A Pause on Forward


I'm not sure what it is-- maybe it's the come down off the holidays and New Year hype. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe I caught something from someone on the subway. Maybe it's depression. It's probably a combination of those things. I've been feeling ill for a while and it's been slowing down my blog posts and my videos. Thanks for bearing with me during this slow down.

Even at the pits of my depression in college, it was much less about sadness, or worthlessness, and more about losing the will to do anything both physically through immense exhaustion, and emotionally. I was tired beyond belief. I had a dull hopelessness that felt less like a dramatic tragedy and more like a surrender to mundanity, mediocrity, and boredom. As a ridiculous weirdo, these are the sadnesses that felt most profound-- the feeling that there was no hope or will or energy to fight those things, and that even the most profound moments of joy and excitement were fleeting.

I like to think of my depression like allergies. Some allergies are seasonal. Some allergies are triggered by specific things being in your presence. Some allergies are only triggered when you do the wrong thing with the allergen-- for example, eating a food you are allergic to, but can still be around, or not taking allergy medication before taking a walk in the park. Sometimes you can minimize your exposure to an allergen, and sometimes you can't and you just gotta roll with it. Thinking about it like this instead of "my brain is broken" is really helpful. It means that I can do things to manage my depression, like not forcing myself to go out if I think it will only make me more upset, and it also means that when I get depressed, it's not necessarily my fault. It's an annoying and often terrible condition, but it's nobody's fault.

For the past week, I've been horrendously fatigued, sore in the back and joints, chest pain, had brain fog and massive, long head aches, and for some stretches, could not stay warm, even indoors, in my massive comforter. My weekends have been spent indoors, alternating between sleeping and watching TV online. My energy is spent trying not to suffocate beneath unshed tears. I had to bail on a friend's housewarming. I am trying not to be upset at myself for all of this.

I think I am sick with something, but if my Psychology degree has taught me anything, it's that the mind and the body are not as separate as everyone constantly thinks. And if I'm honest with myself, I am depressed, and there are definite mental hurdles I need to overcome to get out of at least the mental/emotional component to whatever is going on with me.

I'm not suggesting that you can think yourself out of sickness, because sometimes our bodies get attacked, or aren't perfectly calibrated-- let's be real, had it not been for medical interventions over the last few centuries, plenty of us would be dead. I'm saying that things are not always purely one thing, and that the mental impacts the physical. Stress can slow healing, and not just physical use of muscles, but stress from jobs or finances. Things interact and compound. We are tangles of many, many things.

As I consider the way that I have been feeling, not just my aches and soreness, but my exhaustion, my emotional state of lukewarm anxiety and heaviness, I know that there are certain things I need to work out.

I'm struggling with this feeling of being in the weeds of things. I find myself talking myself up, telling myself and others about how I am processing this bulk of information or that-- but in all honesty, I am having a hard time sifting through such a massive mess of future. I felt incredibly prepared for job hunting, for example, because I had years to prepare. I read all I could about career success, interviewing, job hunting, and did plenty of "practice" by way of internships. I took all of that in over years before I was in the thick of it. Now I'm in the thick of it... all of it. I didn't expect how uncomfortable I would be with this feeling of no longer being on top of things. I'm not a mess, by any stretch, but I find myself missing the benchmarks that school offered-- this much left, this far to go, you got through that project. In school, I disliked the pointlessness of it all, but now that the stuff I do has meaning, I'm missing that feeling of progress.

I suppose the best way to articulate it is that when I was in school, there was a mountain, and there was a summit, and there were mile markers. Now, in adulthood, there is a mountain, there is fog, and there are no mile markers. I cannot see the summit.

I have to define success for myself. I have to create benchmarks for myself. As an ambitious person, I need to have next steps! I don't need to always succeed, but I do like to feel like I know where my energy is going, and stand behind that. At this point in time, I don't know if I am able to set realistic goals and timelines for myself. I am in so many new situations now, and I am trying to get a handle on them.

On the one hand, I feel like realistic is such a dirty word. The best and most important things I have done in my life would not be considered realistic by most people. The moments that have felt most like success fell in line with who I am-- a ridiculous, eccentric, magical weirdo.

On the other hand, I want to work towards meaningful goals-- not necessarily on the scale of all humanity, but things that are meaningful to me. I have a few set up for the year, but I'm not sure that's enough for me. Part of having meaningful goals is about making sure that they are things that I can work toward attaining, so there has to be a dose of reality in there.

I have an unknown amount of time, but I think it is a lot, and that is really confusing my brain. I no longer have 4 year blocks slotted out. There is a lot of structure that is now missing from my life that helped me think through my future. My future used to feel like sunlight and lightning ahead of me, that was a really great, energizing albeit sometimes frightening feeling. Now it feels like a fear caught in my throat, slinking about inside of me and unable to reveal itself in the open. I'm trying to find new ways to conceptualize it that don't feel as overwhelming.

I feel adrift and I am struggling to gain my bearings. I am working through this, and maybe you are going through something similar. I know I will get there but for now I am in the weeds of it, trying to sift and sort. The only way out is through, so I will journal and meditate and cry and laugh until I feel that I have gained conviction in my future and goals again.

If you are also in the weeds, know that you're not alone, and that we can go through together.


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