*I wrote this post back in early January and never ended up posting it. I felt like time had passed and it was irrelevant after a couple of weeks. It has been a busy, but positive couple of months since. But I still feel like it’s important to share where I’ve been. Plus, I haven’t posted in forever! So here you go!
I skipped my coffee today.
When it gets to the point that I fear even the mild effects of a cup of half-caff, I know its time to come to terms with my mental state.
Here I am again, my fear and me. Funny how sometimes it creeps in so slowly that it seems to come out of nowhere are knock the wind out of you. At least that’s what happened to me a few days ago.
I was taking Jack home from school one day, driving the short journey home, when it struck. The panic. There was no warning. It hit me like a bolt of lightning. Quick, sharp, terrifying. As quickly as it came, it proceeded to disappear. But the damage was done. The aftershocks of fear shook me to the core, alerted me to a bigger problem. What just happened? Why did this happen? How did I get here?
I continued on as usual, the day to day routine unfolding before me. But my mind circled anxiously.
Hello there, a-hole brain. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to meet again on these terms.
One of the most frustrating and complicated aspects of anxiety and depression is its ability to seep into your life ever so slowly, camouflaging itself in a variety of reactions and emotions, until all of a sudden you find yourself grasping and reaching to steady yourself, already far below the surface of stability. I am so thankful for the ability to recognize my symptoms early, before descending too far into the dark. But it is a complex puzzle. Unlike the obvious clues of a sickness; a sore throat, a cough, a fever, mental illness has no such clues. They are subtle, invisible discrepancies, slowly chipping away at our soul without much notice. What’s even tougher to realize is that the people closest to us hardly notice either.
When you struggle with anxiety and depression, you learn that there is no cure. There is only management. In managing anything, there is a risk of unraveling, of finding ourselves back in a situation that needs some tweaking and reworking. Accepting this reality is a must. I’ve spent too much time pouring useless anger and energy into my inability to have a perfect life. I know now, that it does little to serve me. Sure, I have a period of mourning, I have myself a few days of a big ol’ pity-party, but then its time to buck up and get to work. It’s what a good manager must do.
I have made so many notable gains in the past year. I can’t discount my accomplishments. In fact, it’s almost been an entire year since I have started this blog. Last year around this same time, I found myself in a similar place mentally. I was at a low place, searching for answers everywhere but within. But then I let the words loose, and out they poured, and through this release began the most healing and progressive year I’ve had since starting this journey. Which is why it is harder to find myself back at this place. The higher you climb, the harder you fall. On the contrary, I’m better equipped to cushion the landing. I have more knowledge, more experience, more support. But still, getting back to work will be difficult.
Let me lead you through a typical cycle of hitting a low point when it comes to my mental state (since I’ve been through more than several now):
- Leading up to the “panic event” (let’s call it the awakening) there are subtle mood changes. I may be more critical of myself or those close to me. I find myself frustrated more, able to concentrate less, my mind obsesses more about little fears, about what others think. I am drained of energy more often, I am in a general funk, and unable to pinpoint why.
- There is usually a change, whether it’s an event, a change in routine, or even a change of season. Sometimes just the quiet, meandering days post-holiday, when we find ourselves enjoying the quiet but also realizing we are stuck in the house for days on end, trying to dig ourselves out of old and new clutter, probably surrounded by restless children who’s routine is also upended, can be enough to break us. It’s also January, and maybe you haven’t seen the sun in days, or you are buried under a blanket of snow and it hasn’t been above freezing in a week. The third week of January is the week associated with the biggest rise in depression and suicide. It is a tough season for many.
- After the awakening event occurs, I go through the typical shame cycle. I am scared, I am confused, I am discouraged, I am angry, I am sad. This is when the pity-party ensues. I mope around, wondering why me, and try to figure out how I’m going to live like this.
- I start looking for answers. I obsess over small ailments and wonder if there’s a bigger problem. I’ve been dizzy lately…am I getting vertigo? Maybe it’s just my sinuses? What if it’s a brain tumor? Is my eye-sight getting worse?
- I realize I am being paranoid and start working on a management plan. I start carving out some more me time. I go to yoga. I go for a run. I start my nightly meditations and prayers. I make time to write. I force myself to spend time on my hobbies; I write poetry, play the piano and the guitar (even if it messes up my nails!).
- I make an appointment to see my PA at the psychiatrist’s office. I need to pay attention to my medication management and stay on top of it.
- I slowly feel the cloud start to dissapate. Hope always remains.
I have to remain patient during this process. I have to come to grips with the fact that I may find myself in this difficult place many more times in my lifetime. Most importantly, I have to be okay with this. I must embrace it. My stubborn personality despises this, but that will not change things. As I explained in an earlier post, I must lean into change.
I have started up poetry again for the first time in over 15 years, and have decided to publish it (much to my initial resistance), mostly because it is usually written in the most raw, emotional moments. Sometimes the words come so quickly, it’s alarming. But this is a coping mechanism, and I feel like I need to share it. If even one person can connect to my words, my job is done. The purpose is worth the risk and vulnerability. I wrote this poem in the parking lot of Publix, sitting in my car, feeling as if I were wrapped in thick, grey clouds. The only way I felt I could get out of my funk was to write right then, in that moment. The words aren’t always pretty, but they help take the weight off. It’s a wonderful gift. You can check this particular poem out (yikes!!!) at the end of this post. Ugh, being transparent is soooo scary!
So if I seem off these days, I apologize. I’m grappling with a big project right now, and it seems that I need to put in a little extra work. Most likely, I will present to you a version of myself that shows little to no struggle, which is just how I operate. I try hard to always share my light, even when I am shadowed within. My pain is often encased in a shiny, sparkling shell. Which I why I am thankful for the opportunity to share these words, to share my heart of truth with you, even if you can’t see it on my face.
We are all works in progress; continual projects in need of proper managment and often times restructuring. Don’t be afraid to call an emergency meeting with yourself. Open the door and have that hard conversation. Sometimes a little performance review can motivate and move you in a new, better direction. And don’t forget, you’re not allowed to quit. You are the most important job you will ever have.
Now, off to work I go.