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Why I Make Resolutions as Someone With a Mental Illness – Even Though I Hate Them

I hate New Year’s resolutions.

I used to participate every year. I’d tell myself I’d eat healthier. I’d exercise more. Maybe I’d finally apply for that job I’d had my eye on for months. I’d travel somewhere exotic. I’d be kinder to myself.

The longest I ever succeeded was three months. Every day for three months I wrote something I liked about myself on the mirror in my bathroom. I used rainbow colored dry-erase pens to write encouragements to overthrow the negative self-talk that comes with depression and anxiety. I started out with mundane comments like, “I have nice eyes,” or, “I’m funny.” The rules were simple: write one thing you like about yourself every day and never repeat the thing that you like. It was horrible but totally worth it in the end. I’ve successfully given myself a long list of qualities I adore to reflect on when I have dark days.

As with every resolution, it didn’t last.

I once wanted to see if I could run a 10 km race. I had three months to prepare and was overweight. When I began training, walking long distances left me out of breath. I started going to the gym four days a week and ran with a friend three days a week. Gradually I added a 6 km run every Saturday morning. Race day came and I completed the course in one hour 38 minutes. I did it! I ran a 10 km race. Then I stopped working out and exercising. I hit my mark and stopped going.

I don’t have a problem with follow through, not exactly. I’ve graduated with two four-year bachelor’s degrees — both took commitment and follow through. I’ve finished writing many articles and a few books over the years. Nothing will test one’s commitment like trying to write a novel! Yet, when it comes to resolutions I can never complete them.

My anxiety takes over and my depression sings back up. They work together to create a soundtrack of unworthiness, the title song, “Why Bother.”

Why bother losing weight when you know you’re just going to get depressed and order take out for a month?

Why bother exercising when you know you’re going to have a spell of being bed-ridden in March where you won’t get out of your pajamas for a month?

Why bother saving money for traveling when you know you’re going to quit your job (again) after a few months?

Then I had a moment of clarity. The reason I set goals isn’t to achieve them forever. My mental illness makes that next to impossible. I set goals and work towards them to point back at things like the 10 km race to prove how amazing and strong I am. I did that. I have a photo and a medal to prove that I ran a race and finished well. I have two degrees that prove I have a brain and something to say. I will not stop making resolutions even though I hate them, because one day I’ll have an entire book full of things I accomplished, and that’s pretty amazing.

Getty image via katflare