It’s been a while… a long while.
The old me would take this opportunity to ‘cleanse’ the blog and move forward with a new chapter and a clean, fresh start. Maybe that would be good in some ways. I like to think I learn from my past, though, and how can I do that if every time I move to the next chapter, I rip out the last? No, I look back over the blog and with my older, wiser, more experienced eyes, I see growth. It all will stay, this time. The person I am today is built on the lessons of all my yesterdays.
As I write this, I am curled up on a big bed with several blankets, snuggled half under them and wrapped in an added layer of thick hoodie. One dog is snuggled up against my belly as close to my hands as she can get without being under my typing hands. She, Bella, will slowly inch her little nose up to the corner of my keyboard until she finally braves shoving my hand up to demand petting. I’ll pet her a moment, then she’ll be content enough to let me type a bit more before she repeats the process. Another of the dogs, Angel, is curled up at the foot of the bed, using my feet as a pillow. The cat, Willow, is curled up on my hip. Pandora is playing “Rather Be” quietly. Patchouli incense fills the air. The atmosphere is as upbeat and peaceful as I could hope. The only thing that could make it better would be if my beloved partner, ChessyCat, were home…
Her new schedule means I spend the evenings alone with my thoughts and whims. This isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but it is challenging. See, I struggle with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Even now, after finally giving myself permission to live genuinely and making leaps and bounds toward accepting myself just as I am, I still struggle with these old companions. Depression is the unwelcome pessimist at the party and Anxiety is my long time frienemy who whips me into a frothing panic over the most mundane and minor things under the guise of ‘protecting me’ whenever the mood strikes it. We have made great progress in the last year on improving our relationship, but there isn’t a relationship counselor alive that could convince Anxiety to leave me alone for good, and Depression won’t even go to the appointments.
That’s what brings me to the blog tonight. Look at that picture: snuggled up all warm and cozy with furbabies and music and incense and quietly singing wind chimes in the background… Picture perfect. It’s glorious. Last I spoke to ChessyCat she called and said she loves me and made me feel special just by taking the time on her break to speak to me. I still get hugs before bed from MaRoo and I’m not totally alone in the house by any measure. I have a good life right now. Money is tight sometimes, of course, but when isn’t it? I still have a car and home and job. What the hell do I have to be depressed or anxious about? I’ve tackled this before on this blog, but it comes back around enough that I feel it bears repeating…
Depression doesn’t care. Depression and Anxiety both lie. Neither gives a damn how good your life is or how great you’ve got it, they will attack whenever they please. Anxiety will latch onto the tiniest doubt and make it into something so much worse than it really is. Depression will cast a shadow over the brightest circumstance.
For example: ChessyCat calls me on her lunch break every day. She was late, today. LogicBrain knows perfectly well that her break times shift depending on the work load. LogicBrain knows that when we spoke at her first break, she said bright things including “I love you” and “I miss you.” LogicBrain knows the score… Anxiety, though? She’s not been late once since she started this job. Anxiety points out that I forgot to scoop the litter box in the morning and I didn’t wash that pan last night, so she must be mad at me. Anxiety capitalizes on this completely mundane delay in a phone call to try and work me into a froth of panic over something that has nothing to do with any flaw or mistake on my part at all. Anxiety is narcissistic. Everything is about Anxiety and me. Anything can become my fault, even if it’s not. Depression then feeds off the awful feelings the panic creates and it all spirals out of control if I don’t manage to get a handle on it early.
The thing that I have been working on the hardest in this respect is giving myself permission to feel these things. I don’t mean that I am allowing myself to fall victim willingly to the sick mind games of Anxiety and Depression and wallow in the resulting pain and distress. More accurately, I am learning to give myself permission to be broken. I am learning to accept that I am damaged goods and that being such doesn’t mean that I am not still valuable and worthy. Turning around on myself and telling myself I have no right to feel anxious or depressed because my life is good and there’s no reason just feeds these persistent moochers in my mind. Denying the negative feelings’ existence prevents proper processing of those feelings. Shaming myself for feeling the negative feelings adds guilt to the pile of unpleasantness my brain is gleefully assembling against me.
Anxiety and Depression have been feeding off of my distress in my weakest moments for most of my life and no matter how much I try to starve them, they will never go away for good. Accepting this fact does not mean I am accepting defeat; rather, it means that I am acknowledging the flaws in my design and learning to compensate for them. We are all flawed. We are, by nature, imperfect beings. Were we perfect, we wouldn’t be human. We are beautifully broken… perfectly imperfect.
Tonight, I won. LogicBrain gave the reasonable and sensible arguments against my anxiety and I was able to engage my coping mechanisms swiftly and to great effect before things spiraled out of control inside my head. Nights like tonight, I can stack the deck in my favor by seeking companionship where I can or isolating myself until the nerves settle, snuggling the furbabies, playing uplifting or calming music, and generally engaging every coping mechanism I have until the psychic attack is over.
Sometimes I lose. Sometimes Anxiety is a ninja, so subtle and clever that I never have a chance to sound the red alert before it’s too late. Depression slips in right behind it and disables engineering so I can’t engage the warp core and escape. These are the nights that find me hiding behind a collar, crying quietly in the dark, longing for the comfort of a sharp blade or a cigarette, and questioning if the world wouldn’t be better without me in it.
That’s okay. No one wins every time. Each time I lose, I make it to the other side knowing that next time I might win. Mine is a life of constant vigilance against a foe that exists in my own head with me. I accept this. I accept that I may struggle. I accept that I am not perfect.
I will not ever accept defeat.