I have been very, very absent over the past 2 and a half months, but I think I’m ready to come back, at least a little.
I guess the big question is not actually where I’ve been, but how I’ve been. The honest answer is not overly well. I’ve had my good days, but mostly over these past 10 weeks, I’ve been pretty darn depressed. Looking back, I see that it had been a long time coming – I wasn’t keeping up on blogs, mine or others, I was doing much less of the things I enjoy, feeling more empty inside. In effect, I was losing interest in my interests, one of the primary symptoms of this illness.
I toyed, a LOT, with the idea of getting treatment, but ironically I had no idea where to start. I say ironically because I WORK in the mental health field. If anyone should know where to start, it should be me. Unfortunately, the thought that continued to plague me and stop me from stepping out was the memory of the last time I sought treatment. It was miserably unsuccessful. No matter where I went, I couldn’t find anyone to help me. Everyone I saw was trying to heal a disease about which I had no understanding! They were trying to solve the problem and I didn’t even know what the problem was!
What can I say? I’m tainted. I am tainted by experience and it continues by choice. I don’t necessarily want to try. I don’t know where to start looking or the questions to ask to determine whether I have found the right therapist for me. I don’t know what agency to look for. I don’t know how we’d pay for it. Lots of unknowns. Lots of questions. Most of which I keep to myself.
Through all of this, however, I have learned a lot about myself. I am learning that above all else, I am a learner and a thinker. I am a questioner. I am a changer of ‘the way things have always been’. Knowing this has also significantly slowed my search for someone to help me. I know that I will need someone who can explain things to me, recommend things for me to read, someone who is willing to think outside the box. Someone who will help me to learn how to live with this, how to determine my limits and set them and live by them. I am also by nature a limit pusher. I constantly fill my schedule to the limit of what I think I can handle and it always ends up being more. What I don’t know and am not sure I can figure out is whether it’s simply human nature that I can’t handle it or if it’s part of my illness, a limitation that I must learn to accept and live by.
I would also be remiss to not admit that the temptation of some very old and very bad habits almost constantly plagues me. Thoughts of trying my old ‘remedies’. They are very strong and it often takes a lot for me to not give in. I’ve been trying to not even entertain them, at least to the best of my ability, but man, it’s hard. I know that it’s the shame that keeps these thoughts inside. I know that no one can force me into treatment, no one can hospitalize me on any level. I’m not that sick. What I do know, is that if these thoughts were let out and made known, I would cause people to be sick with worry. Mostly, though, I would feel like a failure. Like I failed to take control of this and not let it control me. I would feel unnecessary, ridiculous feelings of failure and that is something I cannot do. I already blame myself far too much for other things that are in no way my fault.
In a way, my own battle with this illness gives me insight into the population with which I work. I can understand the intrusive thoughts they get more than someone without this struggle can. I can understand how they come and how one can have no control over how far the thoughts go or how strong they are. Sometimes I understand their struggle more than they do. I understand but I do not share with them. I don’t know how much sharing is appropriate or whether it would even be beneficial to them. I would like very much to get some advice about that, but I don’t know who to ask.
I’ve often questioned whether I am actually capable of working 40 hours a week. I really don’t know. Right now, it seems like far too much. I’m always stressed, I am always tired, and I feel like I’ve been sick too much. The thing is, I’m not sure whether it’s physical sickness that keeps me home on days like this or if it’s mental sickness keeping me home. Of course, it’s a little of both, but which is it more? I know which I would like to be, but I fear that it is mental sickness that keeps me home more than physical sickness. However, if that is the case, what am I supposed to do about that? How in the world am I supposed to keep this job and yet not work the hours required of me? How can I possibly expect promotion or advancement if I can’t handle the workload? Am I thus destined to leave my field and waste my gifts and talents in a job that will let me not work 40 hours? Or do I have to give up all of my out of work activities to make sure that I have enough mental capacity to work my 40 hours? I feel like I know what my calling is, unfortunately I have to put in the hours at the bottom so that I can eventually fill that spot and do what I want to do.
Too often, things feel hopeless, like I know what I need to do, but I just don’t have the energy to do it. I don’t have the capacity or the willpower or something. I don’t want to be trudging through every day, waiting for the day to be over so that I can be home, away from stress. I don’t think that’s what we are meant to do. We are meant to enjoy life, not dread it. We are meant to thrive, not just survive. I’ve spent 10 weeks trying to figure out what that looks like for me. Unfortunately, I’m basically right where I was when I started, but a little less depressed than I’ve been since then.
Now begins the process of catching back up. I know it will be slow, but hopefully it will give me some hope again. Hopefully things will start to look better and I will feel healthier and better. For now, though, I paint on my smile and go about my day, waiting, hoping and trusting in God to bring me through all of this. It’s the only thing I can do.