In July I made a decision to make some changes: diet (again), time out from the world (meditation), exercise (though for two weeks now I haven’t, in an effort to give my shoulder and knee that are hurting time to rest), reading, journaling, no computer gaming (for a month), and I began to purpose to spend more time with my husband and play with my dogs. All this in response to a deep depression that had moved past my heart and crept into my bones… malaise, apathy, depression. Those words seem like they don’t work together, but I guess I felt one or the other all the time. Just completely burned out… doing anything more than I was already doing seemed like more effort than I could possibly stand. I didn’t want to die, but I frankly felt like that was a preferable alternative to doing more. More than what? Well, everything. Anything. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back seemed like it could come at any moment from a simple request from someone. From who? Everyone. Anyone. My family, my employers, my friends, and my husband were all potential straw bearers. I felt like I was made to let people down, to disappoint them, to fail them. I just couldn’t keep pretending to be someone I wasn’t in an effort to gain approval. Discussions with my husband about his unhappiness with my attitude and my unhappiness with his expectations verged on discussing divorce, though the word itself was unspoken. We agreed to make some changes, each of us, but only because it seemed like it was our last resort. I might not have done anything further about my depression had I not brought some of my recent writing with me when I went to see my therapist. Excerpt follows:
May 25, 2009
My whole life is made up of disappointing people. That’s what I do. I guess I’m not an acceptable person, because I never seem to be accepted as I am. I am never good enough. Never. I am only accepted when I pretend to be something I am not. I’m never going to be that person, and I don’t want to be that person. I should stop worrying about being acceptable to other people, and accept that I am not going to be able to be what they want. It is slowly killing me.
She was understandably a bit alarmed I guess. Not extravagantly… she has known me for 15 years and seen me in worse times, but enough to ask me to tell my doctor that she felt I was on the verge of burnout and fatigue. Which, honestly, I had forgotten about til now. She also recommended that I take a few days to go away alone. Not because I was “sick” or “broken” but because she feels that we all need that from time to time, and now seemed like a really good time, to possibly prevent further burnout I guess. I told my husband and he said that I should do whatever it was I needed to do, whatever it was that my therapist felt was important.
I did go away, for four days to the Columbia Gorge, to a quiet little place on the top of the hill above the river, with a balcony and a view. I did nothing but sleep, read, write, play with my dog, sit on the balcony and soak in the view, listen to quiet music, and meditate. At the same time, I began my diet. Since I had my dog, dining out wasn’t going to be much of an option, which was perfect. I had a room with a refrigerator and a microwave. I brought my own food: a very healthy soup, some healthy snacks, and some Slimfasts. I ate the exact same food for four days and it didn’t bother me once. Without any temptations, it was easy to be good. I lost around 6 or 8 pounds. I forget exactly. It would not have been good in the long term; I was eating far too few calories to be properly nourished. But as a way to kick start a change, it was perfect for me. Two days before I left for the Gorge I attended a major league baseball game. I could not fit comfortably in the seats. “Exactly how fat have I allowed myself to become?” I wondered. The body I saw in the mirror did not look great, but it did not seem to me like a body that couldn’t fit into a seat in a baseball stadium. How dysmorphic am I? I don’t know.
It’s now the last week of August. I have lost 16 pounds, I have made it a priority to take time to myself every day, and to make time for my husband. I have not returned to gaming in the same depth as I was playing before. And until two weeks ago I was exercising regularly. I have made one major discovery; one of those things you know is true ‘theoretically’, but doesn’t seem like it would apply to you….. I feel a million times better when I am doing these things for myself. It turns out that self care is not allowing myself to do exactly as I please, but is instead requiring myself to make these things a priority: mental health, physical health, space to think, beautiful sounds, positive caring relationships, and getting enough sleep. I have noticed in the last two weeks that I don’t feel as good as I did the prior month. What’s different? No exercise, a little less sleep, a little less space, and a little less time out from each day to meditate and decompress. This is enough to convince me. I want to feel better. I want to feel happy. I want to save my marriage. I want to be healthy!
But overall… I feel good! I feel hopeful! I feel like life is moving forward instead of stagnating. I feel healthy. Maybe most importantly, I feel. The depressing numbness has been beaten back and positive feelings are taking its place. Life isn’t perfect, but life is good. DOING one more thing doesn’t strike me as harder than living anymore. In fact, doing some new things sounds great. I’m trying my hand at storytelling in the form of writing fiction. I haven’t gotten very far yet, but to even begin strikes me as a major step from where I was. And for that, I’m thankful.
If you’ve read all of this, thanks for caring enough to read on. 🙂 I appreciate that care. Thank you so much.