I haven’t posted in ages. Life took a very unexpected detour about a month after my last post and my focus has been elsewhere. But, I am still here and still read your comments. This morning, I had a very distinct experience that created a tumble of words in my head that I felt needed to get out & be shared. Maybe this means I will even return to the blog-o-sphere. I hope all is well with everyone. -D
On the way to work today a bird swooped in front of my car and met its demise. My heart sank. The other day I found a dead bird in my flower bed. There’s a third that may still be trapped in my shed, because I never was able to find it once it hid from me last night. This morning, feeling like the grim reaper of birds, I thought “I hope this isn’t the way my whole day is going to go.” I found myself immediately heading down the path of negative thoughts. It slid over my arms & shoulders with a physical sensation of a cozy blanket. The soothing sensation of familiarity slipped into place. The air felt heavier and a gray tint began to seep into the sky. This darker, cloudier, world is the place I lived for so many years, that it felt like a lock clicking back into place.
I have worked hard to get out of this distorted world, one that can still suck me back in seconds. When I was deep in the dark, the suggestions to “think positively” or “if you smile more, it will change your mood”, “fake it ‘til you make it” only served to make me feel worse. I wasn’t receptive enough to even hear the words much less try to take action. Some would say I wasn’t strong enough yet, but I don’t like that terminology. Mental health goes beyond whether or not you are strong, especially when genetics, neurotransmitters, and behavior patterns are at play. I knew cognitively what I needed to do to create change (at least according to the professionals), but couldn’t find the bridge to make it practice. I was so used to misery that I couldn’t contemplate that the “real world” was actually, or could actually, be that much different.
Oddly, during one of the most trying periods of my life, when I actively refused to let someone’s hurt define and ruin me, was when I found my way out. I’d been fairing better for the few years until this point. Good things happened and I was content. That generally was the better baseline that I functioned at. But when my world crashed, I felt the deep darkness was there ready to grab me. I decided I was NOT going to let that happen. I would survive and I would thrive, if I had anything to say about it. I was taking control. I gathered every resource I had and made plans to keep myself busy and accountable. I began to look for the smallest of good things to grab onto. I had gratitude lists and started a gratitude jar to use as reflection. I forced myself to revisit concepts from therapy and re-frame negative thoughts into positive ones (or more often, just less bad).
In the midst of great pain, I also felt my first bits of joy in decades. I didn’t remember what it felt like to be giddy or excited. It was amazing and intoxicating. I backslid and I rallied. I faced another big challenge and somehow trudged through that as well. I reconnected with friends and allowed myself to ask for help when I knew I needed connection and accountability. Even though I’d had a relatively smooth life, depression and anxiety had stolen much of my memory from me. I felt good for the first time in as long as I could remember. I felt like actively pursuing my life instead of just letting it happen around me.
Having the fog roll into my thoughts so quickly this morning, though, reminded me how quickly I can get swept into the under tow of grief, anxiety, fear, & depression. It reminds me how many of my friends and family are still stuck in this cycle, without being able to find their way out. It reminds me that no encouragement I can offer can really make the difference. They have to find it inside themselves, and things have to align in order for it to happen. It isn’t just a matter of will, but it sure helps. I can be hopeful that they will find their own foothold and glimpse of light to climb toward. I can be there to support them when they need that hand up and cheer when I see them smile.
I still have ups & downs but they are less drastic. I can pull myself back up again, which still takes me a bit by surprise. In the moments when the sky grays and I feel a mood closing in, I can focus on all that blue instead, and the birds still left flitting in the trees, and know in the end things will be okay.