Life is definitely getting better. More accurately, I realise now that isn’t going to ‘get better’ by itself. Anxiety isn’t a virus where you basically have to wait it out for the right antibodies to kick in. It isn’t a sprain that you compress and ice and rest it until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Instead it’s a monster that broke my all my self confidence, physically and mentally. So now I have to build it back up. I have to learn to trust my body again. Learn to trust my resolve. And slowly but surely, it’s working.
I don’t rock the boat at work too much, because if I screw it up I still have to be there everyday, but every weekend I do something that pushes my boundaries. Drive a long distance. Go somewhere that makes me nervous. Visit someone I haven’t felt able to see since this mess was made. Last weekend, I finally went to the dentist. I’ve been pushing back the appointment for months, unable to stand the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair for however many minutes. On Saturday I did it (with a lot of ‘Oh I can’t do this/YES YOU CAN/It’ll be over in no time/Stop obsessing and GO’), and guess what – I didn’t die, or vomit, or wet myself, or run away screaming, or even ask to stop before the guy was finished.
I have to be relentless about it, or I’ll lose my progress. It is so tempting, especially after a long week at work, to say ‘I’ll just take it easy this weekend, stay in my house and go nowhere’, but I mustn’t give into it because I know I’ll struggle to step back up.
Progress is hard fought, but I know now I’m not going to achieve it without some serious blood, sweat, and tears. Whenever I feel like I can’t keep going, I remind myself that I do NOT want to spend the rest of my life suffering with anxiety. This is the only way out.
It’s not life vs death, or light vs dark. Better vs worse. That’s too easy, because the choice is too obvious. In therapy we’re asked if we want to get better. How often does someone say ‘no’ to that?
It is not white vs black. It is grey vs the unknown. The unknown could be white. It could also be black, darker than the existing grey. It could be any other colour you can think of (or can’t think of). It is probably multicoloured, but it might not be.
The point is, it’s a gamble, because now sucks, and while the future might be great, it could also be darker.
I know I’ve said this all before, but I need to say it again.
Asking questions in ignorance of this truth is unfair.
I’m delighted to announced that I think I’ve broken a record – for the first time in about two years, I’ve actually had five days straight without feeling particularly ‘down’. No miserable moods, no self-harming, no emotions I couldn’t handle.
Now I’m aware that usually when I make a positive post on this blog, I’ll crash soon afterwards and the next one will be depressive and angry…here’s hoping for an end to that pattern!
It hasn’t been the easiest five days, and that makes me all the more proud that I’ve made this achievement; over the last couple of days I’ve felt hints of a downward slope mood-wise, and somehow I’ve managed to stop them in their tracks. It’s strange to sit at a desk, feel that first tug of frustration or sadness, see the day descending into me abandoning work and killing hours until it’s time to sleep…and then remind myself that that won’t get me anywhere, and actually act on that.
A little voice in my brain is whispering the word ‘recovery’, but that’s too exciting/a potential set-up to crash for me to address right now.
Whatever this is, and whatever it means, I’m welcoming it with open arms.
I have a question for those of you struggling with depression (or similar problems): if I presented you with a ‘fast-forward’ button that would instantly take you forward to a time when you are no longer ‘ill’, would you press it?
On Friday I found myself wishing I had a ‘make-better’ button with that kind of function; to bring me to a time when I’m no longer struggling with mental illness. Something allowing me to skip all the lows, all the therapy, all the experimenting with pills. But I almost immediately realised that if I had that button, I wouldn’t press it.
I’ve known for a while that I wouldn’t want to go back in time to a depression-free age; younger me was certainly happier, but that is only because she was willfully naive. She ignored the problems around her, buried her fears and frustrations, and channeled everything into things like protecting her younger brother, and exams. It wasn’t sustainable, and I don’t approve of those coping mechanisms anymore.
So, if I don’t aspire to be ‘like I was before depression’, a healthy me is a new person. I don’t yet know who she is, although I can guess a few things about her; she understands the difference between being independent and hiding, she can handle strong emotions, and she doesn’t find it so hard to trust people. But I can’t tell you how she does all those things. And I don’t yet know what else will be different about her.
This is why I wouldn’t press the ‘fast-forward’ button: I don’t know who a ‘healthy me’ is, but she will be the product of everything that I would skip past. The product of all the things I would miss, including those horrible soul-destroying lows, the painful therapy, the unreliable meds. I couldn’t fast-forward building the foundations to what might be considered a new life. That process will be my story. And that story will be me.
Would you press the button?