anxiety

black girl with afro lying down

When Doing OK is Good Enough

During my most recent depressive episode, one of my hobbies involved sitting in front of a window on a rainy day while listening to a sad song, which forced me to confront how horrible and worthless I felt. Inevitably, the tears would flow and I’d trick myself into accepting this activity as a healthy form of purging and not at all as self-destructive as it sounds. Facing emotions head on and then releasing them by crying were both actions frequently touted as mature forms of *doing the work*, *self-care* or other trendy buzzwords used to describe the act of dealing with one’s shit.  But now that I’m treating my depression with medication, I have zero interest in wallowing. And as a recovering pity party addict, it’s honestly the weirdest shit I’ve ever experienced.

The day I sat down to write this post, it was rainy and cold, which to me, is the most loathsome weather ever. Sure, I can wear all the cute BCBG sweaters I bought during an(other) emotional shopping trip, but aside from that, this gloomy season has routinely exacerbated my depression for the past decade. I’ve generally dealt with seasonal depression by exercising, eating healthy and keeping myself busy, among other tools I’ve picked up along the way, but surprise – none of those efforts at saving myself from myself proved foolproof. When September arrived, I was already struggling to cope with personal issues, dwindling income, freelancer burnout and a bunch of other pain-in-the-ass life events, and then, it happened: I started to feel that unwelcome familiar presence creeping in on me. By the time my birthday rolled around in October, I was a full-fledged disheveled mess, the upkeep of my house, my interest in working and socializing, my hygiene, my daily workouts and my will to live all completely abandoned and polluting the atmosphere like the pile of dirty dishes in my kitchen sink.

Two days after my birthday, I picked my sister up from the airport at 7:30 am and immediately pointed out how clean my car was, hoping it would help to distract from the fact that my house was in total disarray. The night before her arrival, I only managed three hours of sleep because depression maintains a white-knuckled grip on insomnia, much like a possessive kid clings to a beloved toy.

Ultimately, her candid assessment of my crumbling mental state and all the emotional shit that went down during her visit forced me to deal with the fact that I needed more help than workout routines and NutrilBullet shakes could offer. I laid all my issues out during my first psychiatrist visit and walked away with a prescription that I regarded as a potential life changer.

And so far, it hasn’t disappointed. I started a full-time job after freelancing for four years, something I had great anxiety over due to the possibility of re-entering a toxic work environment. But with a healthier mindset, I’m able to embrace it as a steady paycheck and a form of much-needed social interaction that I lacked when typing out articles in solitude was my sole revenue stream. My house isn’t spotless, but I attend to it more closely; I’m back to prioritizing hygiene and I’m utterly grateful that I let go of my anti-medication attitude because it’s held me back from mental stability for far too long.

This isn’t an attempt to convince anyone that medication is the route to go, or that things in my life are picture perfect thanks to a daily pill because that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, today is another gloomy, wet day, the some of the same issues I had before are still around and to top it off, I’m sick as a dog – another horrible byproduct of starting a job outside of the home during this winter season.

After years of struggling to deal with overcast skies, brisk temps and rain-soaked streets, the fact that I’m alive and relatively OK is good enough for me. Sometimes, it just has to be.

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struggle

When the Struggle Becomes an Addiction

Growing up, several disappointments caused me to construct a wall around myself to dull the impact of any future letdowns. For a long time, that wall was my Employee of the Year, never calling in sick or sleeping on the job. I programmed myself to believe that happy times were earned by bad experiences and if something good was to happen, then impending disaster waited around the corner for me, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. But what I thought was a stealthy source of protection actually dismantled my ability to embrace blessings and happy moments in my life. This may sound insane, but I’ve come to realize that I’m addicted to struggling. Yep, the support group, 12-step program type of addiction.

After I finally had my first paid piece published (a goal that had been set years prior), I barely acknowledged the fact that I’d finally accomplished my goal because I was worrying about hypothetical backlash from my family and inconsequential opinions of complete strangers. I couldn’t resist manufacturing a struggle-filled worry session instead of simply enjoying my moment.

scared

Me, too afraid to celebrate good news

Before I quit my 9-5 to pursue writing full-time, I envisioned my last day on the job as a par-tayyyy filled with celebratory Tuaca shots that would leave me doing carpet angels in the middle of my living room floor. Instead, my struggle mentality lured me into stressing over whether I’d be able to make a living writing and wondering to myself how long my husband would  support me before this idealistic “chasing my dream” notion got old.

Ever since I can recall, I dreamed of traveling to Hawaii. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit two islands during my honeymoon. One day, between winding around curves on Maui’s beautiful Road to Hana, and snapping pictures of waterfalls and seaside cliffs, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of not belonging, like I didn’t deserve to be there.

My husband looked confused and told me, “Our money spends just like everyone else here. You wanted to see Hawaii, didn’t you? Just take it in and enjoy it,” he said, reminding me that this was something I’d been blabbing his ears off about since we met.

I look back on the beautiful photos from my visit and regret not embracing what should have been a moment of pure joy! Sure, some pretty effed up stuff happened in the past. But today my increased level of self-understanding tells me that not every moment has to involve a struggle.

Meanwhile, I’m working on de-programming my debilitating train of thought by celebrating victories, big and small.  The end goal is to learn to fully relax and let the sunshine from happy moments flood my insides. Doing just that has been–you guessed it–yet another struggle, but I refuse to settle. Truth is, I’ve been about that struggling life for far too long and I’m finally ready to sober up.

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