It’s been a year.
A year without hardly any artistic creating, or writing, or anything, really. Just a whole lot of gaining perspective and working on myself. I’ve been quiet, you’ll have noticed by now, and that’s for many reasons, one of which was that my laptop would lag as I typed and trying to do anything on it was altogether stressful and unjustifiably time-consuming. It’s taken a while to get to the point where I can justify getting myself a new device, but I’ve done it now and I’m finding that I wish I had done this a year ago. To write this post on something that is working with me, not against me, is leaps and bounds more enjoyable and productive than the latter. It’s amazing what a big difference a single change can make, isn’t it?
As far as other changes go, I’m still without a day job, except that I believe I have the job of getting healthy enough to return to work somehow. My days are composed of mostly silence followed by more silence, sandwiched by children. This either means I have a good day, or one that if I can even grasp enough concentration to put a song on, I might be able to get something done. I tell myself I’ll have a cup of tea first, as they do here, except going into the kitchen to put the kettle on means passing by some dirty dishes, recycling that needs to be broken down and sorted, some mess on the countertop that needs wiping, some food that I bought and put in plain sight “so I’ll remember to cook it,” and more. Each of these things comes with a dialogue that pops into my head with a little suggestion: “You really should do that.” I really should do a lot of things. But here’s the problem: my intentions are not the same as my reality because I am not perfect. Accepting that I am not perfect was a good square one. The strive for perfection can be quite damaging.
Now some days, in the past few months, have been great! I’ve woke up on time, got the kids to school on time, had breakfast on time, been to the gym, done some chores, and generally felt good. Days like these, I’ve had to fight for. To get days like these took an awful lot of trudging, tediously, through unfamiliar territory and uncharted waters, and then a bunch of practicing on top of that.
The reality is that sometimes I never get that cup of tea. On days that aren’t so good, dishes don’t get done. Pretty food does not get cooked. All thoughts are balloons that are floating away before I can clutch my proverbial fingers onto their proverbial ribbons. Every intention feels like it’s created in futility. I end the day feeling like nothing, numbness. The more intentions I have, and which don’t come to fruition, the more I feel increasingly guilty. WHY can’t I just do what I thought I was going to do when I voiced the intention to do it? Why, once I finally do it and make a habit out of it, can I not be consistent for long periods of time?
The answer is that I’m still searching for an answer to this. What makes sense, after reading up on a lot of things, is that I’m living with adult female ADHD. Combine that with the effects of too much stress for too long, too little sleep for too long, previous head injury, isolation, lack of activity for almost a whole year, the Complex PTSD, GAD, Depression … I feel like I’m a space case and I’m losing my mind. With all these labels, stressors, factors, experiences, I have no idea at a glance which of the symptoms (which are what I’m realistically dealing with, regardless of labels) are biological and which are environmental, or learned. (I mean, I can start guessing, but….)
In the time I have been away from this blog, I’ve had a several developments. Some have been so extremely positive and have taken incredible weight off my shoulders. Some have been the kind of negative I never want to encouter again, ever. But the whole year, with all it’s contained, has been an insightful journey. I learned I might be a space case, and I might be literally losing my mind. But what good does it do to dwell on that? What I’ve really discovered in the past year, is something that has helped put a kink in the flow of depression. It starts with a little mantra for when I’m beating myself up for my imperfections: ” I AM HEALING, AND THIS IS PART OF IT. WHAT IS IN MY POWER?”
On days when I can’t gain control of my drifting thoughts, or when I’m obsessing over something negative, I don’t beat myself up so much anymore. I remember the mantra, and I think about bringing the swinging pendulum of thoughts (past to future, future to past) to a rest in the ‘present’ position. This prevents the panic attacks quite well, with some practice.
I tell myself: “I AM HEALING, AND THIS IS PART OF IT.” I turn quickly away from the vicious cycle of feeling shit about whatever it is at the time, by asking: “WHAT IS IN MY POWER?” Once I’ve asked myself the question, my brain does not find more bad things to think about myself. It starts thinking about, looking for, SOLUTIONS.
What this essentially accomplishes is a sort of tricking of the brain. My brain has become accustomed to thinking in a certain way when things go wrong, one which usually involves a lot of hurtful self-dialogue telling me about all of my shortcomings. I’ve heard so many of them for so long from so many people, there is more than enough material stored away in my subconscious to hurl abuse at myself for a lifetime. I’m creative, as well, which means I’m able to come up with new ones without much effort. So instead of allowing the rant to begin, I intentionally interrupt this programming with a new command for my creativity and my thoughts, which is to look for solutions.
In real life, I’m an excellent problem-solver, I just never used that skill to address my mental health. I wasn’t brought up to care about mental health. When I tried to voice as an adolescent that something was wrong with my own, I was told not to say things I don’t mean. I imagine how I got to be in the position I was is the same way a house can go from beautiful to destroyed in almost no time at all, which is a lack of housekeeping.
Furthermore, how can we clean anything up if we don’t even look at the mess?
I looked, friends. It was a big mess. I was a mess. Twenty-eight years’ worth of mess, and it was time for housekeeping.
I made a list over two years ago of things that I thought were contributing to the problem. Inconsistently but never abandoning completely, I addressed my Mental List of Things Driving Me Mental (which I really should have written down). As and when I found the opportunity, I addressed each item in a trial-and-error fashion to see what I could solve. Some of these things were indeed huge factors and the solving of them has had great impact, such as having the Mirena coil removed. I won’t gross you out with the details, but suffice to say this one was messing me up, in big ways.
I can’t even remember the things I tried to solve which proved to be fruitless, because the effect of even attempting to find solutions has been so positive, I forgot to care enough to remember those negatives.
Now just like trying to clean up a huge, real-life, tangible mess, the only way it gets done is with one item or action at a time. This takes a lot of time, cumulatively. I don’t know where I am in the huge mess but I know that I’m starting to feel like I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. None of this would be the case if I hadn’t got back up.
I am so human and so fallible that of course, I fail. I fall. And I know exactly what it feels like to want to stay down and give up. Once again, it’s a good thing I have some really great kids. They are a huge facet of my Purpose. But if I didn’t, you know what would be the first thing I’d do? Go find something or someone that needs me. That would be number one on my list. I would volunteer somewhere (which I do sometimes and am looking to do again anyway) that showed me repeatedly and instantaneously that I, just little ol’ me, could make a difference, because as humans, we require a purpose in order to live happily. My purpose means to me that I’ve got to keep fighting for as long as I can, I don’t get to give up.
Making that first step, a decision, is imperative. Either decide on what your Purpose is or decide that you’re going to keep searching until you find it. Regardless, DECIDE and KNOW that you HAVE ONE.
I think of it this way: Imagine you’re lost. Now imagine you happen to possess a magical map that can appear out of thin air, whenever you command it. Being lost, you first have to decide to get out the map. Then, you must try to look at it and make sense of it. You must analyse your available routes, and then you must CHOOSE ONE. Only once you make the choice, the decision to move in whatever direction, do you have any hope of going anywhere that isn’t the hell you’re stuck in.
Once you’ve decided in which direction you’re heading, analyse the present and figure out which steps you can take. This is where a counsellor or therapist becomes invaluable. They have the gift of an objective view of the situation, which means they can see solutions that you can’t; and they’re never going to be as critical of you as you are of yourself. If you don’t have a counsellor, keep a journal. Or do both! Then, START STEPPING.
It will start with one step, just like everything else. And it will feel like a marathon sometimes. But when it starts getting tough, you remember the Purpose. And you keep doing your best to take another damn step no matter how tedious.
One of my favourite celebrities is Jillian Michaels, because she is all about getting back up. She makes great workout videos, and they’re another tool in my toolbox that I have used for many years to accomplish a variety of things. Anyway… one particular quote of hers has always stuck in my head:
The less you move, the less you want to move, and ultimately the less you are ABLE to move.
In this last year, there was a lot of NOT moving. My muscles began to atrophy, as well, so the days when I finally felt like I could do something, I had no energy or srength. All the adrenaline from stress that should have been expended by moving around was kept inside my body, making me unable to cope. The suicidal thoughts increased, and got louder. Everything felt like it had got worse. I felt, in all seriousness, like checking myself into the hospital lest I run through the streets, screaming. I was close to giving up. The mess was so huge, so intimidating, that my distractable mind, clouded by a plethora of thoughts about how shit I was, did not want to fathom the cleanup job. This was starting to reflect in the state of my real house, and I was tripping over everything that I’d repeatedly failed to address.
So one day, I got really angry. I was sick and freaking tired of the mess. I was sick of stubbing my toes because there was crap all over the floor. I was sick to death of clinging onto old thoughts and behaviours that were only making the mess bigger, more tangled, and more difficult.
I’ll have to save the details for another day, but fast forward through a lot of stepping, tripping, and getting back up, and I’ll be damned if I’m not making progress. My counsellor calls it “Marginal Gains.” You can’t change 100% at once, but you can change 1% here and 2% there, and before you know it those percentage points are adding up.
A year has come and gone and I’m not done, but I’m not the same person I used to be… and I am so thankful for that. I am marginally better, because I decided to get back up.
If you identify with me, I hope you’ll try to do the same. Doing nothing is not a solution, and it will not serve you. That is a promise.