Motivation has left the station.

Weeks ago I let go of all responsibilities and obligations associated with the non-profit, and I’ve been detoxing the fumes of the high. I switched an unhealthy relationship with alcohol for one far more cunning and dangerous. Helping people gave me a reason to get up in the morning and motivation to leave the house — even when I didn’t want to.

“You can look for external sources of motivation and that can catalyze a change, but it won’t sustain one. It has to be from an internal desire.” —Jillian Michaels

Unplugging from everything that has been draining me was wonderful at first. Not providing inspiration, but remaining open to it, was liberating. When the question was “What are you going to do with today?'” the answer was “Whatever the hell I want.”

It felt like emancipation; breaking the chains I placed around my own ankles the first time I stepped into a church basement and accepted responsibility to give in order to keep.

 julie maida motivation has left the station 2

Those chains, more like weed vines, continued to grow; weaving their way through all the things I didn’t want to lose. Even after I left program to take my life back, the messages haunt. Because I was hopeless when I got there, and the rooms offered “hope.” When I bought in, it came along with hidden fees I was willing to pay, because I was told the alternative was death.

Long after I realized it was on fire, I refused to relinquish my seat. That chair got full credit for “saving” me, and I believed I would die if I let go.

Years of untreated trauma left me susceptible to that programming, and years of learned helplessness assured me I was finally  home.

Psychology Today says, “Learned helplessness occurs when an individual continuously faces a negative, uncontrollable situation and stops trying to change their circumstances, even when they have the ability to do so.” When I first read that, I felt seen. My shoulders dropped and a wave of relief settled between my shoulder blades.

Holy shit, it’s a thing. There is an actual, factual explanation for this. A reason other than simple failure to thrive. Because “potential” is a wonderful thing to have; until time’s up and you become everyone’s sad disappointment.

On an intellectual level, I understand my fucked-up-ed-ness is not entirely my fault. (There is an actual, factual reason I’m like this!) Lack of motivation is a symptom of moments I’ve survived. I’ve survived these moments, and this is the prize. I get to feel useless, because I didn’t die. I should be grateful.

This information should let me off the hook in some way. It should take the pressure off; maybe even alleviate some of the self-hate. It doesn’t. It makes it worse. Because – in essence – it means I will forever be victimized by my own victimization. It’s exhausting and defeating and sometimes it’s fucking infuriating.

The anger, however, is always directed inward and never towards those who have harmed me. I have the power to direct my thoughts and feelings, and “there is no such thing as justifiable anger.” So then – logically – the anger, depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation are all just further evidence of my intellectual failure.

I’m the one who gives too much of my power to (rarely deserving) people, places, and things. It’s me who has no motivation to get out of bed, meet that deadline, or show up. I am the one who wakes most mornings utterly listless, wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. If I could dissect, over-analyze, and compulsively obsess myself well, I’d be 100% healed.

Unfortunately for me, recovery doesn’t work that way. I must settle for the much less gratifying healing process; piecemeal, and in God’s time. I have walked thousands of miles into this fucked up forest, and I’m not getting out in five.

If only I could give myself credit and permission to celebrate each mile. If only I could forgive myself every step in, and find compassion for that girl, who so desperately wanted to trust someone she let everyone in.

Awareness is a wonderful thing, when I’m motivated to take action — when I have a reason to get out of bed — when I’m not so anxious and depressed by my susceptibility to anxiety and depression.

Sometimes it feels like all the psych courses and all the psych meds will never put Humpty together again.


julie maida motivation broken





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[…] learned helplessness, and the role it has played in my own struggles with trauma and motivation here. I talk about how incredibly affirming it was to learn about and how, in many ways, it answered the […]