There usually comes a point with depression (which I tend to experience in cycles) when I’m just too threadbare and ragged to do anything much. This is invariably the dangerous zone for me, and the point of greatest suffering. Every time I’ve gone through it I have allowed myself to believe that it came as a total surprise. How did this happen again? It’s a mystery.
This summer I’ve been exploring questions of emotional honesty. Not least, the question of how emotionally honest I am with myself. There are stories I tell myself that rather get in the way here. Perhaps story in chief is ‘if I keep pushing, I can get through this. Getting the things done is the most important consideration. I must get the things done at any cost.’ Of course being a self employed person and a parent, and for that matter a human moving through time in a linear way, the ‘things’ are never ‘done’.
Somewhere much earlier on in the process, there are warning signs that I’m overloaded and burning out, but my habit has been to ignore them and keep pushing, and of course that always leads to the same things. Bodily tiredness, stress, anxiety triggers, lack of time off, colds and other such minor ailments, and other small setbacks have a cumulative effect. Big dramas and upheavals have proportionally bigger effects. If I pay attention to when I’m not ok, perhaps I can get life back under control before I make myself emotionally ill. It’s a theory.
For some weeks now I’ve been making a point of doing regular check-ins with my body, and with my heart. How are we doing? What’s going on? Because otherwise I tend to live in my head and run roughshod over my physical self, and often my emotional self as well. All in the name of being useful and doing the things. Sometimes my body does not want to be useful. Sometimes my heart is not in doing the things. I’m learning how to notice this and to make room for it. Alongside this I am of necessity learning how to express to the people around me the idea that I maybe won’t be doing all the things. The people in my life who are willing to flex, accommodate or forgive, I shall be very glad of. I have to stop appeasing the people who want me to work myself sick. There are a lot fewer of them in the mix, these days.
The little hazard warning lights are on. The last few weeks of the summer were intensive with the doing. The great ‘back to school’ upheaval also creates a lot of work. There have been some serious dramas and life issues – mostly other people’s but impacting on me in significant ways. I’m very tired, and wanting to sleep ten hours a night and more. So I’m not fighting it, but am going to bed early, and when I hit points in the day of having no energy to throw, I’m not using will to push through it, I’m stopping, and curling up.
It feels a bit weird.
I’m so used to dismissing my body. I’ve had a lot of being told that I have a stupidly low pain threshold, that I make a fuss. Lazy. Melodramatic. Hypochondriac. Psychosomatic. All that jazz. It’s taught me to be silent when in distress, and to not take seriously the messages I get from my own body about what hurts and what strains. Learning how to hear what my body is expressing, without judgement, without rubbishing the experience or ignoring it has not been easy. I’m not at all sure how useful it is to try and measure pain objectively, and to say that one person’s pain is less valid somehow than another person’s. Taking myself seriously is an option I’d not much considered before, but have a feeling it could help me avoid getting into states of really dysfunctional depression.