Mental Health: Drowning

On Sunday some friends so graciously took me and Rick out on their boat. It was the most sun and fresh air I’ve gotten in more four months, since before the pandemic it was still winter time in New York. It seems I forgot how to behave in the sun… and got a pretty big burn to show for it.

(Fortunately I keep an aloe plant in my apartment. But, this post isn’t about burns and aloe (although there’s a mental health analogy in there somewhere…) No. I’m gonna make another corny analogy that came to me, because it was such a good parallel to my mental illness.)

In order to get away from the hoards of people in their individual boats and get some more space for swimming and fishing, we left the channel and went out into the ocean. The front of the boat slammed down with each wave, the significantly more violent movement signaling our entrance into the Atlantic. The channel was mild by comparison, a completely different ballgame. The only waves we seemed to encounter were from the wakes of other boats. The boat was rocking big time now, but we got what we were looking for. Solitude.

Rick jumped off the side and we all gave him a hard time because he asked for a rope to hang onto while in the water. We giggled watching him bump up against the side of the boat that had become at the mercy of the ocean’s movement and, after a very brief swim, he climbed back aboard.

“Okay, that’s good for me,” he said, laughing.

It was my turn to jump in, now. Seeing nothing around me but water kinda creeped me out, but I had gotten queasy on the ocean so I needed a dunk in the water to cut the nausea, anyway. I tugged at my bathing suit and stared down at the hazel water lapping against the boat and accepted my fate. While everyone was distracted, and someone was mid-sentence, I jumped starboard. No countdown, no witness, no pressure. Doing things on my time, just how I like it.

It felt good. Cold. I quickly swept past the boat’s side, enjoying the relief of both the nice temperature and having just gotten the shock of that first immersion over with. The boat bobbed passed me as I treaded water, looking on. Okay, that’s enough, I thought. I swam toward the ladder and looked up to find I was no closer than where I’d started. In fact, the boat was a little further away. I tried again. Nothing. I laughed and looked at everyone on the boat, now watching me.

“I don’t think I can do it!” I said. I tried again.

“You gotta swim, babe,” Rick called. “You’re not swimming.”

Our friend dog paddled the air with a smile on his face. “Do you know how to swim?”

“Guys, of course I know how to swim.” My disembodied head scowled from the water. Normally I was a dry-from-the-neck-up, breaststroke type swimmer, but in this circumstance I needed to swim properly. I gave it a shot. Nothing.

“I seriously don’t think I can do it.”

“Seriously?” Our friend asked, no longer joking. He was our captain and handled his role with care. Also, his friend’s wife like, couldn’t swim.

“For real.” I laughed nervously. I was stuck, nothin’ but water around me and below me, and I was floating further away by the second. The waves picked up.

I knew they wouldn’t leave me, or something, so I didn’t panic, although I easily could’ve being so out of control in the middle of the ocean. I embraced the fact I was out of control and relaxed my body, even turning around to observe the big waves coming my way. Nothin’ but water and lack of control. Nothin’ to do but wait and survive.

I heard the boat rumble to life and turned to see our friend inching toward me in reverse. He closed the gap and cut the engine, and I swam the last couple of feet with great effort against the current to reach the ladder. Rick was waiting at the back of the boat in his royal blue swimsuit with his hand out to help me.

“Are you okay?” He asked, supporting the weight I was putting on him as I stepped back aboard. Gripping the crap out of my husband’s hand. Relief.

case study of me being a solid hand gripper

“Yeah… but I was a goner!” I laughed.

“You were not getting any closer to us,” our friend said, partially stated as fact, partially in disbelief.

“Yeah, I was def a goner. Thanks for coming to get me, because I think that was almost it for me.” I turned to Rick. “I think I need proper swim lessons for real because that was scary.”

“We would’ve saved you! Don’t worry. Remember, I’m a floater, babe.” Rick thinks it’s funny to make toilet jokes about how his body behaves in bodies of water.

“Yeah, I know. It’s so comforting that you’re a floater, the ultimately water survivor.”

“Girl, I got you!” My friend said, sunning on the boat’s edge in a gorgeous designer swimsuit and shades. “I for real could’ve saved you.” I think she used to be a lifeguard. Either way, I believed her. My friends and family got me.

I smiled with incredulous relief and wrapped my arms around Rick’s warm body, so grateful to mash my head against the chest of the #1 floater of my heart.

Then, I felt like I was gonna ralph again. Then, everyone felt like they were gonna ralph. So, we retreated back to the placid channel, a magical place where no one feels like they’re gonna ralph.

I guess my brain couldn’t help but Carrie Bradshaw an analogy, here, because something bobbed into the waves of my thoughts. <- LOL I COULDN’T HELP IT.

When I see a big, dark wave of depression coming on, or get pulled into one unexpectedly, I can fight it, or I can panic. Or, I can just relax my body into it, wait it out, and communicate to those around me what’s happening and what they can do to help, if anything. In a weird way, I’m really proud of myself for turning around and looking out into the ocean that day, looking at the waves head on. Waves keep coming. Like it’s the nature of the ocean, it’s the nature of mental illness, too. If you accept what’s happening and remember all waves that come up must come down, and that depression lies, it will end. You will feel better.

If it’s never better, and you’re just getting slammed with life’s waves with no relief or sustainable way to cope, please, please see a psychologist to have talk therapy. If applicable, they can refer you to and work with a psychiatrist for meds. A lot of times, people just need to spit out what’s happening in their minds, even if, no, especially if it doesn’t even make sense. When you think out loud with the help of a good therapist, a lot of times you organize your thoughts and feelings in the process. Then, you can put a lot of the trauma you’ve been consciously or subconsciously grappling with behind you.* Don’t drown. You don’t have to drown. There are life preservers, friends, family, and your own steely resolve nearby.

Warmest,
Bailey

*Concept from studies referenced by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score (2014). Important, highly recommended read.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: What About People with Depression?
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Mental Health: What About People with Depression?

Preface: I acknowledge and respect that many populations feel underrepresented and scared right now, but I’m just speaking to what I know, which is living with mental illness. I am the type of person who values respect and word impeccability, and typically speak and most certainly write with careful intention and inclusion of populations that are not my own. This post is “not like me.” But, after 4+ months of isolating, I’m considering my own health for a brief moment. I wrote “For once, I’m gonna be a self-concerned butthead,” thinking I’d be apologetic for being self-centered, and then deleted it. I hope to receive the same respect and consideration I so readily give to people with other health issues. Just because mine are invisible doesn’t make them any less serious. Or lethal. I owe this to myself and people like me.

We’re on the look out for people with physical ailments and the for the immunosuppressed. We’re on the look out for seniors and other physically at-risk populations.

Is anyone on the look out for people with depression?

Most people don’t like being shut in their home indefinitely, and that even includes me, the queen of needing to be alone in my own space to recharge. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about doing the unpaid full time job of parenting and the stress of chasing babies and children around during a pandemic while also maintaining your own sanity. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job from home without childcare. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job. (Ha ha just kidding. Sort of. I’m the professional world’s #1 bachelorette.) Something I do know about, though, is chronically sad people. Those are my people.

I’m struggling to find work because the job market has largely frozen. Even if just temporary, money has dried up. Rent is still due and the buck is stopping at individuals like me, a typical American with a touch of credit card debt and a looming date, August 19th, when Rick and I lose the health insurance we bought through my grad school. Of course, the plan was for me to get a job after graduating in May and, with the cushion of insurance through the summer, we’d be covered through (or at least mostly through) the standard trial period at a new job before being granted benefits.

I’ve mentioned this a handful of times, but my psychiatrist is $400/visit, which is basically the New York City standard. A friend told me about a hospital with excellent psych care that’s covered by insurance(! a true unicorn), and I was thrilled to look into them and switch over to save on a colossal monthly expense for me and Rick. Then, COVID happened. I’ve done the legwork, and an uncertain time is not the time to play roulette with your mental healthcare provider, so any kind of switch got put on ice. Now, my insurance is up in a month, rendering any kind of insurance-based switch financially meaningless, as it’ll be out of pocket anywhere I go August 20th on if the job market stays on course. If that happens, hopefully I will find a psych who uses a sliding scale.

All of this is to say: quality psychiatry is essential healthcare for me. If my mental illness is not monitored, I can die.

I’m frazzled. Rick says he’s relaxed but he’s been driving weird, which makes me even more frazzled. (Rick turns into a weird driver when he’s stressed out, a public health risk in and of itself.) Nobody tell Rick about this paragraph.

I’m trying to figure it out, keeping a detailed Excel spreadsheet of jobs applied to, reaching out to mutual friends of people working somewhere I’d like to, perfecting cover letters, combing the ‘net, seeking advice from anyone potentially helpful, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to figure out the color of m’dang parachute. Because things have gotten more desperate by the day, the end game is now money and health insurance. Good old fashioned purpose and fulfillment would be some kind of rainbow icing on top. Community would be good, too, but I know, I know- I’m getting a lil crazy with all these hopes and dreams. I just want to contribute to the world! I want to make things that help people! I have a lot to give! I work very hard and with integrity, something that’s unfortunately rare! But, I also have mental illness that’s challenging to maintain in the throes of a global pandemic! One where there seems to be no sure light at the end of the tunnel! Only a flickering, creepy, lightbulb-in-a-haunted-house light! I like haunted stuff, but not this!

I feel like I need to course correct what’s become a wiggy digression: with illness, isolation, economic downturn, and job uncertainty, a person with typical mental health could struggle, let alone people with diagnosed mental illnesses. The suicide rate in America increased 35% from 1999 to 2018. The second leading cause of death in people ages 10-35 is suicide, and that’s without factoring in a global pandemic.

You may be thinking, well, what about the ER? What about suicide hotlines?

Do you know what happens if you go to the ER (by either self arrival or ambulance)? You’re humiliated by people blabbing about your ideation as if it’s not extremely sensitive (“Dennis, she said she wants to kill herself. Oh, you can’t hear me? I SAID SHE SAID SHE WANTS TO KILL HERSELF! Yeah. Kill herself.”). They monitor you for a bit, sometimes overnight, and then let you go to free up the bed. Last July I tried to get someone on an emergency hotline, and couldn’t get through. Either way, hotlines are staffed by good-hearted volunteers, not psychiatrists. These things are highly fallible last resorts, not solutions, let alone effective care.

An article on PsychologyToday.com muses on suicide during SARS as it may pertain to COVID: “…most [SARS-related] suicides involved elderly or chronically ill people who were afraid of becoming burdens to their families due to becoming infected, a concern that is already common among many COVID-19 patients.” A lot of people don’t consider the fact that “chronically ill people” includes those with lifelong mental illness issues. The guilt of being a burden is real.

Isolating with no end in sight might be “flattening the curve,” keeping hospitals manageable, and protecting some at-risk populations, but what about my at-risk population? Sometimes, people with mental illness need help to continue living, period. Living with any sort of normalcy/quality of life is just a bonus. Trust me, sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Just let the people with mental illness go. Let Darwinism run its course,” like I’m sure other people secretly think about my population. It’s a dark thought and, some days, I don’t disagree.

Then I remember that depression lies.

I have to fight for my bright moments, reminding myself that the offerings I bring to the world are important enough for me to stick around. But, when you feel undervalued, and that feeling is coming from inside my head and from inaction/lack of a solid public game plan for people like me, it’s hard to maintain that grit.

The world we live in is a real humdinger.

I’ll continue to move through the world sanitized, masked, and appropriately quarantined, I just have no idea how sustainable this all is for people like me.

Thanks for reading,
Bailey

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Preventing Suicide” page, last reviewed April 21, 2020
Psychology Today, “Are We Facing a Post-COVID-19 Suicide Epidemic?” Posted June 7, 2020


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: The Gold of One’s Spirit
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Mental Health: Homebody v. Quarantine…body ?

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Hello from the living room couch in my and Rick’s new place. I had a hard time getting here, to this text box. As a matter of fact, I’ve been having a hard time doing things I know I need to or should do in general. I made a deal to myself to post something related to mental health on Bummed Out Bailey every Wednesday, and last week I blew it. I think I’m the only one who noticed a post missing last week, though (lol), but to me that’s just as bad as a bunch of people noticing. Not doing what I say I’m gonna do is letting myself down.

I try to remember to practice what I preach, to exhibit grace in the face of human fallibility but, as so many people are, I am harder on myself than I am on anyone else. It’s challenging to find the line between reasonable grace and just straight up failing to fulfill my responsibilities. I just find myself wading through a littered pond, sorting through trash: what’s a reasonable excuse? What’s unreasonable? What’s just my mental illness in action, and I need to relax and give myself a break? What am I gonna do with this empty Pepsi bottle floating past me? Who drinks Pepsi? Etc, etc.

Anyway. During this bizarre COVID-19* time, when self-quarantine is being advised, at first I thought, Okay, Bailey. You’re a germaphobe homebody who’s been training for this your whole life. This is your time to rise up and SHINE. But after a couple days I started getting blue and wishing I was with the goldens (who’re on Long Island w my in-laws, where they belong for many reasons).

As a person who exists with a baseline of guilt coursing through my body at all times that I’m not doing or being enough in all senses, being shut in at home has given that guilt a steroid shot. It’s officially mandated I stay in and write my magnum opus and read my ass off. It’s ridiculous if I don’t, what wasted time, right? What is my mental illness in action? What’s me just avoiding responsibility? Am I depressed because I have Major Depressive Disorder, or am I depressed because I’m underperforming in general and my thesis is due in six weeks? It’s all muddled.

I enjoy being safe, comfortable, and clean at home. But being told to stay home, which should be my time to shine, has had an adverse effect. I need a quarantine from my quarantine. It’s messing with my self-worth and mental health.

With the right lens, writers and artists in general are being given a great opportunity during this social isolation. We are given the opportunity to produce, hone, tweak, invent, and expand, all interrupted. We are also being given the opportunity to rest. But, who deserves what? How do you know if you’re being a bum, or if you’re sleeping because of the exhaustion of carrying around a boulder of guilt on your shoulders all day, every day, and it’s just gotten heavier? Then, I think about all the folks who are having very real professional concerns right now, those who work in service and aren’t being patronized, those who are facing a lay-off, and those who have children to care for and may not make rent… and then I feel stupid for feeling the way I do and again for not taking proper advantage of the time I’ve been gifted. And then I feel even dumber for being a privileged white person writing such a navel-gaze of a post.

I’ve seen some posts about our fellow friends with mental illnesses and how this quarantine is extremely challenging for some. One, you may feel more isolated than usual while sitting at home (physically alone or not), and two, some people w mental illness require regular social interaction to keep healthy, and that’s no longer available. FaceTime just isn’t the same as a hug.

So, I suppose my points are these: I’ll continue chipping away at the guilt boulder that keeps gaining weight and following me around. And then nestling down into my neck and shoulders. I also want people who are struggling w their mental health during this weird time to know you’re not alone, and that my mood’s taken a dive, too. And it’s led me to post a bunch of weird stuff on Instagram stories. You’re welcome ?

If you need to talk, I’m here for you. As always, please feel free to comment below or message me privately. I’d love it if people with similar issues could find community in each other via Bummed Out Bailey. What a gift that could be!

Warmest,
Bailey

*Say it to the tune of “Come On Eileen,” and you’ll never be able to read it another way. I’m sorry for cursing you in this footnote.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: Moving. Improving?
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Things we Carry


Do you love Bummed Out Bailey? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Mental Illness + Disaster Fatigue = Stagnation on ‘Roids

Coming at you live from a bad day. I slept for 12 hours, too exhausted to get up when my alarm went off after the generous, allotted ten. Could-barely-lift-my-head-exhausted. My contact case, typically in the bathroom drawer, was on my nightstand when I woke, indicating some type of night time ~activity~ AKA sleepwalking. I assume moving around unconsciously contributes to what seems like unqualified exhaustion, but why the hell am I on the move in the middle of the night? I don’t think risk of night rearrangement of toiletries is on ashwaghanda’s side effect list.

I’m so upset and feel so helpless about what’s going on in our world. I thought the mildness of New York’s last winter was a fluke, but I haven’t seen any snow in the forecast. Even when there is a rare flurry, it’s been too warm to stick. In Australia, 500,000,000 animals are suspected dead as of two days ago, and I can’t bring myself to google current numbers. The ecosystem is up in flames, and we’ve got an evil Twitter tyrant wiping out an evil military tyrant, causing the populations of their respective countries, America and Iran, to spiral into a hole of fear, worry, anxiety, and devastation as we collectively presuppose the unrest to come. People, often low-income, choice-less people, will die because idiots are at the helms.

I was emailing with an Iranian friend, checking in on her and her loved ones given the latest. While she and I go to school together in NYC and she and her husband are currently in Dubai (where they live), her parents and family are in her homeland, Iran, and these are just regular people subject to the whims of a violent general like Americans are regular people subject to the whims of the erratic star of The Apprentice.

All over social media are horrific images of what’s happening in Australia and begs for money to help the country stop the destruction, somehow, and salvage what they can. My $5 feels like a drop in a bucket that couldn’t extinguish a single match. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, sitting on an estate of billions of dollars, sent their thoughts and prayers.

As a privileged white lady, I have the luxury of logging off all social media / internet for a day, or a week, or whatever, and my world seems unchanged. I know that if I do something like that disconnection, though, I won’t forget that the chaos is still seething beyond my bubble, that the skin of my safe cocoon isn’t and wasn’t ever as thick as I thought. It’s all connected, and it all matters.

Political, environmental, or even just compassion fatigue paired with the spoils of mental illness is a real doozy. I crawled out of bed and the sun started going down in every sense, orbitally, mentally, emotionally, motivationally. It’s hard for me to sit here and write out this worry and devastation and, again, I’m privileged that I’m able to even process and record feelings while so many others are in survival mode.

It’s come to the point that sitting still makes me a part of the problem.

But, I’m mentally gridlocked, and a helpless, infuriating stagnation has descended upon my days. It makes me want to go back to bed, but I’ve got a book to write. We’ve got a world to fix. I’ve got an in-laws’ house to move out of. I’ve got a carbon footprint to offset. I’ve got golden retrievers from the Yulin meat festival to rescue. I’ve got word impeccability to employ and practice. I’ve got guilt about my homeless brother to carry. I’ve got black Americans to champion. I’ve got the exhaustion of feeling like an ant pushing a rock uphill to overcome. I’ve got the worry and very real consideration of whether it’s a good idea to bring a baby into this world to ponder. I’ve got people in my life who don’t think climate change is real, or believe it’s simply biblical destiny and are complacent. I’ve got the reputation of being alarmist, of being too sensitive, of being a snowflake. I’ve got major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. I’ve got too many plastic bags, too many things I feel guilty about dropping into a landfill-bound trash bag day after day. I’ve got the knowledge that the U.S. military does not properly re-assimilate or care for veterans, resulting in proportionally more deaths by suicide, and I have guilt that the people who read this for mental illness knowledge, community, or solace are getting none of those things today because I’m having a crisis.

And I’m one of the lucky ones.

There are days when I don’t know where to turn, how to cope, or how to move forward. Today is one of those days. Today I feel damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

I just finished reading Lindy West’s The Witches are Coming, and near the end she addresses this very fatigue with a droplet of hope in regards to all the exhausting current issues we face.

Build it into your day. Every day you call. Every day you write a letter. Every march you march. Tax yourself. Protect your community. If you’re waiting for a grown-up to come fix it, stop. Be your own grown-up. Be your own president.

[…]

“…this world is beautiful and worth saving. Do not despair. Despair is the death of action. Go, act, fight.”

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West, p. 231

There is always a day, crystalline, tantalizing, diminishing behind us, that was just before the point of no return. When we knew, but we didn’t act. If only we could go back. Well, today is that day. Tomorrow is that day.

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West, p. 257

I’m surrounded by rich, white people. I am a rich, white people. My surroundings are disillusioned and inappropriately calm, and I do not accept it. Sometimes I need a day to grapple with both my own demons and current events, and while today is that day, tomorrow is another, another chance to restart, redirect, recalibrate, refresh the fuel to fight.

cousins @ 2017 DC Women’s March

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Productivity
Mental Health: Suicide Looming
Mental Health: Spiral


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping

First of all, are you okay?! I know a lotta people drink to excess on New Year’s Eve, although of course ole Bummed Out Bailey isn’t condoning boozin’. ;) If you’re horizontal or, like, sort of propped up somewhere on a mountain of pillows like a limp, bleary-eyed Raggedy Ann* reading this on your phone or laptop, welcome. You belong here. Hello.

It’s strange to think it’s 2020 and, while I have no recollection of so many people being hype about the decade changing to 2010, wooo! New decade! Who are you? Why are you the way you are? What are you doing on this earth? Is this too deep for New Year’s Day?

Okay.

Let me dial it back a bit.

While we should be checking in with ourselves regularly throughout the year, the New Year is a common time to take stock of health, relationships, and quality of life. I don’t want to be prescriptive – the self check-ins can be on whatever you find to be a pillar in your life.

As 2019 came to a close I was racing to create a sustainable, yet maximally productive work calendar for January. Because I’m a writer and work from home (aside from Tidy B Organizing), there’s a lot of space for workflow to go awry, veer off course, and then wreck into a wall of general life admin and minutiae, AKA unpaid domestic labor and it’s invisible friend, emotional labor, among other things. I’ve found that, if you’re not disciplined with your time, it disappears and you have no idea where it went. I start some laundry and cook breakfast and answer emails and buy birthday cards and order flowers for a friend and go to my psychiatrist and call health insurance to sort out a bill and coordinate how to pay tuition online and do some yoga and file papers and order toilet paper and q-tips on Amazon, and, and, and… the day is over. “The day got away from me,” as they say. I’ve also found that, like a gas disseminates throughout a room and its particles expand to fill any size space, days are the same: If you’re not almost militant about your time, even a small list can fill your day the same way a big list would’ve with its necessitated, more tightly managed time. I hope that analogy makes sense. Science. I do not know how to science.

When I was active in Junior League, I was lucky to work with and get to know young people who’d rolled out of the NYC foster care system. We worked on all kinds of life skills like resumés, writing thank you notes, and how to (proverbially) balance a checkbook. There’s one session that stuck with me and taught me something, too: goal mapping. If you don’t know, goal mapping is essentially figuring out how to get from where you are, currently, to where you want to be, using short term goals (chewable bites) that propel you toward your end game. This can apply to any goals: professional, emotional, physical, personal, anything.

For instance, I want to publish a book about my family, centered around my brother, Alex, right? So, my goal starting place would be an unpublished writer, and goal finish line is to be a published book author. That’s a huge goal, and can feel insurmountable. However, if it’s broken up into real time action items, you can see and track your progress.

To publish a book I must structure my time in a way that prioritizes prolific writing. Then, I must be a diligent time keeper, and crank out, say, 500 words of quality writing on each “writing day.” Once I reach 100 pages, I can begin searching for an agent to represent me. I research agents, identify who I might work well with and who might be interested in my subject matter, then I begin shaping a proposal. I write and triple edit query letters to agents and attach the strongest 50 pages of my book (so far). I then create a spreadsheet to track every agent I’ve queried and when, so I know when is an appropriate time to follow up, and also track which queries have been rejected or unanswered. Supposing I get an agent, the first round of edits begins while I continue writing the rest of the book. The agent gives me feedback, and I edit accordingly. We go back and forth until we’re both satisfied with the content. Then, the agent begins shopping my book to editors at publishing houses. Once they’ve found a good match and I’m on board, the second round of edits begins, this time with the editor at the publishing house. Like the agent and I will have, the editor and I will go back and forth, too, again until all are satisfied. Then, the jacket design occurs, followed by printing and marketing. There is then perhaps a book tour, if applicable, and privately hosted book parties. Bam. PULITZER.

I’m not going to crank out my magnum opus prioritizing cleaning over writing over and over with the mindset of “Oh, I’ll get to writing [XY date].” I went to a writer’s conference in early December and one of the panelists said something in regards to writing that really resonated with me: don’t fetishize large chunks of time. If you have ten, fifteen minutes here and there, snag them and put them toward your goal, whatever it may be. While it’d be a blast if all goals could be accomplished in a cozy cabin in Vermont with nothing but solitude and time, it’s likely not gonna happen that way. I’ve been a huge perp of this and continue to be so, thinking “oh, well, the day got away from me so I guess I’ll just [something that’s not goal-oriented] now.”

I know that this is all dramatically compounded for parents, especially those of young children, and even more so for those who both parent and work a 9-5. For you, I recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert or listening to her podcast “Magic Lessons.” She’s got a Delilah vibe while dishing out actionable inspiration items. I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert to anyone, but most especially those who feel trapped in a vicious cycle financially, professionally, emotionally, etc. She will pry and pop you right out of that rock and hard place.

Goal mapping is fairly turnkey in practice. One of the young people I worked with wanted to be an EMT. Now, go easy on me because I’m not as learned on EMTs as I am about writers, but take this process, for example: you are not an EMT, but you’d like to be one. In order to be one, you have to take courses, but in order to take courses, you have to test in to qualify. In order to test, you have to study. How long do you need to study? How many hours a day/week can you contribute to studying? Do you have to buy materials to study? Do you have money to study? Once these questions are answered, the mapping begins.

  1. Save money to buy materials to study for test
  2. Buy needed materials
  3. Draft achievable schedule for study hours
  4. Be diligent and stick to study schedule
  5. Take test until test is passed
  6. Begin courses

That’s not where becoming an EMT ends, of course, but do you see how I broke that part into chewable pieces? If you can check off one of those small items at a time, you’ll be making progress that you’ll actually be able to see. The steps can be as minuscule as you like. You know yourself best and what will or won’t overwhelm you, and the goal is success, right? If your map takes longer than another’s, it doesn’t matter. Progress is progress.

The same approach can work toward things like running a marathon, saving for a vacation, going to grad school, paying off a debt, even building a friendship. Although, if you’re using methodology to build a friendship maybe don’t tell that person, because then that person may think you’re a robot and ditch you. And if you get pegged as a robot, I don’t know how to goal map your way out of that. If you gave me some time to think about it, though…

Anyway.

We all have things that we want in life. Sometimes, when I’m walking around with my headphones on, I find myself visualizing personal ideals over and over. It’s inspiring to be able to see how to get there quite literally written out step by step. It makes something seemingly insurmountable seem achievable.

As the New Year begins, and resolutions have perhaps been milling about your brain, consider goal mapping. It not only might help you get to where you want to go, it also might alleviate the sense of failure regarding resolutions that’ve gone off the rails. If you blow whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, you know where to start again. You’ve got a literal map!

In 2020 I’m going to finish my book manuscript. I graduate in May and will be getting a typical job after that, making it harder to focus on writing, so I plan to use the privilege of my writing-focused spring semester to crank out as much as possible with fiercely protected writing blocks of time and, as I mentioned before, stolen moments. I’m fashioning the schedule now, and look forward to following my map to completion.

Happy New Year to you, and happy goal mapping. I’d love to hear about what you’re mapping for 2020.

*Honestly, Raggedy Ann is the rudest name ever. Really, Edwardian guy? You couldn’t have come up with a nicer name? What was wrong with just Ann? Why you gotta make her raggedy?


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Becoming You (This is Not a Maxi Pad Commercial)
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: Productivity


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