It doesn't have to be like this

Last week I wrote a post about rules. 

I’ve created some rules for myself, regarding meditation, health and fitness, and writing. Three weeks in, I’m sticking to those rules at least 80% of the time. 


Last Friday I met with my therapist for only the second time in months, and as I recounted some of my changes, she asked me what was different.

It was a great question. Because the truth is, I’ve often tried to make these kinds of changes in the past, and they haven’t stuck. Then it occurred to me.  

“I think I’m finally on the right dose of medication for depression.” 

Is this as good as it gets?

If you’ve read any of my posts on depression in the past, you know I’ve struggled for most of my life with what used to be called dysthymia, and what is now referred to as chronic low level depression. I have, thankfully, always functioned throughout my depression, and while I realize medication is not for everyone, it was a combination of medication and therapy that finally helped me function at a higher level. 

But I’ve never thrived.

In fact, when I was 29, I had someone tell me that they always thought I’d amount to more. 

It was a devastating comment, but the truth is, I was thinking it too. I still think it sometimes. 

Last spring I was wrapping up my first full year at Spurling, and while I was finally working a job that I loved, I was still struggling. I have taken medication and sought therapy on and off in the past decade. In my mind, I was doing everything that I could to manage myself.

And while I was managing myself just fine, there was a persistent feeling that I wasn’t living my life as fully as I could.   

I wasn’t thriving. 

Last March I sat in my friend’s car in downtown Portland, watching the raindrops slide down the windshield as she spoke. 

“It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said. 

The “this” she was talking about was my overall lethargy and inability to focus. Despite medication and therapy (and it’s very challenging to find the right combination of both) I was in a funk.  

“Trust me,” she said. “I’ve been there.”

“What if this is as good as it gets?” I asked.

“It’s not,” she said. “It’s not.”

As it turns out, she was right. 

I didn't have a doctor I trusted, so I hadn't talked to anyone about medication for years. She recommended a psychiatrist to manage my medication, and I finally went to see him.For the past nine months, he’s been helping me to find the right combination of medication. Each time I’ve walked into his office, I’ve asked the same question - what if this is as good as it gets?

But we both persisted in the hopes that it wasn’t. 

So in early December, we made another change to my medication, the third in the past nine months. And if I’m being totally honest with all of you, I believe that last change has as much to do with my ability to create rules for myself as any books on productivity or habits. 

I guess I say that because I don’t want to pretend that any of this is easy. I don’t want to pretend that making big changes to your life is as easy as figuring out what you need to do and doing it. 

The formula is simple, but it’s not easy.

I'm not suggesting that medication is for everyone, or that it fixes everything. We're all different and we each have to figure out what we need to get us where we want to go. 

But I have learned something very important.

Don't settle.