Pull Those Cognitive Weeds
Last week, I was driving up my street and thought how lovely my lawn looked. Isn't it bright and happy, set against my little house with the cheerful yellow door?
(Spoiler: This is the inspiration for the image you see on the first page of When Mommy Feels Sad...check it out!)
The lawn looks healthy and green, as long as you are positioned a few houses down the street. When you get close, it looks a bit like a mentally ill brain.
My yard is currently home to a lawn full of weeds. There are more weeds and dirt than grass at this point. Sometimes I feel like this is a metaphor for my life.
A few weeks ago, I was mowing our "lawn" and feeling almost enraged at the disastrous state of our yard. I remembered years when our grass was lush and green. Flowers bloomed in pots and planters and the paint on the house was fresh and uncracked. Over many years, we have hosted many lovely parties in our lovely yard.
This is not one of those years.
The story I tell myself about the yard is highly critical and says more about how I'm feeling about myself than about the yard. Do you create similar stories? It's a pretty common mental illness behavior. I slip into cognitive distortions and catastrophic thinking, use lots of extreme words, and can't find a positive spin for anything.
The story I tell myself is that our yard is a wreck because I (alone) have neglected it. If I was more capable, more focused, more "together," then surely I would stay on top of the weeding and the fertilizing and all the yard things.
I believe that anyone who sees the pathetic state of my yard will know that it is I who have failed. This story is generally founded on the notion that if I was a better human being, everything else would be better, too.
The truth is that many factors have influenced the state of my yard. My family has a few big projects that demand most of our free summertime. The yard has not been our priority. I am struggling with depression. Again/still. Colorado is experiencing a drought and we cannot water our lawn as we have in the past. These things add up.
Hold on, because this might come as a shock to some of you (as it did to me): It's okay.
It's okay that I can't do everything all the time.
It's okay that this isn't our season for hosting parties.
It's okay that I mow the weeds instead of pulling them.
It's okay that my lawn leaves a lot to be desired. Most of my neighbors are in the same boat, but even if they weren't - it's okay.
Next time you're looking at someone's lawn over yonder and start wishing that your grass was as green as theirs, here's my advice: stop it.
It doesn't matter what that lawn looks like or how it compares to yours. It doesn't matter if yours is neat and manicured or wild and crazy.
What matters is how you talk to yourself about it. If you don't know the first thing about extending kindness and perspective and grace to yourself, think about how you would coach a friend if he or she started on a self-destructive tirade. Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to a friend.
Being your own friend is quite revolutionary. I highly recommend it.
Are you looking for a great tool that will help you talk about mental illness? When Mommy Feels Sad is an illustrated children's book that teaches about depression and the difficult feelings and experiences that go along with it. Start a conversation about depression with your loved one today.