I really thought that I was doing okay. But this week a couple of friends sent me messages expressing their concern, and an incident at work made me realize that I'm very out of control. I'm still groggy, but I'm waking up. It's these reflections that lead me to trace back my steps and try to figure out what's really going on.
Last summer was one of the hardest in a long time. I was freshly in a job after being unemployed, but I was being bullied by my peers, and crying at work. I was living virtually alone for the first time after my divorce, I had moved out from my friends' home (and felt guilty about staying far longer than anyone had previously planned). 2 months after moving in to my rented room, I had to move again, under the pressure of my roommate (and subsequently me) being evicted.
The storm was palpable in the air.
The winds of change felt like they could tear me apart.
I clung to familiar places, found things to hold onto.
But if I were a leaf, I would be one blown from the tree.
Still in one piece, I survived, but I stopped growing.
I didn't realize it. I was focused on surviving. I focused on performing well at work. Afraid I wasn't in the right head space for even more change, I didn't look for another job despite the long hours and high stress. I took comfort in them, in the security of high stress. I've been there before. I thought I had a high tolerance for difficulties, and accepted that it was just part of life. I lost some healthy habits, but still ate pretty healthfully despite not using my kitchen.
I beat myself up a little too often. I resolved to work on it, be more self-forgiving, kind. I probably wrote blogs about it. Secretly, I fought an internal struggle against destructive, painful thoughts. I cried in my car because I couldn't understand why, after I had done so well for years, I couldn't wrangle them. I tried sheer force and determination. I briefly thought I should use my work's employee assistance program for help.
That leaf (me) was being trampled in the street.
Late last year the main bully/work peer left. My responsibility increased, as did my hours. I never missed work or used vacation. During my time off, I would forget what I wanted to accomplish. I would forget promises I had made, plans previously sparked, or even how to relax. I still hadn't developed my solitary exercise plan, but I started on the Fitness Contest at work. A short 8 weeks served to show me that my heart was still fantasizing about my old healthy habits, but reality was that they were slipping away. Then the Wellness Director quit, and so did the programs.
By Christmas I got really sick. Everyone had been having this monster flu. I didn't get the flu, I got some kind of Strep throat, and worked through 3 days of increasing disability. My boss made me go to the doctor one afternoon, and the Dr. made me not go back to work. Sick for New Years, I chose less healthy soups to survive. I used my illness as an excuse to splurge.
And that is probably when the flood came.
The leaf was swept into the drains, and out into the wilderness.
(Floating downstream may almost feel relaxing. Hmmm... It may even feel like progress.)
I've compared depression to a leaf floating downstream before. Introduced to the concept during a high school assembly encouraging action against going with the flow (and eventually ending up "somewhere"), it struck a chord.
I still didn't realize it, but I was quieting those destructive thoughts with diversion and avoidance. And, probably, comforting foods. It was long before a couple of months of not eating as healthy turned into weight gain. Temporary diversion ate up my remaining healthy habits, and I felt very much back to square one. Incredibly, I had even more hours at work, as we were understaffed and on top of my other duties I was tasked to learn an intricate report that can only be done after work.
(...But the leaf can't predict the hurdles, and more often then not, end up beaten up by rocks, or stranded until the next wave.)
I noticed my food choices, but couldn't figure out why I kept DOING that. Looking back at the past 6 months (now), I even had days when I thought I was recommitted to eating healthy, only to inexplicably be drawn to after-dinner excesses. (I use that term loosely, because it could mean something as simple as a candybar to a 2nd dinner.)
(It changes the leaf. But maybe only others can see it.)
I only realize today that I stopped having those internal fights about self-destruction some time in there. But, instead of stopping them in a healthy way, I was ignoring them and they were taking the reigns behind the scenes.
(The leaf is drowning, underwater most of the time. The illusion of peacefulness or invincibility is deceptive...)
Fully adrift in depression, I am partially disconnected from my most powerful and painful thoughts. It FEELs more functional, but it's not really.
(The leaf ends up damaged.)
(Weakened, the real danger lies ahead, and leaf might not see it in time.)
(You, like the leaf, or as the leaf, can end up in a very scary situation. Unsure of where to turn, disoriented by how you got here, and a little more disheartened than even before, because it all seems so out of control, and you feel so powerless and growing hopelessness - the traditional hallmarks of deep depression.)
This is where I am right now, not to frighten anyone. Realizing it is empowering, and is the first step toward healthy change. Like anything, denial delays improvement. Next, I will need to swim upstream. Pull myself out of the creek, and plant the seeds for new growth.
This week I have to apologize to the HRG at work, repair relationships that might be skewed, demand assurances so that I can trust again, and regain trust myself. I need to clean up my life, my car, my room. I need to track my spending, my food, my exercise. I need to take time for my exercise, give myself time for health, for learning, for growth, and for healing. I will need help, and give myself permission to contact the "free" EAP (that my health insurance fees deducted from my paychecks pay for). I need to build my strength in positive thoughts, real action, and good accomplishments.