*Quick note before reading: I began writing this right after Christmas but didn’t get a chance to finish it until now, so when I reference time I am referring to the weeks leading up to New Year’s eve.
When I was back in my hometown for the holidays I had a few days where my mom was at work so I spent a good amount of time just going around to my favorite spots in the area. One day ended up turning into my dream date. Just… with myself. First I went to brunch and sat at the counter that runs along the length of the bar and open kitchen. It was fanfreakingtastic to just sit and drink coffee, eat my favorite breakfast, and read. And besides complimenting the server and thanking her, I spoke to no one. I feel like society tends to either look at people eating by themselves (or going to movies or doing other activities alone) and think one of two things: “that’s so sad” or “wow, they must be so confident”. Neither is the truth in my case. I just really love brunch. No lie though-going out and doing things by yourself does inspire a little confidence. As the day wore on and I went clothes shopping and book browsing alone the social anxiety that nagged at the back of my mind began to fade. There’s power in doing things on your own because the rest of the world quiets and you begin to hear only one voice speaking and giving you feedback: yours. I wasn’t seeking validation from anyone and that created an environment in which I could be the most raw, honest version of myself. At the end of the day I knew that this was something I needed to continue to do in order to keep my energy stores full.
Anytime there’s something I need to change for my own well-being my body has to scream to be heard. I figured this out years ago when my battle with mental illness began. When my depression got especially bad I would either cry uncontrollably or feel nothing. If my anxiety had reached it’s peak I would vomit until there was nothing left in my stomach and then continue to make me dry heave just to make a point. Panic disorder got my attention by grabbing me by the throat so that I couldn’t breathe while proceeding to hold a weight on my chest. Even now when I am not properly addressing these monsters they build up inside me until they won’t be contained anymore. That’s when they decide to do all of these things at once, and more. Sometimes it hasn’t even been building up. It just decides to go to work when I am already physically ill. In the past two weeks this has happened twice that I’ve gotten sick and my panic disorder decided to stop in and say hello and then the second time depression wanted to join the party.
A decade after being diagnosed with these disorders I still find different ways to manage them or have to switch up my routine. As they react to and effect the atmosphere around me the severity of my symptoms change. In the past three weeks or so I’ve noticed that my symptoms of clinical depression (frequently referred to as major depressive disorder in the mental health world) have worsened. These symptoms vary by person or their current circumstances but recently I’ve experienced a spike in levels of sadness, restlessness, worthlessness, mood swings, irritability, my appetite fluctuates between craving junk and not being hungry all day, physical weakness, not sleeping or sleeping fitfully with vivid/disturbing dreams, physical pain blah etc etc. I manage to function at a normal level with medication but I live with all of these symptoms randomly and at varying degrees on a regular basis. I’m lucky enough to have resources that help me to manage this so that most days I feel almost normal. In fact, I’m extremely grateful that right now these symptoms are mild, not including when I was sick.
Something else that I’ve noticed about myself and others who live with psychological disorders and/or chronic illness is that we create a new standard of living in order to cope. While healthy people have an average standard for their quality of life people who struggle with these issues adjust their expectations lower so that they’re more achievable. I am only reminded of this when it gets bad and I can’t reach the bar that was already set low. It’s only later when my body and brain get tired of living at this level and I lose my ability to function properly do I realize that I need to make a change. While it can be a helpful coping mechanism, it is important to check yourself daily by asking, “Am I working especially hard today to keep my anxiety and sadness in check?”. If that is the case then it may be time to take yourself out on a date. Draw a hot bath, go visit or call a mentor, or block out an afternoon for a “me” day. Doing these things help you to slow down and self reflect. Hopefully your “me” day will bring some issues that need to be addressed to your attention.
On another note–It is now January 22nd* and I just got back from a weekend trip to Nashville last night! I was blessed to be able to travel with my two roommates to go visit friends there and it was a blast. Besides eating a lot of good food, playing games, and catching up we also shopped around, saw the city, and went to a drag show. So yeah, you could say it was a good weekend! I’ll write more about that in my next post though–so something to look forward to!