I am writing this post not primarily to explain why I’ve been gone, and not at all to garner pity. I feel the content of this post may surprise some of you, and others probably not. I could say that I also am using this post to show other people who maybe are going though the same shit that I am that it’s ok to feel the way that you do, since I didn’t allow myself to believe that until very recently.
I’m mostly writing as a way to lead myself further to healing. This is my first post on this blog that is really not for any of you.
This post is for me.
Since around January, maybe even December, I’ve felt off, sluggish, and not really myself. I always have tended to get “moody” in the winter months, and I always chalked it up to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It runs in my family, and I know some may pooh-pooh its legitimacy, but regardless, for me, it is real. Symptoms would tend to be mild, with a more negative affect, lack of energy, and a desire to eat crap and not move very much (which I was always able to push past). People suspect that the lack of sunlight has lots to do with it, and living in Maine that always made sense, as it would often be dark when I left for work, and dark when I got home.
I was hoping that the move to Chattanooga would help, both due to the warmer climate and the facts that we are further south and also alllllllllllll the way on the westernmost edge of our time zone, so the sunlight lasts longer into the evening. Unfortunately, the SAD reared its head like clockwork, and while I think the excitement of the CrossFit Opens helped to stave off the worst of it, I sighed and faced my inner demons, once more, and waited patiently for spring to come.
Spring came. The end of my funk did not.
When in all my other years dealing with this, the SAD generally receded once the sun returned, this time around, something worse happened. It stayed, and it intensified.
I explored my heart and feelings and was able to come up with a list of stressors I had had over the past 6 months that I tried to identify as the causes of my depressed mood: moving away from my home state, moving away from my family, being unemployed, taking a job that I wasn’t sure would be a career, buying a house, trying to buy ANOTHER house after the first deal went under, losing a cat, and…that was it.
None of these, for better or worse, were things that I allowed myself to think were enough of a BFD to have caused my feelings. Even taken in their entirety, I tried to will the thoughts away by essentially insulting and sneering at myself.
“What the crap Lissa, that’s all petty stuff!!”
“People deal with shit like that all the time and don’t fall to pieces!”
“There are lots of folks out there who have REAL SHIT to deal with, not people who just got back from a week-long beach vacation, you little asshole!”
“You are NOT ALLOWED to feel this way when you have a steady job, a loving partner, friends and family who care deeply for you, and your health!”
But…my health…I don’t feel so great these days…
“How dare you feel that way!”
I sometimes feel like there’s a bowling ball in my chest…I’m getting heart palpitations…I’m gaining weight and I’m always tired and I cry at the drop of a hat…also I think this stress is what’s causing the pain in my sacroiliac joint…
“You are pathetic. Man up or shut up! ”
You’re right, I guess…I shouldn’t be feeling this way…
And so I was so ashamed of my feelings, feelings I didn’t believe that I deserved to feel, that I turned off my sense of self preservation and started spiraling out of control.
I had these thoughts as if I was the only person in the world who had a happy life and still felt so crappy. I thought must be broken. My brain had always been what I considered my best asset and now it had turned on me. I was drowning.
Throughout it all, Ian has been my rock. He comforts me when I cry, he helps calm me when I am upset, he holds my hand when I am having a panic attack and counts with me to make my anxiety level go down. I was so deluded and stuck in mind that even though Ian told me he loved me every day, I started wondering if, after all the crap I was putting him through, the yelling, mood swings, lack of libido, and stagnated adaptation to our new home, that he might finally cut his losses and leave me. Further and further I went down the rabbit hole.
Over the course of two days a few weeks ago, two things happened in quick succession that ended up being the final straw, and my mind painfully yanked me back to reality.
1. Ian felt the need to ask me if I had ever thought of harming myself, and;
2. I had a panic attack so bad, that I had to leave work and go home.
Luckily, my immediate and forceful answer and conviction regarding the first question was no, never ever, but the fact that he felt that he even needed to ask me that was a painful wakeup call.
And leaving work was the first time that this horrible depression (for yes, that’s what it is) had truly bled into the way that I lived my life. And so that was that. Something had to be done.
The short story since then is that I’ve been talking with a counselor, and it took her just a brief time to realize that a big part of what I’m feeling, believe it or not, is unrecognized grief. In particular I am grieving for my ‘lost’ home (in this case, Maine), for being away from my family, and for the life that I knew and a culture I understood. Since the time she reached that conclusion with me, I have been, to great personal surprise, feeling much better, and while I don’t know if and when my grieving will stop, I can at least feel more comfortable with the fact that my feelings have a reason, and are not just the manifestations of a shattered mind.
She also gave me something that I didn’t realize that I truly, desperately needed: permission to feel the way that I’ve been feeling. With a statement as simple as “You are allowed to feel this way; never feel like your feelings are not real or worthy of being felt,” it was like I was able to open my eyes for the first time in months.
So my journey back to myself has started. It’s only one little step every day, but I hope that all the steps will add up to a long, healthful walk to a life and thoughts I know I can have. I miss the self that I was, and I’m ready to be back there again.
One step forward…