Sixty Days and Counting

It’s been a long while since I’ve written a post explaining who I am and my situation, so I’m going to do that before getting into the meat of my post today which, admittedly, is not going to be that long.

My name is Steven and I’m a happily married 47-year-old. Currently I’m on disability due to PTSD and bipolar disorder, but also suffer from borderline personality disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These ailments pop up frequently in this blog as I describe my life in sometimes intimate detail.

A very regularly mentioned aspect of my life is my checklist. I keep this in two Moleskine notebooks, one squared and one lined. In the squared one, I track my daily accomplishments on 21 separate line items. These include taking my medications and my vitals throughout the day, my meals, hygiene, exercise, a daily to-do item (my daily to-do list is comprised of things that aren’t daily occurrences like calling to make doctor’s appointments, cleaning house, etc., and that list is kept in the lined notebook), as well as a few other habitual items that I feel round out my day pretty well. Writing in this blog is one of those items. I also keep track of my vitals – my blood glucose and pressure throughout the day – in the second half of the squared notebook.

This checklist is meant to challenge me, and for the first 27 months of me doing this checklist I was only able to complete full marks on a day’s checklist some 30-odd times. There were long periods that I didn’t feel up to doing everything, and just let some things habitually slide for months at a time. (It is important to note that I take my medication almost religiously, only missing two doses in the past year. The important stuff I’ve been doing.) It’s also showed me that starting in early February, I tend to take time off from the checklist completely, sometimes going into May before picking it back up again. This was a situation that I wanted to avoid this year if I could.

Back on January 17th I completed full marks on my checklist for the first time in four months. I completed full marks again on the 18th and 19th and started wondering just how long I could keep that up, knowing that my longest ever streak of full marks days in a row was twelve.

Yesterday I also completed full marks on my checklist. That represented a milestone for me – sixty straight days of full marks. Two months.

I’m very proud of being able to say that I’ve kept that streak going for that long, and I credit my desire to keep the streak alive with keeping me engaged in my checklist during what’s traditionally a time of a very hard downswing in my mood and energy level. But I also realize that there’s not much challenge left in completing full marks anymore, so as of today I’ve altered the conditions that two of my checklist items are considered complete. The goal is to get me more prepared to get back into the job market, and that checklist is a tool that’s helping me do just that.

I’m not at the point of adding anything to the checklist just yet. I know that historically new items added to the checklist tend to fall by the wayside within days of being added, and the list of items that I include in my checklist hasn’t changed for close to a year now. But making the changes that define completion, to make things more challenging for me, is a step in the right direction.

One of the things that I’m supposed to be dealing with is how I handle embarrassing situations. Generally situations like that automatically trigger a fight/flight/freeze response rather than a more socially acceptable “whoops, guess I’ll know better next time.” So I’m going to stick my neck out and tell you what those two changes are, knowing that doing so will be extremely embarrassing for me.

The first isn’t embarrassing at all. I tend to keep my to-do list in my head, just keeping that to things that I see that need doing around the house and doing them, rather than recording them in my lined notebook. As of today, for it to count as a to-do item, everything has to be written down in my second, lined book. This serves two purposes. One, I can better remember to look in the book for things I have to do if I’m writing in it every day. Two, I can see a list of just what I have accomplished around the house in a given day and can feel good about that rather than minimizing what I do here, something I almost always do.

The second isn’t so easy to talk about. I’ve had a lifelong issue with remembering to brush my teeth and shower. If I’m heading out to do something social, I do both, but during the long stretches of days that I sit here in the apartment alone for most of the day, without ever walking out my front door, those things tend to get forgotten about. My new hygiene requirements are that I brush twice a day (I’ve been gargling with mouthwash twice daily during this streak, but even that’s better than I usually do) and regularly shower and shave, regardless of whether I’m leaving the house or not. The shaving will be the hardest part for me to do, since standing in the shower for too long tends to hurt my back, and it takes me a while to shave. (I shave my head, for those that don’t know.) 

I’m still formulating what I want my new challenges to be after the next sixty days of full marks. Perhaps I might even bump that down to thirty days instead of sixty and only redefine one item at that time, who knows.

The end result is that I’m making strides in the right direction, and I’m very pleased with the results of the past sixty days. Here’s hoping that the next sixty days will be more of the same.

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