Here’s how it’s going ‘round about now:
I thought I’d update you while still in the throes of this delightful mental illness episode, because a) I’M STILL ALIVE which means, b) I’M WINNING, GODDAMMIT, and c) I’ve utterly abandoned the idea that I need only reveal the pretty parts of life or write only after I have an inspiring, Oprah Winfrey Book Club story of tragedy-turned-triumph to share. I mean, I’m not opposed to triumphing. Triumphing’s rad. It’s awesome. It’s the best. But right now, I’m slogging, and slogging is the biggest part of triumphing, so slogging is what we’re discussing today.
Right now, I’m in the middle of a med change. Which means I mostly cancel appointments, and text people to say “I’m sorry I can’t be there,” and stay home, and look like this.
And sometimes I lay down at the top of my stairs because walking all the way down them is too much effort.
I just can’t do it, you know? Like, I get to the top of the stairs, I do whatever Thing I went up there for, then I stand there blankly, trying to figure out What’s Next. Am I supposed to do More Things upstairs? Was I headed downstairs for the More Things? Was there something to grab? A kid I needed to talk to? My brain just fizzles. Like a transformer exploded somewhere in my circuitry so there’s no more electricity available to run it. I’m like a robot that powers down. I’m there, at the top of the stairs, fully useless. So I lay down and become a puddle of human.
Ever-y-thing takes too much effort right now. But here’s what I need to work on (and also, because you’re human, probably you do, too): CREDIT FOR WALKING UP THE STAIRS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I mean, yes, technically, you’re the cat stuck in the tree who got herself up and can’t figure out the rest of the equation, but let’s be honest — no one ever finished a task without going through the middle of it. No one walked back down the stairs without first walking up them. No cat ever got to call herself a Tree Climber without clawing her way up there. No one ever completed a race without moving through the course.
Why do we only pat ourselves on the back when we’re finished? Why do we fail to understand that middle steps of progress are as valuable as the final one? Why do we denigrate rest? Also, if we’re stuck in a tree, doesn’t that just mean there are hot firemen on the way to rescue us? And are we really meant to climb trees without help anyway? Or is it OK to make tree climbing and stair climbing and race running and med changing team sports? Where we get to request assistance and hand holding from time to time?
^^^I’m just saying.^^^
The thing is, I detest med changes. They’re a necessary evil for managing Clinical Depression. Also called Major Depressive Disorder. Also known by its Benedict Cumberbatch name, Brainblighter Fuckweasel. Aka, Mungminded Waffletwat. Aka, Headcase Ragecrumpet. But meds only work for as long as they work which, unfortunately for everyone, is never “forever.” And so we enter the slog of weaning off the one that doesn’t work and onto one that… might. If the new one does work, HOORAY! If it doesn’t, we repeat the process to infinity until we find one that does. The difficulty lies in the fact that there’s no definitive end to muddling through the madness. No specific finish line.
I HATE this stage of managing mental health. Partly because I’m underwater and stuck at the top of the stairs. But partly because I am not very PRODUCTIVE in this mental place, and god knows I use productivity to gauge my value as a human. Practicing what I preach — that we are all already valuable and worthy of love exactly as we are — is ANNOYING, friends. I have no patience for this. I mean, I have patience for this for you. You are definitely already valuable and worthy of love exactly as you are. This is as deep a Truth as any I know. But I have no patience for this for me. I like saying we’re all valuable and worthy of love exactly as we are while feeling productive and on top of my game. You know? I like saying we need do nothing to prove our inherent worth whilst I prove my inherent worth by getting shit done. <— SO MUCH EASIER.
Med changes make me feel like a lump. Like a bump at the Top of the Stairs. Like a barely breathing sack of mush. And I’ll admit to being kind of bummed that this med change hasn’t been easy. Even though I knew it probably wouldn’t be. Ppppfffttttt. Also, blerg.
That’s it, friends.
That is all.
That is how it’s going.
I’m not well.
But if I’ll listen to the Truth for a second, I also know I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing right now, which isn’t doing at all. It’s being. And breathing. And believing I’m already infinitely worthy of love. Exactly as I am. Right now.
Which means I’m fine.
Love to you, friends, and waving in the dark, as always,
P.S. This is the nipple light at the Top of the Stairs. And the smoke detector.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking at them lately.
P.P.S. Med changes are like trying to trade out floatation devices in the middle of the ocean. Like, you realize the raft you made out of coconuts and palm fronds on that desert island you escaped has been sinking for longer than you’d like to admit, so you’re kind of under water already. FORTUNATELY, there are helpful people around who have FOUND YOU and are EAGER TO HELP. So they toss you a life preserver and your job is to eeeease off the raft and onto the ring, slowly and carefully so you don’t breathe in too much water during the switch. Only, you’re on the ring and the raft is out of sight when you realize the ring isn’t actually floating. It’s sinking, too. I mean, since you’re under observation at least you’re not the only one who knows you’re still drowning, and the helpers start tossing all sorts of things at you, hoping something will stick. Eventually, when everything sorts itself out, you’ll be clutching a basketball and have one leg flung over a pool noodle, and then you’ll see how long you can float on those before you have to switch again. I bitched about this to my doctor until she reminded me we didn’t use to have floatation devices at all, so they used to lock up people like me on the desert island where we’d play checkers in our pajamas all day. Since my doctor has to use floatation devices, too, she’d be on the island with me. I have to admit, the island doesn’t sound all bad some days. And I’ve already got the pajama part down. But since I’m bad at checkers, I’m going to go ahead and be grateful for the flotation devices. I’m just saying… this part sucks. Someone throw me a yacht next time. We can all cruise around the island together.
P.P.P.S. I’m seeing my doctor again tomorrow. Wish her luck.
P.P.P.P.S. Did you know I run a small number of retreats each year? I do! One of my very, very favorite things to do is hang out with members of our incredible, worldwide community and offer rest and respite from our regular lives. I would LOVE to have you join me. And I’m not making promises or anything, but maybe we can lay down at the top of the stairs together.
Click here for general retreat information. We’re 90% full for November 2019. If you’re thinking about attending this fall and have any questions at all — like, “OH NO! There aren’t many spots left and I want to be in a bed/room where I’ll feel comfortable!” — please contact our registrar, Maggie Peterson, at Petersonm1@spu.edu. I’d love to see you there. The Oregon Coast is one of my happy places.
Or, if you want to head straight to the registration pages, you can register via my farm website, CAIRNS FARM:
12 responses to “Here’s How It’s Going: Not Well. Also, Fine.”
I’ve been meaning to comment on this and many other posts for a while now.
I, too, struggle with mental illness in the form of clinical depression and anxiety. I don’t want to make a book out of this, but hoping you will see it.
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Please email me if you would like to know more. Genetic testing has quiet literally saved my life!
No, this is not an ad.
It’s just one person reaching out to another and waving in the dark!
Read your post today, just in time. A facebook memory popped up today of a trip with my deseased husband and it sent me into an unexpected meltdown. Rather than fight it, I put away my to-do list and allowed myself time to just go with it. After a while I came to the fact that pain is a part of being human. That’s it, no more, no less. No need to judge it, analyze it or try to escape it, just be with it. Thanks for helping me allow this time to be with what is important today. Waving back at you.
Hang in there Beth! Hang on to all those floaties until you find the right one. I’m right there with you, doing the floaty-sinking thing. You are worthy and awesome!
Thank you for sharing
Maybe if more people wrote their story when they were still in the middle of it and before they got to the Oprah-book-club-I-overcame-the-odds-and-triumphed stage, more of us would feel OK that we have not “won” yet. Thank you for articulating what most of us are unable to express when we are in the midst of depression. The next time I have a depressive episode, maybe I will just send my husband to your blog instead of mumbling incoherently, finishing with, “It doesn’t really matter, I’ll be OK.”
Stairs. Who’d think one could find hope in a set of stairs? I did. I have hope since you realize advice is better given than taken, but try to take it anyhow. I have hope because I remember you once said we should be nice to ourselves, and you will remember that and be nice to my friend Beth. ♥ The fact you write when not well but fine, that is a HUGE GsD moment!! (Get Shit Done) In one of my depression attacks I realized that being ‘barely ok’ is still ok! One does not need to be GREAT!! all the time. Frankly it’s exhausting. But being ok is ok. Applaud the middle steps of the journey, applaud the baby steps forward. The more we find worth celebrating the better!
Waving from some not-too-bad darkness, with my other hand out in case you need it.
Thank you for sharing this. I SO feel ya. Especially the paragraph ending “SO MUCH EASIER,” ’cause, I tell the same thing to others, but yeahhhhhh…. I didn’t wash the dishes because I finally zonked in utter exhaustion and so I therefore must be a lazy unhelpful worthless human right? Uh. REALITY CHECK. It’s been a rough week here, for no external reason in particular, which makes it all the more frustrating. Why can’t my brain just GET WITH THE PROGRAM?
I have people tossing things at me, too… My mother came over, and asked me what was the deal with me, and I admitted I had HAD IT UP TO **HERE** with the flashbacks and the nightmares and UGH, whereupon she took half of my kids for an emergency sleepover and sent me to my counselor for an emergency visit, which helped, but she is not believing I am on the upswing (cause I AM, right? or am I merely manic which explains all of the cooking and the Appearing To Do Things and I’m gonna crash soon? I dunno! UGH!) and she is now therefore Very Stressed Out herself, and UGH. Brains.
Also, thank you for almost making me expel coffee through my nostrils with the Benedict Cumberbatch names. I am hereby appropriating them ALL into my own lexicon.
Thank you for being so transparent…I have been “stuck at the top of the stairs” a number of time. And I have two of those nipple lights in my house.
Holding space for you and glad that you have people around you who are willing and able to help.
Just here to say it for you if you can’t say it for yourself right now: You are valuable and worthy of love right now just the way you are. Floating along on my own questionably-seaworthy raft right along with you, friend.
Hi Beth, I’ve lurked for a long time, content to draw inspiration from the courage, humour and wisdom you pour into this blog. But now I’ve just gotta say thank you. Thank you! How you are managing to write and post while between meds, I don’t know. But I’m grateful. As a mother of four who is vulnerable to depression and anxiety and is “repiling” my faith, I’m constantly looking for lights in the dark around me. You’re a light to me. A bright one. It’s beautiful and powerful to see your light still shining while it dips (momentarily) beneath the waves. Depression is horrible, excruciating. But you’re doing exactly the right things and you’ll be ok. Hang in there! (And keep laughing at that boob-light. That’s hilarious. )
I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life and I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to hear someone actually say what I have been through. I just recently had another bout of it, it very slowly snuck up on me this time, over a period of months. When I realized I simply could not make the effort to walk more than 10 feet and had lost all interest in everything I knew I was in trouble. Its weird how this condition is so sneaky. I was half underwater too! Your honesty is helps me get real with myself. Lucky for me it turned out my meds could stay the same but I have a vitamin B deficiency since moving to Rwanda where protein is hard to find and expensive. One thing that has always helped me is to remind myself that the depression will not last even though its so hard to believe it sometimes. God bless!
Sounds like your doctor and my doctor might be friends.
Hey, you wrote this! Win!! And you put shoes on! Double Win!!
(Also, I stopped watching Oprah the episode she admitted she had regained a bunch of weight and her trainer friend said she had been depressed about it. Her adamant response of “I was NOT depressed” pissed me off. Therefore, I no longer revere Oprah like the rest of the world.)