But I listened to his silence that came from his compassion for me. I’m mentally ill- like millions of others. I could list the abbreviations that sound like car features but to sum it up is fairly simple. Life gets hard and I freeze up. You have likely been there, too. Gridlocked by zero energy and self-disgust at something as simple as washing dishes for twenty minutes seems daunting. So you stand there, anxiety pumping, lead arms and cold water in your stomach as you feel useless until you just walk away.
That’s the hardest part- avoidance helps. It doesn’t help in a healthy way, but it does loosen up the weight of guilt and change the scenery to take your mind off of everything you're not doing. Eventually, you create a dance of looking past the mess and then it heaves up like a tidal wave and hits you.
One of the hardest things I had to face in this year was realizing stressing over and catastrophizing the thing, does not count as actually working on it. It’s pouring your energy into a spinning tyre. You will feel as if you worked at the problem for hours when in reality you had a silent panic attack at the coffee table. It does nothing good and drains you.
You see standing in the kitchen all of this ran through my head in true ADHD fashion in the blink of an eye and I felt the shame of letting my family down- which is a dramatic thought that seemed rational at the moment. My husband hugged me and said, “It’s okay, it’s feast or famine with your motivation and it’s just that season.”
In that second something in my head clicked. My issues and troubles manifest in these seasons of extreme motivation and gusto. The whole house will get cleaned and organized with spreadsheet budgets and meals prepped. Another season is three days without real pants and stepping over laundry.
What if we are actually lucky? What if we are made to have seasons of rest where we focus on fighting off the depression and do our best? Reframing those episodes like that took the raw, skinned knee burn of self-loathing out of the equation. How different would my life be if I treated myself with kindness and my depressive episodes as a personal Winter? No need for spreadsheets and meal plans- we’re running on one side of the sink empty and laundry once a week. It’s bare and colder than the usual fluffy, exuberant seasons when I make gourmet food and mop the walls. It’s not good or bad, it’s simply Winter.
We tend to hold ourselves accountable for our emotions rather than honoring our emotions. I’m not weak for feeling sad. Why am I sad? What is my sadness telling me to do? My sadness has a process of overtaking me but when I listen to it, it tells me how to heal myself. I am still mourning the loss of my father. Sometimes the grief and concrete absorption of him not existing here anymore makes me feel like I am walking up steps and missing one. Then the memories and sadness ebb for days. But instead of staying in bed, I give myself moments to think and feel. I donate toys to kids in his honor. I talk to my son about the Grandfather he will never meet. I light a candle, make two cups of coffee and have an imaginary coffee date catching my dad up on life. Suddenly the tingle of fight or flight in my spine is gone and I feel less like I am swimming in jello as I move.
Big feelings do not have to be bad feelings. So often we focus on how our emotions affect our productivity, our family, our schedules. Somehow humanity got fed the lie that we are meant to be happy little consumer citizens and just have to be so happy all the time. That’s not sustainable or how the human experience works.
I encourage you to sit and have a coffee chat with your grief. Take a bath along your sadness. Feel and discover roots of your anger as you blast music on a treadmill. Feelings are a way your body and mind process information. Information comes in, you feel a way about it and that feeling dictates your actions. How on earth can we make these choices and be decisive when we only feel the good? It’s no wonder we freeze and slide into a cocoon of self-critique and misery when we are faced with this. Being human is hard. As we understand why we feel things we discover anger is the armor of injury and we might have some wounds to heal. Sadness can be empathy with no outlet. Action and volunteerism can be physical outlets for depression. By honoring those feelings and expressing them after you get to know that emotion's story and root cause, can speed up those personal winters.
You don’t have to lay placid on a couch and wait for your emotions to stop happening to you. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling big things.
So I ask you, what was your biggest anger caused by? Does protesting racism or climate change help that general anxiety of the world collapsing? Burn the pictures of your ex and cry, letting it out. Write letters you won’t send.
Let’s talk about how you get to know your emotions and how you honor those emotional seasons.