on resolutions and executive dysfunction

I know, I know—writing the first post for a new blog on January 1st and writing about resolutions?

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Knowing how overdone this is, though, I’ve decided to give this a try anyway because I’ve got a particular perspective that I think might be helpful for anyone who might read this—and, really, I’m mostly doing this for myself because I have a lot of feelings to process.

But first, a bit of a context regarding my perspective.

(cw: mentions of mental illness, including suicidal ideation, and frank discussions of life with executive dysfunction)

My mental health journey has been a literal journey—and, while I am willing to describe it in plenty of detail, today just calls for the SparkNotes. After over a year of struggling with depression and suicidal ideation, I was diagnosed with depression my senior year of college (in spring of 2011). After several years of therapy and some relapses, I evened out enough for my therapist and me to realize that I also have hypomanic tendencies—which I rejected for a while, but eventually learned to accept—so my diagnosis was revised to bipolar type II when I was in graduate school for the second time (in the fall of 2016). My struggles with executive dysfunction, as well as some details from childhood evaluations where Asperger’s had been tossed around as a potential diagnosis, have led us to determine that maybe I have been struggling with ADHD the whole time.

So, what does that mean for me and resolutions?

Well, for starters, they just don’t fucking work for me. Literally every time I have attempted a new venture via resolutions in my adult life, I’ve been off the wagon before my birthday (in late April). I have spent over a decade berating myself about it, too; most of my friends have heard me beat myself up about my inability to follow-through and/or my lack of willpower.

Turns out 1) I’m not alone and 2) there are ways to make it work. (Here are two of my favorite articles on the subject, both from the life-changing ADDitude.)

Knowing all this, though, I still feel the pressure to set some resolutions and I am worried I’ll just pick things that are unattainable (again). But I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, and I’m trying to put together a list of 30 things I want to do while I’m 30 (since I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday this year, v’ezrat HaShem), so I ended up settling on three things I am trying to do this year.

NOTE: These are vague on purpose. One of my biggest issues with goal-setting is that I become unnecessarily precise about them and then, once I screw up once, I give up and stew in my perceived failure. (Example: If I say I’m going to read for pleasure every day between 4:00 and 5:00PM, and one day it’s 4:15PM and I have not yet started, I’m going to decide that I have failed at this and not try it again.) It’s not my most logical tendency and I’m working on it, but I recognize that it is a thing I have a tendency to do and I am trying to fight it.

1. Write something every day (except Shabbat). I know that, if I ever want to actually finish any of the novel drafts I have started, I have to make writing a habit—so this is going to be step one. This year, I am hoping to spend some time writing on this blog, some time working on the writing projects I have begun, and then (eventually) some time working on my dissertation proposal and the dissertation itself. The hope is that, because I will be alternating between kinds of writing, I will be able to keep it new and shiny enough to keep me interested.

2. Be better about money. I actually subdivided this into a lot of smaller goals that I hope will be helpful. One of the things I’m planning on doing is cooking more, with the long-term dream of being able to meal plan in order to both save money and eat better. I am also going to tally up my food delivery expenses for 2018 (y-i-k-e-s) and set that number as my savings goal for this year. I am also erasing my card numbers from every single app on my phone so that it is more difficult to order things, hoping that this will help me curb the impulsive spending. Finally, I am taking any extra money that comes my way (including unexpected freelancing, which I got a fair amount of this year) and tossing it into savings. The long-term goal will be for me to have at least one summer where I don’t have to work, but this summer will not be it—the goal for this summer is to not fall behind on payments between my summer job and the savings that I will hopefully have amassed over the next six months.

3. Self-validate more. Because we have been looking at our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator results at work since the start of this school year, I spent some time looking at resolutions by MBTI type. (Here‘s my fave.) Since I switch back and forth between INFJ and INFP, and I am mostly a turbulent personality (aka not assertive), I looked at both options. The INFJ resolution in the linked article, “Step into your power,” is something that I actually started working on last year—I started speaking up more at work, I really came into my own as a leader in our building, and I joined a really exciting research team and joined them in giving a talk about our preliminary findings. So I turned to the INFP resolution, “Take more initiative,” and was startled by the last sentence in that little blurb: “Trust yourself.” Anyone who knows me knows that indecisive could very well be my middle name; I crowdsource everything from what I want to have for dinner to the name of this blog to the contents of emails I send to professors. I’m better at second-guessing myself than I am at doing anything else—so my goal is going to be to strive for my own approval, not anyone else’s.

We’ll see how this ends up working out… but, for now, enjoy this painfully accurate exploration of MBTI resolutions (and their outcomes), which makes me laugh every time, and feel free to share thoughts about resolutions.

Welcome to 2019!

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