so easily overwhelmed by everything because when I approach even a small task like washing the dishes I instantly envision having to wash the dishes every day for the rest of my life = all. And since I can't imagine being that consistent and responsible, I can't muster the energy to even do it today = nothing. (which makes me feel like a loser.)

I've gotten a little better with this, but it is still difficult and as a result, my days are often filled with self-created, unnecessary, added struggle. It is helpful to me to see someone else who is so honest and generous in sharing their similar experience.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you never know how much impact ANY little thing you are able to write may have. And, regardless of whether you live up to your own definition of 'all' when it comes to your blog, you certainly are not doing 'nothing.'

Boston, MA

Wellness Writer said...

Dear JH,
Well, if "all" you do today is write lovely comments to people--like the one you left on my blog--then you, too, certainly aren't doing nothing.

We, who write these blogs, expend a lot of time and energy in doing so. And, we do it because we're hoping to help others.

But, there are days when we don't get a lot of comments or a lot of readers, and wonder if the effort is worth it.

Then, we get a comment like yours and know it always is worth it--even on the days when it doesn't feel like that.

Thanks ever so much!