Wednesday, January 18, 2023

How to DIY Remodel When You Have Depression

A quick word to those living with depression/anxiety etc.  Please make sure if you're choosing to do a DIY project this year and  feel too overwhelmed that you consult your doctor or therapist if you feel yourself going down a slippery slope.  The tips given in this post are not to be construed as medical advice, they are guidelines I learned for myself as we went through the process.   I'm sharing our experience and also a reminder to myself for future DIY projects because they're looming.  


For those of you who saw our master bedroom remodel project, you know it was a long, arduous road.  That would've been the case with most people but when you throw having depression into the mix, the road is longer and seems to jump five steps back with every one step forward you think you're taking.  An actual renovation with contractors hired is one kind of stress because you have to make sure you're not getting taken, they don't flake on you with their schedules or altogether, they deliver in the time promised and they don't do shoddy work.  When you decide to take on a large project (or any sized, really) yourself and you aren't a master at those skills- the pressure is even worse.  It's all on you to get right or screw up.  It's up to you when that project(s) get finished.  It's that extra stress that is why most people pay someone else to do it but sometimes people like us (me) are optimistic enough to say "we can do that" and then swan dive into the abyss when we can't see the bottom.

I didn't have true before pictures for that remodel because 1) I didn't really know it was going to be a before when it happened and 2) the room would've looked similar to this:


I took that picture in the midst of an anxiety attack when I decided it was time to work on the bedroom which had become a dumping ground for three years.  Nothing had a home so there was nowhere to put anything on the dresser that made sense or wasn't basically moving one pile to a different place.  The dresser had a bunch of clothes we never used or seasonal d├ęcor that was barely dragged out anymore.  I remembered what my best friend always tells me, take one small spot and tell yourself you only have to do that area.  That day I was going to work on the left side of the dresser and the picture was to remind me that if I didn't feel like I was making progress that I could look at it and see that I was.

The bedroom was only for sleeping because that's all you could do in there.   I come from a "piling" mentality from my childhood.  Everything was put into piles for later and often times later never came.  I wish I hadn't picked up that habit but as you can see, it followed me my entire life.  Since the Mr isn't a neat freak he didn't care so if he didn't care about seeing it, I didn't care about making it a priority to clean it.  It's embarrassing to share that picture.  It's not exactly hoarders but I would be mortified for anyone I know to see that in person yet I know I'm not alone.  Cleaning and tidying videos wouldn't be as popular as they are if others weren't seeking a less chaotic home.  I mean that came after organizing my nightstand drawers and that felt like a monumental feat that took me a week to mentally recover from.  Don't think I don't know how utterly ridiculous that sounds to be mentally drained from going through 4 nightstand drawers.  People who don't have this issue roll their eyes, say things like "you just have to force yourself to do it!" and other unhelpful things that make you feel like a bigger loser for not being able to Nike-fy yourself to "just do it."  (Which then starts you on a whole separate spiral.)

I'm not saying my tips will necessarily be helpful to your particular situation but I know what I went through, how I dealt with things (good and bad) and learned from certain situations so I'm sharing those insights from my perspective.  

1)  Do your research on how long the projects you want to tackle usually are, estimate how long you think it will take and double it When we started June 3rd, I expected it to be about 2-3 months.  It was 5 1/2.  You need to ask yourself if you're willing to live in the doubled amount of time and if you are mentally in a place where you will be able to push yourself through so you're not living in a permanent construction zone.  For instance, when we decided to have the ceilings smoothed a month into it, the complete asshat-ery of this company and the damage they caused in every square inch of the second floor was utterly unforeseeable.  More so the paint issues we encountered in the bathroom after from humidity and uh "communication issues."    Those two things broke me early on and if those didn't, every single project after did a good job of finishing me.

2)  Communicate VERY clearly with each other.  Y'all...any couple who reno's together will tell you it's stressful on a relationship.  Some people have actually broken up over it!  (I saw it on House Hunters the other day!  LOL)  There will be times you are going to snap at each other, get irritated with each other and there are going to be hurt feelings, middle fingers behind the others back and maybe some voodoo involved.  Outline a plan and have a safe word if you need to that tells the other person "I'm aware I sound like a raving jackass right now, have some grace with me, please."  A word like "moist" or "pickle" should be out of the ordinary enough unless you want to go with a phrase like "turd burglar."  It should break the tension and make you both laugh for a second.  I cannot stress this enough.  We had some problems and resentments when all was said and done so workshop Wednesdays had to come back with a vengeance.

3)  Take a break if you need to.  I'm pretty sure there was twice that we took a week long break.  One was right after I was about to jam the bucket of spackle up the Mr's ass after he "helped" in the bathroom for the third time and the other was our desperately needed marriage retreat for 5 days.  Yes, it will add time onto when it gets completed but you cannot push forward when you are crying, snotting, curled up in a ball on the couch, cursing every Pinterest project you saved and being absolutely miserable.  The project and your relationship will suffer if you don't.

4)  Take progress pics.  Sometimes it can feel like you've done nothing especially when the room isn't visually changing much.  If there are other elements to the project that need to be done, take pics of those so you can remind yourself you DID do something.

5)  Decide if lists will help or hinder you.  The Mr loves a good to do list.  He's task oriented.  It's his jam.  I can be but if there is too much to get done, it started to look like a never-ending task that won't ever be completed.


That will throw me into a tailspin and stop me in my tracks.  Even if you start the to do list but get overwhelmed, assign a few tasks to your partner to take off some of the pressure.

6)  Take care of yourself.  This should actually be higher on the list.  I stopped my skincare routine completely because my nightstand with my stuff was in the basement, my mattress was on the floor, I was breathing in every toxic substance known to man and I'll be honest- it could be days before I showered because of the depression of having to fight every. single. aspect. of this particular reno.  We both really just gave up from a hygiene stand point.  Every day I looked like I'd wrestled a hippo and lost.  When I took the time to do something as simple as apply my pressed serum that makes my skin feel smooth, I cannot tell you what that did for my self esteem.  It's such a small act but SO important.

7)  Be ready to pivot.  I cannot stress this enough.  I would've loved to have ticked off one project at a time but there are days when it's beating you.  The tears flow, you wonder what possessed you to upend your lives and there seems to be no end in sight.   When a task should be easy and it is making every single thing difficult, if you need to drop that project for a smaller one and come back when you are not filled with rage at its it.  Save yourself.

8)  Try not to spend too much time dwelling on what's going wrong and find a solution.  (I know...this is easier said than done sometimes.)  This was a big mistake we made early on with the ceiling debacle and rehashing everything that was going wrong.  I'm a swirler by nature and if more than one thing is going wrong at one time, I'm usually having an inward spiral that is eventually going to bust out.   Bitching about it for days wasn't going to fix it.  When it became clear we were not going to get a break on any aspect of any project, I knew something was going to go wrong and I had to press forward.  Stain isn't working?  Hop online and see what can be fixed.  Having an actual panic attack over whether your wall is going to rip off the studs?  Research and see what others have done in similar projects to ensure that doesn't happen.  Start thinking like the a-hole your project is and what you have coming up.  Write down some contingency plans in case you may need them if that color doesn't turn out like you think or whatever so that in the midst of panic, you have a solution.  Sometimes the solution is looking at something that didn't turn out the way you planned and saying "good enough" and moving the hell on.  If you don't, you will both be depressed and living in a half finished construction zone and then you'll really be depressed.

9)  Give yourself/selves some grace.  If you were not blessed with the construction gene and your sensei is YouTube University, then you cannot beat yourself up about making mistakes.  They will happen.  Hell, I'm sure you've paid someone to do jobs for you and they've screwed the pooch on it.  I know we have and we even had a friend who did construction for a living and after researching how to lay our hardwood floors upstairs, we realized he basically did ALL OF IT wrong on the first floor.  I'll reiterate it...this is what he did for a LIVING so your shot of screwing it up is apparently just as likely as someone you're paying.  I like to research a potential DIY project and see what the common mistakes are and then pin/save a bunch of videos that explain how to rectify that situation or give the best tips.  We did a LOT of that.  Do we see things we wish we'd done differently or screwed up on?  Oh yeah.  But when you think of the money we would've paid someone else to do all of this crap and to potentially still not have it turn out as well depending on the contractor, I feel it was worth it.  There are lessons we'll take forward with us and have much more confidence should we take something like that on again in the future.  That's how you get experience.  It should also be noted if you get in over your head, know when you're beat and call in the pros if you need it.  Even if you only need them to do certain parts.  We thought we could do the hiding of the wires for the TV but there are obstacles there so we're going to need to bring in an electrician.  Am I happy about that?  No but I can live with some wires until we can get that scheduled and have it installed properly.  (Then I can do my next project!)

DIY is hard for everyone.  Those friggin' house blogs out there do not show the truth of what goes on and can make you feel inadequate when it's not smooth sailing for your project.  You throw someone with depression, anxiety or prone to panic attacks in that situation and it feels almost impossible.  I usually give myself a minimum of 4-6 months before embarking on anything else and even then it's typically on a much smaller scale.  I hope my tips helped you if you're in this situation and considering a DIY project.  Your mental health needs to be paramount during that time and if it slips, you need to deal with it and/or ask for help when necessary.   If you have any tips relevant to this topic, feel free to share what works for you too.

Good luck out there.


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  1. All very good points. For me I think the biggest takeaway is that I did tend to think all the blogs out there made it look too easy and as you pointed out that is not really the case. They struggle too and every project is going to come with some need to pivot to some degree. Unfortunately for us it seemed like every single thing we did required massive pivoting but that's what we got and we persevered.

    1. They don't want you to know it's actual trial and error most of the time or they figure if they're real, no one would follow them and throw in the towel. I'd much rather people see what could happen and decide for themselves if it's worth it to do themselves or not.

  2. These are great tips! I'm so proud of you guys!
    My place was built in the 1950s so nothing goes as planned. We plan and God laughs lol.
    Its like having a kidlet, all that pain and its forgotten once ya hold them. Now if I could stop focusing on the little flaws only I notice!

    1. Aww, thanks Dawn! The plans sound so easy when you start to execute, don't they? Then BAM...*surprise you didn't plan on!* (I still can't believe we found a piece of wood on top of the actual fire box insert when I pulled off the surround to paint it. It had literally smoldered and caught fire at one point and it is a miracle the house didn't burn down and the evidence would've burned with it!) Just walk by the perceived flaws- "la la la...I don't see you!" LOL

  3. You learned a lot from this project and discovered as you went what was working and what wasn't. You've gained a huge arsenal of knowledge on how to handle all the ups and downs and will be in such a prepared place with the next project you tackle. None of the hardships were wasted because you can now use those experiences to decide how you will forge ahead each time. That is excellent!

    1. Yeah, NOTHING worked initially! Bwahaha! I would've preferred perhaps one or two lessons but I think I stopped counting after 25 or so but yes, an arsenal has definitely been collected for sure!


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