Baby-stepping Back Into Life
For those of you who follow me on social media, it’s now old news that I spent most of March living at a treatment facility for my depression. It was a somewhat surreal 26 days where I had no responsibilities other than to get up, wait in line for medication, go to three group therapy sessions, and eat meals. Not that there was anything easy about it—therapy has a way of calling your attention to wounds you never properly dressed and healed, so to speak. This was time I needed to spend, focusing on why I had descended to the place where I had begun to believe my family would be better off without me, and more importantly, what to do about it.
Now I’m back in the “real world,” and the harder work has begun. How do I take what I learned during my treatment and apply it to the messy, interruption-filled, unpredictable roller coaster ride life tends to dish out? I think I’m on the third iteration of my intended routine. No plan survives the impact with reality, right?
Although I’m home, I still have two hours, four days a week of therapy, so that eats a good chunk of my morning on weekdays. I’m ok with that, because there’s no way I could have come home and gone back to occasional counseling and expect to graft my tools from in-patient into my daily life. I’m trying to focus right now on the “musts” of life: run my household, manage my health, and carefully choose one thing at a time I can add to that.
Every version of my routine has allowed for some creative time each day, but here’s the rub: the prospect of sitting down to edit Rune Bearer or to draw or paint or build with clay triggers my anxiety. I have not yet sat down at my desk for more than a half hour since I got home. (I’m even typing this blog on my laptop on my front porch because somehow that is less stressful than approaching the desk.) I have better skills now for addressing the anxiety when it comes, but unfortunately, I have not yet discovered the route back to my creative mojo, because the anxiety seems to shut that down pretty thoroughly.
My therapists and doctors all warned me that depression is comparatively easy to treat in relation to anxiety. I see that bearing out, because my new medication regimen has indeed made a night-and-day difference for the depression. However, I am still waking up after a couple hours of sleep with a squeezing sensation in my torso and galloping heartbeat, with my brain on sudden high alert, as if I am in imminent danger. Before my alarm goes off in the morning, the same experience begins my day. Crazy, annoying, stressful dreams wash over my mind in waves in the time between those anxiety spikes. If I could choose a superpower, I would choose the ability to never sleep, because quite frankly, sleep sucks for me. I’ve been chasing after the illusive, mythical beast known as a Restful Night’s Sleep since…uh…forever, and I’m not sure I will ever find it.
Even so, life is 1000% easier each day without the concrete blocks of depression chained to my ankles and slung across my shoulders. I am so much more at ease, just dealing with what I can work on right now, instead of obsessing over the past and fretting about the future. My job right now is to be present for my family, do the best I can at the “musts,” and be patient with myself for the rest. I may be low-functioning as compared to a neurotypical person, but I’m high functioning for one who suffers from mental illness, and for the moment, that’s enough for me.