WHAT A YES-AND-YET LIST IS AND WHY IT’S PART OF MY SELF CARE ROUTINE

What began as a standard, to-do list in the weeks before moving to a new city over a year ago, has now become a means of self-care and a reminder that, yes, I, Rhianna, can do this.

I don’t know if it’s my blindness, my anxiety, or just being an “adult” trying to figure out “life,” but I have a heck of a time giving credit where credit’s due … But only when it comes to myself.

In my brain, success never comes through my own skills and determination, but because of the support I’m given by friends, family and professionals. Somehow, the support I receive invalidates my contributions to succeed, and thus, I can’t take credit for it or feel a sense of accomplishment in my own success.

Short story long? If I get help with a project, I can’t be proud of myself because I didn’t do it independently.

I can’t take any credit.

Y’all know that I love a good list. I make them for everything—grocery shopping, house cleaning, which items are for sale and which are going to the thrift shop, planning blog posts, so it wasn’t a surprise then, that when I decided to move to a new city, I started a list of all the things I needed to get done. Here are a few of the first things that I wrote down:

  • Find somewhere to live on the island
  • Give month’s notice to landlords
  • Apply for dog license
  • Book hair appointment
  • Sign rental agreement and addendum
  • Send damage deposit
  • Send code for door keypad
  • Write 2020 review
  • Make eggplant parmesan quesadillas
  • Return immersion blender

Looking at a physical list of the tasks made me feel organized and ready for the challenge. Now that I knew what needed to get done, it was less overwhelming to do those things. What had felt like an impossible task in my brain—moving to a new city alone—was now doable because it was broken down into little steps. And one by one, I checked them off.

That’s how my Yes-and-Yet list was born.

But it soon became more than that.

As a record-keeping fanatic, I knew I couldn’t simply check off an item, delete it and move on. It would be as though I were deleting the very thing I’d just accomplished. And with this move marking such a significant time in my life, I knew that I’d want to look back and reminisce. But not to pat myself on the back and think, “wow, look how productive you were,” but to realize that even in times of pressure and chaos, I am capable. It was comforting after a day of planning and prep to lie in bed and review the list and know that I would be okay. With every task I checked off, I was proving to myself that I could make it on my own and follow my dream.

So, after settling into my new house, I kept my list going. And a year later, I still add daily to that original list.

Though it began as a list to organize one specific event, the Yes-and-Yet list has become my master list of everything going on in my life. From booking medical appointments to washing my dishes to when I’m expected to receive Amazon packages, anything that requires my attention goes on the list.

But why write a post about my Yes-and-Yet list when to-do lists of all manner are standard in nearly everyone’s daily life?

Here’s why.

Because I have spent years delving the depths of cyberspace to find a system of keeping myself organized so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy, and coming up blank. I’ve downloaded dozens of apps, calendars and planners, hoping that one of them would be “it.”

But it never was.
So I created my own.

My Yes-and-Yet list as my master list because it contains everything from all parts of my life. But one could argue and say that in it being a masterlist, it isn’t organized and overwhelms more than it helps.

But there is one major advantage to the master list and it’s the one reason above all else why I keep it:

Because when I feel like a failure, I get to gaze upon page after page of things that I’ve accomplished, and feel a sense of pride in myself and what I’ve done.

Sure, some of my yets and yeses are basic, daily living tasks like washing dishes (AND putting them away) and vacuuming the living room. But for someone who struggles with mental health, these can often become insurmountable challenges. And on those days, seeing even one task in the Yes column, makes a huge difference in my mental health.

It’s why I write everything down in the Yet column, so that on days when I have very little energy and am unfeeling unproductive, I can sift through the manageable tasks, check off one or two, and feel proud of myself.

It isn’t always easy, though. Living in the society that we do, there’s a constant pressure to be productive and achieve a certain level of success in each passing moment. But the simple truth is that everyone’s definition of productive is different, and that’s okay.

For me, folding and hanging all my clean laundry is a big win, whereas to others, it wouldn’t even make the list. But I’ve always believed in celebrating the little victories, because for someone out there, it’s not little. And every victory is worth celebrating.

All the thoughts spinning around inside my head don’t feel so overwhelming when one by one, I can write them down, and one by one, I can add them to the “Yes” list.

Tell me, what method do you use to keep yourself organized? Let me know in the comments.

FIGHTING THE FOG I CANNOT SEE

It’s a question that hangs over my head like fog whenever the first symptoms start to emerge.

Am I depressed again?

In this post, I talk about the what ifs that surround me when it comes to a potential cancer diagnosis. I monitor symptoms, research every possible cause, and panic at the inevitable truth—I have cancer.

But that hasn’t come true, and I’m thankful for that.

But what does seem to arise every few months is a bout of depression. I monitor symptoms, research methods of coping and regaining energy, and then succumb to the inevitable—I’m depressed.

Every person’s journey with mental health is unique. Each story deserves to be heard and each person needs to be loved. And as I tell you a bit of where I’m at with my mental health, I ask for that love and grace to be shown to me and everyone in the comments.

My first sign of a depressive episode is always isolating myself from friends and family. That study session at the coffee shop? Sorry, I’m busy. Want to go for a walk tonight? Can’t, I’m not feeling well. No matter the event, I find a way to stay home, buried in my blankets and senseless entertainment. Then comes the sadness that I can’t process—where did this come from? I wasn’t sad last week. The sadness turns to anger, and the anger tries to find an outlet. And finally, I put the pieces together: I’m depressed.

But now what?

I first recognized my depression while living on campus during university. It was there that I began going to therapy on a weekly basis and working through my struggles. I still see my therapist on a monthly basis, five years later. And while she’s given me many tools to manage my mental health, I have to resign myself to the reality that, to some extent, I will always have mental health challenges.

But over time, the way my struggles manifest has changed.

I still isolate. I still get sad and angry and hide within myself. But if this past week has shown me anything, it’s that as I change, my symptoms do, too.

Tonight, I was on the phone with my fiancé when I asked out of nowhere: “Is something wrong with me?”

Bless him for knowing what I meant, because that question is as vague as they come. I was referring to my headaches, my nausea, my inability to sleep through the night, and my preference for laying on the couch watching Netflix. I was talking about the lethargy, the realization that I don’t want to do those things that I find fulfilling, and how all I want to do is cry. My voice never got above a loud whisper as even talking took more energy than usual.

“I don’t know, honey,” he said. “Maybe you’re depressed.”

“I don’t want to be depressed,” I said, almost in tears.

I don’t. No one does. Being depressed is awful; if the symptoms we experience aren’t hard enough, add to it the societal stigma associated with mental illness which makes it difficult for many to reach out for help, and our depression is just compounded.

But it may be happening again. And as much as I may fight it, I may be in the early grips of a depressive episode.

I do have the tools to work through it. I have my therapist, my support network, and my antidepressant medication which helps to keep me stable. But nothing is foolproof, and even with all those measures in place, I still struggle.

And I’m scared. I’ve been here before and it’s a scary place to be.

But as I stare down the barrel of yet another depressive episode, I’m trying to remember three things:

  • It won’t last forever.
  • It’s okay to feel what I feel.
  • I have my God and my people to walk alongside me, no matter what comes.