Those of you who’ve been reading my recent blog posts will know that I have a series of mental illnesses that have the tendency to fuck me up sometimes. Of course, ADHD is the obvious one, but I’ve also got a bit of chronic anxiety and possibly depression. I’m always hesitant to say I have any of the more serious mental health problems as I’ve never been diagnosed by a professional. I think it’s dangerous to rely on self-diagnoses when addressing your illnesses so those of you who also struggle with this kind of stuff—do as I say, not as I do—go find a psychiatrist.
Anyhoo, thanks to my chronic anxiety, I have this pattern that pops up all the time when I need to be adulting. Like—you know—during tax season or whenever it’s time to apply for scholarships or just when I have to decide what to make for dinner. Because I have underlying chronic anxiety, my default mode is to stress out about these options, so I end up procrastinating and putting off dealing with these stressful things, which of course, leads to more anxiety.
The most infuriating part of this whole situation is just how easy it is for me once I just buckle down and take care of stuff. This past week I forced myself to make two phone calls over the course of ten minutes—and that was all I needed! Obviously, there’s still other stuff to take care of—adulting never stops—but by interfacing with problems I’d been worrying about for months, I managed to negate a ton of anxiety all at once—which I’ll admit is a great feeling.
But this got me thinking about all the other habits which I know are going to mess me up, and yet I do them anyway. You know, things like drinking coffee later than 5, not bringing my water jug to school or work, skipping breakfast, staying up past ten-thirty on a school night, or the dozens of other things I do on a regular basis despite my knowing better.
I sometimes wonder if we humans just need some kind of vice to struggle with. It seems like, as a collective, we trade one addiction for another—we go from alcohol to caffeinated and sugary soft drinks. You’ve got companies on one hand peddling the kinds of food that lead to obesity and folks on the other using body-shaming to pressure people into expensive health fads.
I sometimes criticize other people for being self-destructive towards themselves or the species or the planet—but I do the exact same kind of things. The unique thing about humans is we’re capable of choosing to go against our default inclinations, but we still have those inclinations. Rationally I know I’ll feel better in the long term if I drink water or cook a healthy meal—but intrinsically, I don’t wanna do that. I want to drink something sugary and order a pizza that’ll give me a stomach ache six hours later.
And beyond my duties to myself, there are duties to my family or the social order or the well-being of the planet—there are things I know would be better for the climate, like going plastic-free or not eating meat, but I don’t do them because at the end of the day, I just don’t feel like it.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time I procrastinate on a responsibility to the point that it gives me more anxiety—I keep thinking that I’ve learned my lesson, but the reality is going against your inclinations is a lot of work. Like, a constant amount of work to fight against your own inclinations.
Also, I think we need to have more patience for older people who don’t fight against certain inclinations—especially those involving ecological responsibilities which can be more complicated and nuanced. Most people who have been around for longer have decided what they are or are not capable of caring about—plastic bags may not be one of those things.
I think that’s why government regulation is one of the few effective ways of reducing things like energy waste or pollution or driving without your seatbelt. You can publish study after study showing why we shouldn’t have cars that get below a certain mileage per gallon of fuel or how not wearing a seatbelt increases your risk of dying in a car crash, but most people don’t care enough to do the responsible thing.
I mean, seatbelts are pretty uncomfortable…
I’m not gonna claim to know where to draw the line when it comes to when government regulation should or should not step in. I think it’s somewhere between the points of whether or not I brush my teeth in the morning and whether or not Amazon is allowed to exploit their workers. But outside of that, you’re not going to get much more progress from a short blog post.