How does anyone know what “normal” feels like?
I don’t hate being asked how I’m doing- I hate not knowing how to answer this increasingly common question. I’ve obviously spent a significant amount of time doing seriously unwell. When every third thought involves ways to cease existing, I can say with confidence that I am doing poorly. But is a lack of those thoughts an indication that I’m doing well…or just that I’m doing better than I had been? And isn’t that sort of the same thing?
One might say that it doesn’t really matter…just be grateful for the reprieve. And I am grateful, so fiercely grateful I want to shout from the rooftops. But. I also want to know how to maintain this improved level of functioning or even increase it. To me, that means examining it. Figuring it out. Understanding it. But hereinlay the issue: my tendency to over-analyze. To pick a thing apart into unrecognizable bits. To mess up the process with my need to stare it in the face until it collapses in a pile of self doubt. Ironically, I’m super bad at finding the fine line between things. Somehow I look so hard I just miss it, every time. I can’t just simply recognize it, or quietly sit with it because then it just slips through my fingers and into the infinite abyss quicker than it came. Yet, trying to hold it tight, squeezing it to me with white knuckles seems to suck the life right out of any goodness that manifests. I really need some lessons on balance…
At any rate. I’ve completed 8 treatments of ECT and have, in theory, 4 more to go. Other than intense headaches, I hadn’t noticed much change. Until the last week or so. In which I’ve experienced a….lightening of mood? I struggle to find words to describe it, because it is subtle and not really very tangible. Just minuscule changes that would most likely go un-noticed if I weren’t so damned hyper-aware on purpose. Seriously small things like, I caught my reflection in the mirror yesterday and thought “aww, my hair is super curly, yay!” Typically my first reaction to seeing myself in a mirror is more along the lines of “ugh. frizzy hair. need to pluck. ewww, how long has that crusty been on my eyelash?” etc. Thus, I typically avoid mirrors! And I was hanging out with a friend the other day…instead of constant doubt about whether they wanted me around or not, I was just….enjoying myself. Unworried about if they would rather be doing something else, be spending time with someone else or hanging out by themselves. Now, don’t get me wrong- rarely do people give any indication that they’d rather not be spending time with me. I’m aware that the doubt is 100% a creation of my own brain. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to ignore or deal with. Even if it should! But lately I’ve noticed a quiet kind of calm in my interactions. An inner voice less critical of my every move.
Of course, this both comforts and terrifies me. Because just about when I let my guard down is when everything usually gets blown all to hell and back. But honestly, I’m too tired to maintain the walls. I just want to relax in the arms of the people that I love and find comfort in their company without clauses. And I’m going to try and take that opportunity now, while I can breathe without feeling as if I’m inhaling a lungful of ocean water. I’ve been treading so long, it feels really nice to just float for a minute. Soon enough I know I have to get back to the work of coordinating my strokes, if I want any chance of making it to the shore. But I think I recognize hope on the horizon now, I can finally see through the salt of the sea. Sure. it still stings when it hits my eyes…there are still stretches of time when I can’t breathe around the pain of the past year (and years before…) I don’t expect that to ever go away. But for a change, that hope doesn’t feel out of range.
I could go on and on about the difference between how something is and how something feels. But if I think too long on the fact that maybe I had this hope in me all along…well, that will only lead to an internal ass kicking for not getting my shit together so much sooner than this. I’m just gonna attribute most of it to the jolts of electricity being sent through my brain bi-weekly for the past month. And, of course, to the amazing support from the people who love me. If I’ve done anything to assist in the changes, I would say it would be not holding so tight to the things I’ve always held to. Not a letting go, exactly. But giving things room to breathe, some space to flourish. I wouldn’t say I’ve changed my inner voice/critic. But maybe I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge that she, too, can have multiple points of view.
I want to also acknowledge that these subtle changes couldn’t have happened without an army of support. But it’s not that anyone else’s stories have changed. Rather, they’ve had the patience to keep repeating themselves until their truths could get through my thick skull! And I’m not trying to give my power away. But truly, it has been such an intricate simplicity at play. So many pieces snapping in to place at just the right moments. Cogs and gears changing speeds and direction as necessary to keep up. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really believe in blessings. But. I do feel blessed in many respects. And a month ago, I would’ve berated myself for being so contradictory. For giving credence to ideas I’ve never a day in my life believed in. But today. Today it just is as it is. Today I am allowed to be malleable. It’s not me taking advantage of ideologies just because they suit my purpose. It’s not jumping on bandwagons or redefining who I am for the sake of the situation I’m in.
It’s just how it is. What will be, will be. I don’t know how anything actually works. I don’t know what makes a person well or the magic formula for being less depressed. I just know that, for the first time in a long time, my heart and my mind are in agreement about how I feel. I’m arguing less with myself about how I should feel and relaxing more in to how I do feel.