I used that word in an earlier post and it aptly describes how I feel during the colder months. The blues come and go but the sense of blah typically offers its 6 month lease starting in October.
And then it’s fine. Just fine. I gaze back toward the summer and my heart yearns for the virtually limitless creativity emanating from my soul, when my mind was so sharp and clever. Now I feel rather like an object, collecting dust. I mean biology and all that. ‘Sposed to be hunkering down for the cold right?
It’s 2021. When does biology catch up with technology?
I think I’ve had a reasonable head through the pandemic. I’m mindful, socially distanced, and I keep an eye on the news. I remember when the pandemic first started and everyone around me was freaking out and all I could think is the panic you people are experiencing right now is how I live my everyday life – thank you anxiety disorder.
So I managed to never get too terribly anxious about the illness itself. But the changes I saw in people broke my heart. Over the summer I found myself wishing for the rapture – I saw no hope in society and wondered why the hell we were still on earth.
Eventually that did pass but winter arrived and the warm sun faded into the chilly air and my senses returned to a dullish state and dysthymia crept in, as it always does. Yet I trudged on.
I realized yesterday I had been carrying some kind of hope that January 1st would wave its magic wand and the pandemic would be but a memory. As the evening wore on, my childlike hope faded and today I’m full on Eeyore. I have clients who have lost loved ones recently to COVID. My heart cries when I see the death numbers tick.
Remember in the beginning when we were all there for each other? When people were donating salaries? When it was the world fighting together to stop COVID? People are still dying but now we’re fighting each other. I fear for the early months of 2021 as my country transitions presidential administrations when so much is already bubbling.
The pandemic is a trauma. We are going through a collective traumatic experience to varying degrees. Take care of each other.
I am very tired and I have a few clients tomorrow.
But that’s not why
It is the anniversary of my dads suicide.
But that’s not why.
2020 has changed all our winter holidays
But even that’s not why.
There is no closure tonight. People are still dying. America is still divided. This nightmare is not yet over.
Rather morose, I know. But I just don’t feel like celebrating. I’m not without hope; I am guarded as to what could be next.
No I have not forgotten. To the contrary, I’ve been actively avoiding writing.
Oh, you know. I just haven’t really had much to say—
That’s a lie.
Well, I’ve been quite busy with—
Truly I’m not all that interesting, I was just—
And wasn’t transparency the purpose of this blog?
What’s wrong with your humanness?
I felt mundane. The creativity slowed. I got busy with boring.
Why are you here now?
Because I said I wouldn’t stop dancing.
Today was rough. Anxiety was an 11 most of the day and I found myself overstimulated and overwhelmed to a significant degree. My sympathetic nervous system really had me believing a saber toothed tiger was at my heels all day.
Enter movement. I’m a dancer, yogi, Pilates enthusiast and have been for many years as well as dabbled with other fitness styles and even a Brazilian martial arts called Capoeira. My body has a lot in its repertoire to move from. For my strength training today, I offered myself only one prompt, “feel every muscle work intentionally.” A wonderful idea I shall return to again. The day did not improve but I had 32 glorious minutes of improving functional strength with only my own guidance.
My plan was to do yoga before bed. Settle down after the day, maybe choose a nice grounding soothing practice. But when I descended upon the mat, I decided to continue my exploration of intuitive movement from earlier with a new prompt of “follow where the energy goes and breathe through every sensation intentionally.”
I found myself returning to improvisation cues from dance class and integrating yogic breath work seamlessly into my movement exploration. The air coming into my lungs started to feel more nourishing and expansive. It was a bit of a Yin Yoga, restorative, pranayama, Bartenneiff, improvisation mix and it was exactly what my nervous system needed to slough off the day. Truly I feel my nervous system has just been exfoliated. I am ready for sleep and grateful for the reminder of how nourishing and nurturing intuitive movement can be.
I tend to develop an interest in something, learn as much as possible about it, how to be good at it, doggedly pursue it for a month or two and then fizzle. Currently it’s makeup and beauty. Over the summer it was Tik Tok. Previous years have included container gardening, essential oils, and bullet journaling. Within these hobbies always cycle Minecraft, the Sims, and Stardew Valley. It’s as if I’m addicted to new hobbies.
I just rid myself of about 25 bottles of essential oils that I never used (but were ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for me to purchase at the time). Now I do have a few that I keep and do use and I do attempt gardening every summer and have managed to continue a very minimalist style of bullet journaling but like why do I go all in with a new hobby? I often wonder if it’s a low hum of hypomania. I’m always a gamer – that never leaves – but I get on these new hobbies and they become the most incredible thing I’ve ever done.
It’s gotta be hypomania because it does meet the criteria of goal directed activities, does often come with a slight uptick in spending (albeit very thrifty – I’m a bargain gal), definitely involves flight of creativity and energy and confidence in my newfound skill (perhaps unfounded confidence?) but it doesn’t disrupt my functioning. Yep that is textbook hypomania.
The existentialist in me finds this fascinating as that means there are facets to me that are not always present or even accessible and I apparently have no choice in the matter. The anxious self worries every time a new hobby starts that it’ll end up just another collection in the corner. To both, the pragmatist will declare “at least you are continuing to learn new skills.”
I referenced the mirror in a previous poem and it is with regret I admit I continue to be harassed by it. Certainly progress has been made, but I still suffer the endless committee meeting in my head discussing all the things wrong with my body.
Strangely (or perhaps not) aging while bringing its own difficulties has lessened the battle somewhat. I am nearing 40 and I have 2 teenagers. I workout 5 days a week and walk my 10000 steps everyday. I eat generally whole, clean foods with mostly balanced macros for my activity level. There’s really nothing more I can do that does not fall into eating disorder land. It is easier to accept my imperfections as I’m not supposed to look 20 anymore – not without plastic surgery anyway. So, acceptance is the answer to my problems today. Courage to accept what I cannot change.
The mental battle is fatiguing though, I will admit. I do slip into old patterns particularly when I’m very stressed but very quickly my cognitive functioning is impacted and it makes working difficult. As a therapist, I cannot be mentally tuned out during session. It’s very interesting indeed how important nutrition is to cognitive functioning. Consider that the next time you skip breakfast ☺️
I often forget the general population isn’t well versed in mental wellness, never mind mental illness. I am well versed on either end of the spectrum, both professionally and personally. In fact, during college and graduate school where many of my cohort were learning things for the first time, my response was more along the lines of “oh that has a name?!”
In medical school as well as training to be a therapist, there is the tendency to diagnose oneself with every disorder learned. I had already had a moderate handful of diagnoses before studying them academically so I skipped right into imposter syndrome by my second semester of graduate school. The critical voices in my head had a new sneer, “how can you help others when you’re a mess yourself?”
Indeed, in my third semester of grad school I found myself reluctantly agreeing with my therapist to enter treatment for my eating disorder following a collapse in dance class. I felt ashamed but also incredibly grateful to my dance professor who required clearance from treatment before she would allow me to dance again. Bless her everyday for setting that boundary.
So I forget that the whole world isn’t constantly engaged in coping with and studying mental illness. When my instinct with friends or family discussing their bad day is to use words like processing, stabilizing, grounding and phrases like “ask yourself if” or “what are you aware of in your body right now?” And they look at me as if I have a grown a second head. Granted they know I’m a therapist so maybe they chalk it up to “psychobabble” but I hate that term because it implies lack of sincerity on my part and I can assure you, I couldn’t be more genuine.
I wouldn’t know how to be any other way at this point. It is my job but it is also why I have a job and a family and a home.
I do not wish to philosophize about the possibilities that exist, but my intellectual capabilities make it impossible for my brain not to fire in that way. My anxiety ensures these unwanted mental meanderings cause me great discomfort – for anxiety does not like to float freely; it prefers an anchor. And what better an anchor than the rabbit hole that is philosophy?
We are raised with certain belief systems, borne out of our caregivers’ bestowing. At some point, we have the option to choose a different value structure. If it does not align with our family traditions it can cause angst. This is where I often find myself. Sitting in the middle of historic teachings, my own experience, and the ability to see multiple perspectives. I joke that things were simpler when I had the checklist of religion and the prescribed wife and mother role from the 50s that I readily adopted. “Married with 2 under 2 by 22.” Life was neat and organized by childcare, housecleaning, and meal prep.
Now my kids are teens, I rarely cook, prefer to call myself a partner rather than a wife, and the only codified activity I participate in regularly is Pilates. Despite my existential angst, how I function in the world today is far more congruent to my authentic self than the identity I put on in my twenties. Important people in my life experience a bit of confusion, however, when I act in ways that seem to contradict their concept of me. It would be simpler for them if I retreated to a more predictable identity.
I can’t retrace my steps. I can’t unring the bell. I can’t pretend I don’t know what I do know. If I do, I betray myself.
I find myself wandering the halls of my mind, aimless. I have a sense I am searching for a book. A collection of somethings. Perhaps a how to manual?
There are times the shelves of my mind are neatly organized, categorized, even alphabetized. Other times it is more fluid, malleable, flexible. Presently, my surroundings are like clouds; they appear to have shape and texture, but my grasp returns nothing. Indeed, my hands shape shift. Like wisps of smoke, diffusing into abyss.
It’s almost beautiful. An improvisation of a well-known melody; recognition just out of reach.
An unlikely composition juxtaposing peace and urgency. I am calmly terrified.