I intended to post a picture of the cucumbers and beans that my son & husband harvested from our garden yesterday. Then, I was going to say something cute like, “lesson learned, never give up!” Then, the hypocrisy of that post stopped me and I wrote this one instead. I had nothing to do with the garden. But, I have everything to do with this. So here it is.
“It only takes one person to change your life: You.”
“Tips for a powerful brand”
“Realize your full talent potential!”
“I just posted a ______ mile run with Map My Run!”
“I worked out this morning!”
“I nailed a run. #beastmode”
“You can be anything you want, you just have to choose.”
“Believe you can do anything at least once a day.”
As someone who wrestles with anxiety and depression, these incessant messages feel like I am being pelted with… criticism. It feels like noise. Blah, blah, blah. Talking heads with really long skinny fingers pointing at me. “You are not enough. You should be doing more.” Noise, noise, noise. The messages make me jealous, more anxious, and paralyzed by the fear of doing something wrong, trapped by perfectionism.
I haven’t blogged in too long and I have yet to make significant progress on my journal article.
I feel ashamed that I have fallen off the exercise wagon and yet to get back on. I can’t remember the last time I went for a run. I did a few 5Ks in early spring. I even ran in the mornings for about two weeks. I went running on vacation?! Then, I got sick and I stopped. Although my cold is gone, I have not fully recovered.
I know that people who tweet and post encouraging messages don’t know that I feel this way. I also know that the intent of these messages is not to make anyone feel bad or to shame anyone into exercising, or writing, or updating their LinkedIn profile. If anything, these posts serve to encourage others. And they do. I have witnessed many friends get on the exercise bandwagon, update resumes, add skills to their profiles, etc., etc., etc. And sometimes, they encourage me, too. And other times, these overtly positive messages feel threatening.
The thing with depression too is that it makes me lose sight of what I have accomplished. This weekend, I did six loads of laundry; went shopping for home décor; then came home and fixed an old nightstand with a new knob and picture frames; put my son’s artwork into a new frame and hung it in the living room; and painted an entryway in our house with a spiritual saying, with a stone cross in the middle of it (take THAT Pinterest! I came up with that idea all on my own!). Not bad! And, I did it all by myself. Doing this alone is also a huge feat for me, as my anxiety can sometimes make being alone feel like loneliness.
But, I didn’t go running. I didn’t exercise once all weekend. I didn’t call my grandmother. I texted my sister on her birthday instead of calling her. I didn’t, I didn’t. I didn’t…..Noise. Noise. Noise.
It’s not that I don’t want to work out, or write thank you notes, or clean my house. It’s not that I can’t.
It’s that the cycle of inertia, shame, and more inertia fueled by that shame, is really, really hard to break. Hitting the reset button is necessary. I know that I need to. I know that I want to. It’s just that taking the first step to actually doing it feels momentous.
This is part of me that I never knew before; I have only recently learned that how I feel had a name. Truth is, I have always wrestled with these issues. Looking back on my late 20s and early 30s, I can now see patterns of behavior. Periods of incredible activity and productivity, followed or proceeded by valleys of exhaustion and inactivity. When in the valley of depression it feels as if everything is fuzzy, like someone is shouting at me but I am under water. I can see and hear them and I want to claw my way out and break the surface but, I end up treading water instead.
I even have dreams about my depression. In my dreams, I have been wronged, shamed, or thrown under the bus by someone, almost always in a public setting. I try to speak up for myself and I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I am shouting inside my head but, only I can hear it. The people around me are staring at me. This leads to more and more frustration and more shouting, but no results.
I also dream that I am running but nothing ever happens. My legs get shorter and my abdomen collapses like an accordion and I get physically smaller. Then, my legs start to sink into the pavement and I am no longer running, just staying in one place. Interesting that my dreams are about running. Huh.
I read once that the author J.K. Rowling struggles with depression and that the dementors in Harry Potter are her version of that struggle. This is the best image I can think of to represent depression and it’s after effects. I can feel its presence, its cold breath on my neck. There are times when I can swallow the doubts and fears, choke them back like gravel in my throat. And then, there are other times when I must embrace the darkness. Let its waves crash over me and run their course. Then, I will rise up again. Battered and bruised, but still here.
I am absolutely terrified to post this. I fear what you will think. But, I am choosing #optimism and doing it anyway.
I am learning that none of this makes me weak. This does not make me less-than. Some days are easier than others.By being vulnerable about my imperfections, my crosses, I can name them, address them, and even embrace them without shame because they make me who I am.