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Finding A Way Forward Pt. 2

Positive Masculinity Contributor – Maxwell Hayden

Content Writer | Politics, Philosophy & Economics Student







After every therapy session I attended for the first few months, I would walk away with a weird mixture of gratitude and dissatisfaction. I could tell that I was making good, incremental progress on improving the physical symptoms I was experiencing, yet I wondered when we would finally get to the really hard-hitting stuff that would change my life for the better. One particularly difficult session led me to a sudden and startling revelation: therapy wasn’t going to fix me. How could it? I spent an hour a week in therapy, and 167 more on my own. If I was going to get better, I needed to rely on someone I had been trying to avoid this whole time: myself.


Therapy is a wonderful but limited tool. It can be useful to help guide those aforementioned 167 hours, certainly, but there are other resources and practices we can utilize in a similar way. I want to talk through some of the tactics I use to help myself during really taxing stretches of life so that you can think about similar experiences you might be able to foster for yourself.


Reading


I have struggled for my whole life with feeling unproductive and uninspired relative to my peers. It’s easy for me to lose sight of the things I care most about, and without any structure or discipline the issue tends to compound. I find it’s important to remember that no one has ever had an entirely unique experience, and as such there’s almost certainly someone out there who’s already worked through a similar situation to yours. Finding a self-help book or two can feel awkward and clunky at first, but emulating someone else’s formula is often far simpler than reinventing the wheel, especially at first. For me, that book is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; author Stephen Covey lays out a wonderful framework for prioritizing the things that matter to you and setting meaningful goals. Spending a little while exploring the local library can only go so wrong, but I’ve found it particularly effective to ask for recommendations from friends or people online who seem to have gone through hardship similar to your own.





Writing


When I was in the tenth grade, I was bullied by a few of my female classmates; at its worst, I was sexually harassed during one of my classes. For a long time, I didn’t tell a soul about what had happened. How was I supposed to explain to anyone that I, a 6’3” white man, was being pushed around by a pair of smaller women? Would anyone take me seriously? I repressed those experiences to the point where I had all but forgotten about their existence— that is, until we were asked to write a personal essay for a class during my freshman year of college. I will never forget when I made the decision to put those lost feelings into words for the first time. My hands were shaking and my breathing was shallow. Yet once I had it all laid out in front of me, I felt an immense amount of relief. If I couldn’t tell anyone about these traumas, I could at least take control of the narrative and frame it for myself in a space outside of my head. Where reading can provide you with an outside perspective on your issue, writing can help you become an outside perspective, observing and retelling your own story as you learn more about yourself and deal with the aftermath of those experiences.


Calendaring


Honestly, I’m still working on doing this one as regularly as I would like. There are so many advantages to keeping a daily, weekly, and/or monthly calendar, depending on your preferences or what exactly you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re struggling with motivation, I think there is something intrinsically rewarding about being able to take a task and check it off your list every day. For similar reasons, calendars are also great if you’re left feeling like your days are too empty— I’ve even gone so far as to make retroactive to-do lists just to show myself how much work I put into a day, whether that effort is school/job-based, social, or otherwise. They’re a great tool if little events tend to slip your mind, or if you’re forgetful about long projects (this is the #1 reason I started, and it’s been a total lifesaver). And that’s only scratching the surface of what’s possible— with a little experimentation, you’d be hard-pressed not to find some other handy tool to take advantage of for yourself.


Drink Water, Get Fresh Air & Exercise


I saved the corny one for last! There’s a reason that all of these points have been beaten to death: they’re fundamental on a biological/hormonal level for both your health and happiness. I know I’m not the only one who completely lost sight of all of these things through the pandemic and loathes the thought of working out to begin with, so to those of you out there dealing with similar apathies, I would start with daily half-hour walks and carrying a water bottle around the house. If you want to build from there, great, and if not, you’ve at least found some easy regularity to rely on even when anything more can feel challenging.


At the end of the day, these things and any other advice I could give are far easier said than done. But whether we like it or not, loving yourself has the same implications as loving anyone else, and that means giving yourself your unconditional time and undivided attention when you recognize you need it. Most people are willing to move heaven and earth for their friends, but can’t muster the same motivation to give themselves that same grace— in the long run, this approach will leave you wounded and your friends without a support network. Prioritizing your mental health by incorporating healthy habits into your life, particularly when assisted by a therapist or healthcare professional, is the first and most important step towards being able to give your passions the proper attention they deserve.

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