I am applying for my Masters degree today and it is fucking terrifying.
I have been staring at the ‘Send’ button for hours. I have talked myself out of applying at least 4 times, and I’m probably going to do it 4 more times before I finally just press the damn button. Why is this button so scary? What am I afraid of?
Well the most simple answer is: rejection. I’m afraid I won’t be accepted. I’m afraid they won’t let me in. Or I’m afraid they will let me in and then I’ll feel like I don’t belong there. Something my mother used to say about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have her is clanging around in my brain and refusing to shut up.
A friend once asked me ‘What do you think motivation is?’. I thought it was just something people have, something that magically manifests itself in people who go to the gym regularly, or wake up at 6am every day and make breakfast for their whole family, or learn to play guitar, or don’t use drugs and alcohol to cope with how useless they feel. He replied that motivation is just habit. The more you do something the more you want to do it – become motivated to do it – purely because you’ve already been doing it.
Another friend explained to me that mental illness, at it’s core, corrodes motivation away. It destroys your habits and relationships (which, let’s face it, are just ‘habits with friends’) until your only habit, your only motivation, is to be depressed, anxious, paranoid, angry, or some combination of those. She told me the best way to overcome this is to rebuild the habits – essentially, to fake enjoying the things you used to enjoy until you actually enjoy them. You have to recreate yourself, or create a new version of yourself, by rediscovering what you enjoyed about being alive. In this way, you can keep yourself alive.
When I was a kid, my mother used to take ‘mental health days’, as she would call them. On those days, she would call in sick to work, sit on the couch, eat crisps, watch bad TV, and basically treat herself. When I was a kid I never knew quite what she meant, but to me it seemed clear that she was unwell, that she needed those days in order to function as an adult human. I loved those days with my mom, because I really felt like I was experiencing someone recuperate themselves, and this taught me a lot about what mental illness is and what it looks like and how to deal with it. Now that I’m an adult, I feel like I can really see where she was coming from. This article is kind of about that, and kind of about me.