Follow Your Bliss…Differently

December 12, 2018 - 3 and a half years sober
Follow your bliss.

“Follow your bliss.”

I love that phrase, follow your bliss, it came to mind today. It can mean something different for those of us with depressive mental disorders. I don’t follow my bliss all the time because I can’t control if I find bliss or not on a daily basis. Sometimes one thing that frequently makes me happy will be completely joyless and painfully uninteresting on another day. Which is a hindrance for trying to create a life that allows me to follow my bliss in my work. I’m constantly juggling multiple passion projects that are not paying the bills yet but I hope will someday (and definitely would if I could follow that bliss at a steady pace). In the dark days it becomes an intensive challenge to do just the bare minimum needed to survive let alone put extra energy into a passion project; which by definition requires a store of passionate energy that I don’t always have. Consistency is really hard when I don’t consistently have enough energy to make it through the day.

Following my bliss has come to mean not giving up. It means picking my goals back up when I have the energy to do it. It means choosing to spend some energy on my bliss, even if that requires me to slack on basic tasks sometimes. I have limited energy, but I have even less bliss. It’s a shame (but not shameful!) to have joyful energetic hours that aren’t used to get through all of my to-do list.

And it’s not even a big list. Maybe I need to go to the grocery store, do the dishes, clean and he dog poop off the patio, take down the laundry that’s hanging outside (not even fold it just take it down), make dinner, take the dog for a walk, take out the trash, do the dishes after dinner, and take a shower. That is usually too much for me to get done in one day.

Rarely does the energy or feeling of passion last an entire day, I’m confident in saying that it never lasts a whole day. Maybe the joy lasts, but the energy will not. Maybe I make it to the grocery store, but the grocery store can cause over stimulation and sensory overload is always exhausting. Something unexpected can trigger a trauma memory, maybe not even a visceral memory but a body memory or an emotional flashback, and my mood slips down. I might dissociate or struggle to concentrate. Which means I’ll waste time or even lose time, turning a trip that without dissociation would take an hour into a dissociative three hour waste of time.

At the end of it I will either be unable to make a decision and buy nothing even when there’s nothing to eat at home or more commonly I’ll end up spending too much. Then by the time I get home I’m either depressed and exhausted or anxious and afraid. I might get a migraine afterwards. The same kind of unpredictable mix of exhaustion and anxiety can happen if I try to clean the whole house or put away all the laundry at once. It sucks, but if I push myself through those tasks, as mundane and simple they may seem, I will pay a price later.

If I feel joyful, I don’t necessarily have more energy, just more joy. Those days I try to follow my bliss which means less chores get done but I’m able to write a blog post or put up some Christmas decorations. I have to be ok with that meaning the patio won’t get cleaned and I’m not getting to the grocery store or taking down the laundry.

I might say yes to helping my husband with some things when he’s working overtime, and I say yes with complete earnestness and confidence that I can send that email or organize that countertop. But I might not get to it, not because I was lying when I said yes, not because I didn’t want to, and not even because I forgot about it (which does happen), but because I became different after task number 3 and couldn’t complete the list. Maybe I’ll be back to an equilibrium by 10pm and try to get more done, but I better get to bed at a decent hour or it’ll set up the next day to be off kilter.

I even have to watch when doing something that I’m having fun with. Maybe I go to a concert on the beach with my husband and a couple friends, the next day or two I will be even less productive than usual, it’s a trade I have to make if I want to enjoy some life.

When I have to work the next day, I can’t go do something the night before. Even if I really want to. Even if I’m lonesome because my husband is working overtime and that thing to do at night is go to our friend’s birthday dinner when Alejandro gets out of work. Those are times when I have no choice but to not follow the bliss. It’s not like I’d be out all night, I’m sober so there’s no worries there, and I would probably be in bed by the time I’d normally go to sleep on a work night. The energy required just to enjoy myself and stay present and grounded is so much that anything planned for the following day would be really difficult.

Following my bliss might mean spending an evening making crafts because it’s making me smile. It might mean leaving a mess from the crafts because I hit my limit and can’t finish cleaning up until the next day, I have to give myself that space because if I don’t follow my bliss when I can, finding bliss only gets harder the more that time goes on.

I’m following my bliss when I can. If that makes me seem irresponsible, then so be it. What other people think it means to be a productive member of society will never change the way I experience life. I don’t care whether or not other people think I deserve some of the things I have. I don’t care if strangers and acquaintances approve of how I spend my time. They don’t know what it’s like to live in this body. They don’t have the same chronic pain and fatigue, persistent discomfort, migraines, breathing challenges, and digestive problems. They don’t have the same PTSD, CPTSD, or depression. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of struggling to make ends meets. But I’m more tired of not letting myself follow my bliss. I don’t care anymore if someone believes that I, as a person in poverty, should have a worse living situation than a person who is able-bodied and neuro-typical. I’m going to keep choosing to be happy in the moment when it’s possible even if it’s irresponsible. Not all of us can count on being able to enjoy life when that project is done or when that goal is finally reached. Some of us know that we may only have one bright moment of joy in a thousand hours of darkness.

We all deserve to follow our bliss, even if some of us have to do it a little differently.


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  1. Alice Lynn on December 13, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Keep following your bliss, as Joseph Campbell advised. I am so sorry for your struggles but also proud that you continue to fight for that “bliss”, that energy, that person you are most truly. You are a warrior!

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