Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Go Fast: Lessons in Self-Compassion



Two months and ten days. 

That's how long I kept this blog private. Locked. Shut down. Dormant.

Dead.

I effectively killed off the writer in me. My most beloved part of my Self. What happened? Guuuurl, what didn't happen.

Starting sometime around December, something happened. I remember at the time I was experimenting with acupuncture in an attempt to cure my aggravating inner-ear issues with Vertigo. I really liked the place I went and I liked the concept of acupuncture. I liked the feeling I had after receiving the treatment. But, with my super-sensitive inner workings, acupuncture unlocked something inside me. Acupuncture seeks out your crud and unlocks it, like a detox. And with just a few sessions of this effective ancient treatment, shit inside of me got unLOCKED.

That's how it started, anyway. The gateway to a four-month-long deep dark Depression.

SURPRISE!!

Like an aggressive cancer, my Depression crept in with consistent force, gaining speed with each new day (each miserable morning) until I was a closed feedback loop of anxiety and self-doubt. I was aware of my misery, but unable to step back and package it up in a clinical term. Plus, when you are Depressed, the most impossible thing is to recognize it for what it is and give yourself the comforting reassurance that This Too Shall pass.

Now, am I saying that acupuncture caused me to go under? No, not at all. I just identified this as the catalyst to the beginning of my slow unraveling.

It was December 16th, 2013. I went to my gym to do a personal training session early in the morning with my girl, Jenny. I had just undergone an acupuncture and chiropractic treatment prior to this training session, and I was feeling particularly weak.

If you've never experienced a detox event, here is what it feels like: Detox symptoms are like the flu, but worse. You feel nauseous, you feel tired, but instead of the comfort of blaming it on, "Oh, I have the fluuuu" you just kind of suffer in this ambiguous misery. At the time I could not place this as detox symptoms. All I knew was that I felt off.

Feeling "off" started a chain reaction of Bad News Bears thinking. I started to question my choice of moving to Chicago. I started to become more aware of the vulnerability of my situation as a single thirty-something in a new city with a big job. On my own, without a longed-for husband and without the comfort of family and friends, I lost my confidence in this thirty-somthing adventure.

When you lose your confidence, you lose a lot of stuff. You lose your humor, you lose your joy, you lose your ability to relax. But, most importantly, you lose the ability to trust yourself. 

You lose faith in your Self. And once you've lost faith in your own Self, you are like a third class passenger on the Titanic. When you lose faith your self, you don't got shit to stand on, whatsoever. 

So, here is where I found myself, mid-December, falling without a net and enjoying the ferocious beating of the Polar Vortex. Now, I am not even going to talk about the Polar Vortex because one thing Depressed people don't like is blaming emotions on the weather. I think this is because blaming your mood on the weather is like cheering for sports teams. Everybody does it. But depressed people don't feel like everybody. Depressed people feel completely and utterly alone, as if they are the first ever people on Earth to experience these nasty feelings of panic, fear and existential dread. If you read this and you are thinking, "Wait, no. Her too?" you get it. Yep, her too. When it comes to Depression, we all suffer silent and alone, sister. Suffering in solitude is a hallmark of the illness.

So, I am getting off track here. This is supposed to be a happy coming out of the Depressed closet post.

Where was I? – Oh, yeah. December. Polar Vortex (but don't blame the Polar Vortex). So, on went the months. December. Anxious Christmas back in Minnesota. January, I barely remember it. February, my ex visited me for a shared anxious Valentines Day. March, I started to lose hope in resurrecting my new life in Chicago. April – Now, then there was April.

April was an interesting month because, by that time, I was rallying the troops to Get the Fuck Out of Here. I was trying to calculate the gravity of leaving my beloved job, of getting out of my fancy apartment, and of (gasp) moving back home into my parent's house. So, needless to say, the airplane was on a steady decent downward.

Then, some new things happened. My mom, who was worried sick and determined to help me feel better, visited me for the first time in Chicago. We went to church, ate deep dish pizza, and visited her childhood home in Evanston. Next, three close girlfriends from Minnesota spent the weekend in Chicago. I remember at the time suffering from anxiety over the monumental task of playing tour guide in a city that still felt big and aggressive and unfamiliar. 

But that was when something new started to kick in. It was…(drumroll)…Love

My friends and family did not come to Chicago to get a tour of Lake Michigan and The Bean. They came to Chicago to be with me. To sit with me. To walk with me. To talk with me, and to hang with me inside my jagged mental jungle gym of barbed wire and broken glass. 

The day my girlfriends arrived, I was a mess. I had planned to Get Caught Up on all of my ankle biters – laundry, time sheets, bills – but my attempt to do this crashed in utter procrastination and un-productivity. I worked from home that day and I struggled over one assignment that I would normally, with a healthy mind, whip through in about an hour. Instead, I agonized, trudging through mud and fog until I finally hit send on the email to my boss. I was met with temporary relief when he wrote back, "Brilliant, great work!" but this small Win was fleeting. 

I kept texting my friends, inquiring on their progress (they drove, which was cute), and, despite my extreme fondness for them, I kept hoping they would be late and late and later still. 

I kept hoping that, in the bottom of the ninth, Fun Susan would make a last-minute appearance and I would start feeling OK again. But, I didn't.

So, my girlfriends show up and I blurt out to them that I am a Complete Fucking Mess and I have no idea how to have a fun weekend with them. The three of them look at me with Mom faces, as though they had once changed my diapers and wiped up my spittle.


"Susan." said Jess. "We are not here to see Chicago. Fuck Chicago. We are here to sit in your apartment and be with you. We can wear our pajamas the entire weekend if you want."

And with that, a seed inside me started to sprout. It was like, Oh. They don't need me to be Fun Susan…or Loud Susan, or Funny Susan, or Look-At-Me-in-My-Sparkle-Platform-Heels Susan. 

They just need me to be…Susan. Confused, bewildered, unsure and afraid Susan. You see, it was OK for me to be this wounded version of myself with my friends because they know all of me. They know the Wonderful Me. They know the Wounded Me. And no matter which Me was going to be with them that weekend, that was Ok. It was all Ok. And this, I think, is the definition of Unconditional Love.

So, that's where it started – the slow climb out of the pit. On April 14th, 2014, the slow climb out of my Depression commenced. And a slow fucking climb it was gonna be.

There were good days and bad days. I kept track. Good days were categorized as 'Red' and bad days were categorized as 'Blue.' I kept track in a journal and I studied my progress like a scientist, noting what helped and what dragged me back down.

In studying my own Depression, I learned some universal lessons that sound like they are straight out of Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul. But the thing about conventional wisdom is that it only makes sense once you live it in your own shoes standing on your own two feet (or lying down in your own bed, because that is probably what you are doing if you are depressed right now).

One of the tough things about having Red days was that, when the Blue days came back, it was like unexpectedly falling down the side of the mountain. And the climb back up seemed more daunting because I new all the steep spots.

But, I kept relearning those steep spots. I kept reliving them, day in, day out, like Tom Cruise in The Edge of Tomorrow (a great movie, you should go see it).

What did I learn? What are those Chicken Noodle Soup-isms that actually are universal truths for finding your way back to happy? Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Love your Self. Seriously, LOVE YOUR FUCKING SELF. What does that even mean? It means being your own best friend. It means refusing to put yourself down. None of this, "I need to lose 20 pounds," "I procrastinate too much," "I am always late." "I am unlovable and dull." None. Of. That. Just, shut up. Be nice. You should be nicest to you, treat yourself like a saint. You have to do this. This is only way you can love someone else (and there is the ism, riiiight?)
  2. There is no Number 2. Just follow the instructions in point Number 1.

If you want to do extra credit, might I suggest you try some sort of Detox or a Fast. It changed my life, but that was just icing on the cake.

That's all I got for now. But, yeah. I'm back. I'm writing again, with all my guts out on display for your viewing pleasure. And, let me just say, if any of this has resonated with you whatsoever, let me know in the comment section (or, if I know you, give me a call). 

I will come find you and we can hang out in our pajamas.

Love,
Susan




5 comments:

  1. You are a great writer, so honest and insightful and an inspiration to others!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your words are so powerful in capturing the true despair of the Big D. So glad that you've come out on the other side. Looking forward to a future pajama date.

    ReplyDelete
  3. LOVE YOU LARRY.
    -Franklin

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am happy to read your words again. -lucy

    ReplyDelete