Sometimes when people ask me hard questions, I give a pat answer.
Mel: Have you seen the stapler?
Me: I have pants on. What more do you want from me?
I put these on today.
Usually I’m making a joke.
Sometimes though, I’m not joking at all. Sometimes I’m using humor to cover the truth that, on this particular day, it took everything I had to get out of bed, brush my teeth, put clothes on and drove to work.
Hell, I even plucked my chin hair.
There are days when those basic tasks feel far from basic.
There are days when everything feels just a bit harder. I don’t know how else to explain it. The difference between snowshoeing on unbroken snow and on a well-worn path, maybe. In both cases, you’re following the same path - but in unbroken snow, those steps take a lot more out of you. You’ve got to work a lot harder to get where you want to go.
On those days, the self-judgement and guilt that follow is relentless. At least for me.
Many days, I battle a constant feeling of “why does it feel so hard to write one *&^&^^% email?”
Why does everything feel so hard?
Why can I not just buckle down and get things done?
I just, as of last week, completed a project that I began in January. My goal for completion was March, then April then….well, August. The disappointment I feel in myself for taking so long to finish far outweighs the accomplishment of completing something big.
Sure I finished, but it took me forever.
I don’t always know how much of those delays are laziness and how much are my weekly, sometimes daily struggle with this thing I’ve spent the past decade plus trying to understand. That thing is dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder. I write about it often on this blog because….well….I believe we need to talk about it more.
Last week, I wrote a post about fears, and I mentioned that my greatest fear is that I’ll never give to the world all it is that I feel I have in me to give. That I’ll spend so much time spinning my wheels worrying about what I should do, that I’ll never get around to the doing part.
A friend of mine took a screen shot of that last line and told me to post that sh** somewhere I could see it everyday.
Some days life is as simple as making a list and checking off the boxes of tasks that you want to get done.
But some days, life isn’t that simple.
I’ve said before that sometimes I don’t know where the depression ends and I begin. And that’s the daily frustration.
Sometimes I lose interest in things like music, books, my guitar, exercise. Many days I lack productivity and on many more days, I’m overwhelmed with an overall feeling of inadequacy. I spend so much time thinking and feeling that I should be more but paralyzed to move. Dysthymia is sometimes referred to as mild depression, because you still function - until you hit a major depressive episode, as I’ve done in the past.
The trap is that you feel like you should just snap out of it. Recently, I read in a post on dysthymia which mentioned the prevailing myth that a person can just look on the bright side.
Stop being such a Debbie Downer!
If you’d just look for the good things, you wouldn’t feel this way!
Sometimes people try to challenge me with relentless positivity - and while that’s not bad - sometimes the idea that I just need to try harder to be positive only feeds into those feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem that hit me at times.
I was relieved to see that concept written as myth, because so often, I feel like a failure for not snapping out of my funks. For not being able to counter a tough situation with straight out gratitude and positive thinking. Mind over matter they say.
And I say, what is wrong with my mind, that I can’t make anything matter?
It was myths like those above that prevented me from seeking treatment for most of my life. It’s myths like those above that often still give me the greatest heartache at the end of a long day. I don’t always know and understand what I can and cannot control. I don’t always know how much blame is mine. And that is so, so, so, very hard.
I treat my depression the best I can. I have an amazing therapist, an amazing spouse, I take my medication and I work hard to make the lifestyle changes I know can help. I exercise often, try to meditate, work to let people in to my life and my struggles and try to be open and honest about the struggle.
That last one is harder than it sounds.
Sometimes people think that depression is only obvious sadness; that it’s crying in the middle of your living room floor or bursting into tears when your boss looks at you sideways.
Those are often side affects of major depressive disorder, but it’s the “mild depression” and I beg, beg, beg to differ with the idea that any depression is mild, that clips me at the knees.
I wrote this post today because I got up and put pants on - but for some reason - perhaps the reason that I can seldom see but always feel - putting pants on felt like an accomplishment.
So today, and many days, both behind me and probably ahead of me, the best I could do in a day is put pants on.
But I’m going to do my best to celebrate those pants. And maybe even, if I can find it in myself, bedazzle the sh** out of those pants.