“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –Albert Einstein
How many times have we heard that quote? Maybe it is the first time some of you have seen it, but I feel like I have heard it ad nauseum. And yet, I am still apparently insane. Like many people I know, I am resistant to change. Even when I am actively unhappy with some aspect of my life and want it to improve, I maintain my current behavior, because I am more afraid of what I do not know than what I do know but don’t like.
I was reminiscing yesterday about a revelation I had during my yoga teacher training, one that is very relevant to Einstein’s quote. I had been going to the same yoga classes at the same studio for three years at the time, doing slight variations on the same practice every time. As I’ve mentioned before, I would frequently walk out with my shoulder silently screaming in agony. However, I had been told that yoga was healing, and I was convinced that it was going to heal my shoulder. It didn’t occur to me that I would have to do anything differently. In essence, I thought yoga was a panacea that cured things no matter how, when, or how much you did it.
It turns out that what yoga actually did was open my eyes to my own insanity. It showed me that not only was I not doing anything to stop my shoulder from hurting, but also I was taking active steps to hurt it more. I had to change my practice, and eventually, I had to go to not one, not two, but four doctors and a physical therapist to get answers and a workable course of action. This isn’t the case for all injuries, illnesses, and issues – some really can be helped greatly and even healed through yoga – but the point is that, to paraphrase Rolf Gates, if you want to change your life, you have to change your life. You have to do the work of changing in order to experience better results than you are currently getting.
So why was I reminiscing about this? I recently made some changes in the way I care for my own health with the intention of making improvements; however, I found myself slipping back into my old ways and getting my old results. Those of you who know me personally probably know that I have anxiety and depression. I don’t know why I haven’t written about this before – a lot of the time it seems very relevant. Well, actually, I do know why I haven’t written about it. I am still afraid of the “mental illness” stigma, even when I know that so many of the people I know are personally affected by these illnesses. Even though not a single person I have told has subsequently thought I was crazy and dangerous and stayed away from me, I am still afraid that I will lose credibility. But screw it, I’ll just say it: I have a mental illness. And in order to live a healthy life, I need to deal with it.
After a few tries with anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, I decided that I wanted to deal with all of it the drug-free way. So I started meditating daily…for about a week. I went to acupuncture…twice. I thought about setting up a therapy appointment…and never did it. Essentially, I went back to doing what I had always done and hoping that I would start to feel better.
Not surprisingly, I did not feel better. Then, the meditation challenge came along. As soon as I signed up for it, I felt like I was taking active steps toward feeling better. And even though it’s only day four, I am proud of myself for actually starting it and keeping up with it this far. I feel confident that I can go the full twenty-one days this time, if only so I can say that I completed the challenge. I was so excited by this that I went back to my acupuncturist. And then back again. I feel better every single time I go, so I made another appointment for next week. I even picked up the phone and made a therapy appointment.
This all caught up with me yesterday, as I finished meditating and got ready to go to my acupuncture appointment, then received a message that I needed to change my therapy appointment to a time that actually worked better for me. It dawned on me that I am actually making positive changes. I am breaking my own cycle of insanity. Now, there is still a very real possibility that I will go back to my old ways, or that I will need to make more or different changes in order to get to the level of health that I want. But having made these changes, I feel so much more empowered to do whatever else it takes.
I want to wrap up with a quick disclaimer: I am in no position to tell anyone how to deal with the issues coming up in their lives. I am not anti-medication or pro-acupuncture or pro-therapy for anyone other than myself, because frankly, I have no idea what is going to work for anyone else. But I can say that I am pro-making-healthy-changes and that I am anti-Einstein-style-insanity. So there.