Archive for January, 2013

Option Paralysis 2 I am swimming in to-do lists and quite sure I’m on the verge of drowning due to option paralysis. I had always thought my best friend coined that phrase, but alas I was able to find it in Urban Dictionary.  It has always been such a great way to describe how I often feel; when faced with so many choices/options I get overwhelmed and in not knowing where to start – I just don’t.

Apparently I am not alone, as many people feel overwhelmed and inundated with “options” these days. I’m sure the ebb and flow of technology and all that can be achieved at a moment’s notice on the interwebs has aided in this phenomenon. Robert M Brecht, Ph.D. writes that “psychological research over the last forty or so years has established the correlation between providing choice and increases in intrinsic motivation, perceived control, task performance and satisfaction with life. […] There comes a point when the choices available to us become counterproductive.” More of his conclusions can be found in his blog post “Consumer Marketing: We All Want Choices… or Do We?” Another blogger, M. Farbman, had this trouble in youth when going to Baskin-Robbins – 31 Flavors – the perfect analogy in the blog “Option Paralysis.” Although it must be harder now, as my last count put them somewhere over 57 flavors.

My most pressing issue: I’ve recently been served – no, not by a crowd of dancing teenagers – rather, with an eviction notice (again?!?! That’s another story). This is due to my recent working cessation while dealing with severe anxiety and depression, sprinkled with this awesome nervous system disorder of Fibromyalgia. I have been trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the upcoming homeless horizon that I am staring at like a sun, burning holes into my retinas. I had hoped that I could get assistance from New Directions, an amazing organization whose mission “is to empower veterans and facilitate their successful return to families and society.” They helped me get into the apartment I am in now when I had accepted a local job; now not working, I am in more need than ever. Unfortunately, due to funding constraints they are no longer able to assist me.

I am seeking help from several other organizations, but I have a feeling I will still need to leave the apartment I am in for different accommodations. I am finding that a room, or even a shelter is going to be difficult as I have my companion dog who has been with me for three years and is not able to be with me at most of the options I have; I cannot give her up as she is the only family I have locally and she relies on me as much as I do on her. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to find accomodations that are better for her, with a yard she can run in and not be so confined.

Logic surfaces from time to time, through the Fibro Fog and Anxiety (a steel wool-like cloud that ceases most logic, clarity and cognitive thought), and I realize whatever my next place of residence is, I will have to pack up what remains from my last move and put it in storage. It will be much easier to go from place to place in search of the right one with just my dog, my car, a duffle of clothes, and an air mattress. Easier said than done, however, as money, a truck and movers are required to facilitate this… oh – and a storage unit. I look around my apartment and shudder to think about packing …again. It’s so time consuming and energy sapping, but it has to happen. There’s laundry to do, dishes to wash, clothes to weed through to lighten the load followed by the subsequent donation to Good Will. When I get overwhelmed I sit on the couch and watch TV; God help me if there’s a marathon on, whether it be Law and Order, The Matrix, the Alien Quadrilogy, Family Feud… enough is enough. BACK TO WORK!!! My body hurts, my mind hurts, my heart is uncertain and the World feels like it’s closing in around me – but I must do SOMETHING.

I’ve never given myself a solid routine to maintain my own life – even a simple routine for when I wake-up or go to bed. Those little things seem so easy …and yet go undone. My mind freezes and my body follows suit until some day or hour or minute finally comes when I know that there is no other way but to act. It’s that last minute action that has always saved me, but it would be so much healthier, I am sure, if I could just learn to get my shit together on a regular basis. My success at last minute projects has done nothing but give me negative reinforcement of my bad habits. I hope and hope that I can start giving myself structure but something always gets in the way, the flow of my day-to-day always changes, I think I get ahead and an unexpected expense happens, things are swell and then I have a nervous breakdown. For the love of Pete – it’s always something – my life in retrospect seems so chaotic. Is it because I am better suited to a structured life, a life with fewer options, less choices? The military was perfect for me – but that, of course, is no more I am sad to say and I must live with that – or not, I suppose.

I know I’m not the only one going through these experiences, but more often than not – I feel that I am.

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HYE 2013According to Wikipedia, a veritable wealth of reliability, “88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.” I stopped making Resolutions a long time ago, not because it’s a bad idea to challenge yourself, but because I always seem to fail at them. This year, I’m trying something a little different – my solution to the Resolution – psychology and maybe a touch of reverse psychology.

First, let’s review 2012 for those of you keeping track at home. It started well with eating better in an attempt to lose the weight I had previously lost and regained, I quit smoking (for a time), I fell in love, I learned first-hand about Baby Mama Drama, I got heat exhaustion at work, I got engaged to an old flame, I cut off my hair for Locks of Love, I got laid off from work and went on unemployment, my dog got fleas for over a month, I fell out of love. Unemployment got messed up for six weeks and I couldn’t pay my rent and started to get evicted. The VA finally approved my disability for Fibromyalgia, but lowered one of my other ratings. I broke up with my fiancé, missed my Grandmother’s wedding, got a job offer in Los Angeles, moved to Los Angeles and started a new job. Stress started to weasel its way back into my life again and led to severe Anxiety and Depression like I had not known in a long time, I stopped working and started to go to more doctors and get on more medications. I started a blog, I started a Twitter account, I started to wonder if my day-to-day had changed forever. I ended 2012 not wanting to be anywhere, not wanting to see anyone and not knowing what to do – about anything.

So here we are, January 2013, and I have decided that rather than make resolutions, I will state a few things that I don’t want to do this year – some I truly hope not to happen, others I think that if I fail at them, it will be a good thing. Here goes: I’m not looking for a relationship, I don’t want to torture myself trying to quit smoking, I don’t want to keep feeling useless and afraid of myself, I don’t want to get fatter, I don’t want to be destitute and wonder when my next meal will be or where I will live. I won’t go off my meds because I forget or think I am better without, I will try not to sweat the small stuff, and I’ll try not to forget about consequences and what leads to them. I don’t want to miss out on family gatherings, I will not rely on others for my well-being, I won’t overwhelm myself with tasks and impossible goals and I won’t forget that I am only human.

Aside from a scant number of references of theological beginnings of New Year Resolutions, Wikipedia cites a Wall Street Journal article, “Blame it on the Brain” by the controversial journalist/blogger Jonah Lehrer focused on “The Science Behind Failed Resolutions.” It explains how the portion of the brain that controls willpower, the frontal cortex, “is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.” An overload of tasks and subsequently a lack of willpower (giving into temptation) seems inevitable when you set multiple resolutions for yourself at once; you may believe you are trying to improve yourself but instead you are setting yourself up for failure. Pace yourself, research what it takes to form habits and plan how you will reward yourself. Give yourself enough time to attain the result you are looking for before moving onto the next goal.

In the past, I’ve started eating better, quit smoking, started exercising and maybe even threw in one or two other behaviors that were not my usual habit. That is why I have failed. Knowledge is power – and learning more about the brain and how it works, not to mention more about my specific disabilities, may give me the knowledge to harness my willpower – or at the very least, give me a better understanding of how to get my hands on some.