Mental Health Monday – Lists & Listmaking

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​From now until the end of March, I have therapy, Red Hats lunch, middle school musical and drama club every day, two days of reflection retreats, one weekend retreat, interfaith council meeting and gathering/dinner, service committee meeting, 1/2 day of school, school holiday, St. Patrick’s Day dinner, Easter Vigil mass, library lecture, writing group, church breakfast, taxes, son’s taxes, and at least thirteen masses. And that’s just what’s on my calendar. Things always get added. It’s inevitable that plans will be overrun with more things – school assignments that were forgotten or just never mentioned until the last minute, playdates, a sleepover or two, movies plus our family’s weekly television viewing. Did I mention my son’s birthday? He’s turning twenty-one.

And this is why sometimes more than others, I need lists.

Most people use grocery lists.

Some people have to-do lists. Or phone calls. Or bills to pay.

At the beginning of my depression recovery, I could not remember a thing. One of the attributes of depression is forgetfulness. Some of us don’t need depression to be forgetful. At the time, I started keeping very detailed lists in the order that things needed to get done. There is nothing wrong with a list. It is a great organizational tool as well as mental health tool. The less you forget, the less you can beat up on yourself.

My biggest forgotten item is usually from the bathroom. When I’m in the bathroom, I’ll notice that we need more hand soap, and I’ll put it in my head. From the moment I’ve left the bathroom and walked over to my office to write hand soap on the shopping list, I’ve already forgotten. The next time I’m in the bathroom washing my hands, I’ll say again that I need to buy hand soap. The same with bar soap for the shower, shampoo, laundry detergent, and toilet paper. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.

Lists give me access to a place that my brain often hides from me. Or it will remind me as I pull into the driveway after doing the shopping, and not getting the most needed item.

Forgetting something important is one of the worst feelings in the world and I was up to my neck in forgotten items for other people. My middle son had an important letter that needed to be written by his parent for a school project. It completely slipped my mind. This only added to my depressive episodes. I couldn’t get past it. There was another project for Christmas that I forgot about. I found out when my son brought his home, all excited that he got the letter (whatever it happened to be for). The teacher had done it for the kids who had parents who didn’t. I’ve never been that parent before. It wrecked me.

If I forgot the toilet paper or the pasta sauce, I was bothered, but I mostly didn’t care all that much. And I didn’t care that I didn’t care. That was the lethargy and apathy. It was awful.

The one thing I could control was keeping to my lists. If I was going to mass that morning, my list would read:

shower

mass

breakfast

grocery shopping (with a separate list)

home

lunch

meds

Sometimes I’d include what I was wearing so I didn’t have to make a decision that morning. I’d include phone calls and emails to send. Absolutely everything. Now, I have separate lists for writing projects, but then I wasn’t doing any writing so I didn’t need any writing lists.

I still keep lists when things get busy. Like now. And next week. Maybe all spring. I highly recommend them.

Here are two examples of lists that I’ve made for this week. One is just jotted on a post-it note:

Lists & list-making. (c)2018

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