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Warning:  This post is a minefield of mixed metaphors and foul language.  Continue at your own risk.

I’m always surprised when I finally figure out that I’m depressed.  Again.  Looking back, I can identify my first bout occurred when I was a junior in high school.  Of course I didn’t know then what it was.  Since then, on a paradoxically irregular-but-certain schedule, every 2-5 years or so, life seems to get overwhelming to the point of unbearable.  I say seems to get, because I’m beginning to see that life is what it is, and depression just skews your perception of it.

When I finally recognize what’s really going on, it seems as if it has come on suddenly — that I was fine, and then the abrupt encounter with the brick wall.  But even that perception is faulty.  In fact, it creeps up gradually, so that I don’t realize what’s happening till I’m mired too deeply to extract myself.  I see now my last post tells the tale with perfect clarity.  That chick was already buried deep and she didn’t even know it.  She didn’t have a clue that the groundwork for a terrorist plot had already been laid and that she had been played into hitting the trip wire.  That was 8 months ago — 8 months ago!

You see, depression does its best work in tandem with its stealthy partner-in-crime, anxiety.  Anxiety is a sort of advance team — depression’s combat engineer battalion.  Anxiety lays the foundation, making sure that depression can get the best possible foothold on its subsequent arrival.  Despite all the internal alarms it triggers, anxiety has mastered the art of coming in low key, no sirens.  It deploys under cover of darkness to place and arm its arsenal of IEDs and then retreats before daybreak to higher ground where it waits patiently for its expertly hidden-in-plain-view trip wires to be detonated. Then depression marches in openly and sets up camp, with nary an obstacle to slow its progress.  It entrenches itself and uses anxiety as a front line defense to maintain its position.

Here’s my paradoxical conundrum:  I am, fundamentally, one of the happiest people I know.  Seriously.  Seriously fucking happy.  So when depression comes calling, my first reaction is, “How did this happen?  I’m depression-proof, aren’t I?”

But I’m not.  Until now, this was always a surprise to me.  (Sometimes I’m a little slow to notice the obvious.) The newest revelation, as I look back on a pattern that I couldn’t see till now, is that it IS a pattern; a cycle; something that comes and goes.  It comes . . . and it goes. For the first time I’m willing and not so fearful to concede the likelihood that it will come again and that the key to getting through it with the least amount of collateral damage is holding on to the thread of truth that it will go away again.  It is not me.  I am here to stay, but it is not.

But when it’s here, I lose me.  I miss me.  I miss the little things that usually make me laugh at myself.  Like my guilty love of emojis.  I think this might be my third visit from the bastard depression since emojis became a thing.  And one of the things I noticed a couple of weeks ago is that I just don’t feel like inserting the appropriate emoji at the end of a wish-I-felt-more-clever quip, be it text or Facebook post.

You wanna know what a dick depression is?  It actually pats me on the back for not using emojis.  It “reassures” me that 50 year old women shouldn’t be using those things anyway, and how will anyone ever take me seriously if I don’t just cut that shit out.  I want to insert one now — the middle finger, a welcome addition from iOS 9 — to tell depression what I think of it, but WordPress hasn’t seen fit to supply me with the same tools.  Score another for depression.

But depression is losing its foothold.  I feel it.  It has been really dark and thick lately, and it still is. But the fact that I am sitting here at the keyboard writing this is a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.  Writing makes me happy, and more importantly, it keeps me sane.  Be it with a pen in my favorite journal, a card or a letter, or at this keyboard, the act of getting words out of my head onto paper, virtual or otherwise, is an act of self-care for me.  And for most of the last 8 months, barely a word has been written.  I didn’t have time for such frivolous luxuries, anxiety lied to me.  I needed to get down to business.

It’s obvious now, looking in the rearview mirror, that the declaration that I would write was anxiety’s detonator.  It triggered my conditioned defenses so that depression could come in and reinforce its strongholds. Well played.

I see that once again I believed their lies, and that belief is the source of my suffering.  Yeah, anxiety is an asshole, and depression is a dick.  But I have an advantage.  I am an excellent student of history.  History need not be repeated if we make the effort to learn from it.  I’m not saying there won’t be future battles.  But I’m learning to be less reactive and more responsive.  I’m learning to discern lies from truth and set my compass in the direction of the latter.

Here’s how I know I’m getting better.  Today I’m writing.  My sense of humor is returning, albeit grudgingly.  Huge, huge thank you to Jenny Lawson, thebloggess.com, for her most recent book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.  She made me laugh out loud during a time when that has been a struggle.

I’m hoping to try to start writing more consistently, both here and in my journal.  I’m not stupid enough to make another detonating declaration.  But if I can start up again, I’m thinking I’m going to write about the dark for a while.  I have some trepidation about that because Trixie, my inner approval whore, is afraid for us to be a Debbie Downer.  What will people think if  I’m not spewing sunshine and cleverness all the time?  One of the paradoxical gifts of depression is, I don’t care.  Here’s the strangest thing of all.  I am still a fundamentally happy person.  The sunny side of the moon is just facing the other direction right now.  It feels like by acknowledging the shadow side, it will make the duration of its waxing less of a struggle.  Maybe it’s a turning point.

Right after after I finished Furiously Happy (I recommend the audio version),  the universe sent me another sign that things are on the mend.  Yesterday as I drove down a busy street, I had to slow down because, in front of me progressing across three lanes of traffic, a chicken crossed the road.  I can’t make this stuff up.  Take that, depression, you dick.

 

 

 

Everything you need to succeed is inside.”  Cliché?  Perhaps, but these are words I needed to be reminded of today, and they showed up right on time.

I have long claimed to subscribe to the old saw, “Do what you love and the money will follow.”  I’ve preached it to friends and clients for years (I’m a life coach — or I prefer the term “Wayfinder.”)  But I have a dirty little secret — I’ve never actually done it.

Last year, when my marriage ended, I let yet another chance to do so go by.  I needed immediate income I thought.  I panicked.  I detoured.  I did what most would say was a very reasonable thing.  I looked for and took the first job I could easily get.  I hated it.  I hated the schedule,  and the time and energy away from my daughter and my dreams.  I hated that I felt like a sell-out; that I was trying to appease the lack and attack messages being broadcast by my reptilian brain; and that I hadn’t the courage to trust what I know is the truth.

I had done the reasonable, common-sensical thing. Yet more than six months later I still wasn’t earning enough money to support my daughter and myself.  At 49 years old, I live with my mother, and share a bedroom with my daughter — certainly not how I envisioned I’d be living at this stage of my life.  For some time now, it has appeared that I am moving ever farther away from every important goal I’ve set for myself.  The sign-post of my 50th birthday, a few months out, looms large on the horizon.

So, a few weeks ago, I did what most would call a crazy thing.  I had been pacing the edge of a cliff like a nervous cat for weeks.  And on a random Tuesday, I jumped.  I gave notice at my job, and a month later, I was “free” of it. I had grown increasingly miserable with my circumstances, but I kept trying to come up with another alternative, one that was gradual, certain . . .  reasonable.  None came.

I routinely recommend turtle steps . . . baby steps . . . even baby . . .  turtle  . . .  steps . . . to my coaching clients.  I did my darnedest to approach my own situation from that perspective.  But, “Just jump.  You’ll be okay,” was the only persistent, (and notably quiet) thought that kept repeating like a peaceful mantra whispering in my ear.  No safety net beyond the roof that my mother so generously provides us.  No Plan B.

My Plan A?  1) Write (blogging, freelance copywriting, and, in my “spare” time, a book); 2) Develop and deliver personal development programs, and coach;  and 3) Subsidize No. 1 and 2, my true passions, with small business consulting.

I had all but nailed down my first consulting contract, which promised income sufficient to replace the earnings from my 40+ hour per week job in less than half the time each week.  They were anxious for me to get started, and the extra time each week would leave me plenty of time to devote to items 1 and 2 in the plan.

I spent my first full week of self-employment writing the formal consulting proposal.  I summarized all we’d tentatively agreed to plus added several additional recommendations, which had become clear to me during meetings with the client.  It was good; better than I thought I was capable of.  I submitted it, assuming I’d be getting to work on executing it by mid-week this week.

A couple of days ago I heard from the would-be client’s director of operations.  They loved the proposal.  Yes, it is exactly what they need to do to go forward and grow their business! . . . But  . . . something has come up, something that must be dealt with immediately, something that takes immediate priority of funds, funds that had been earmarked for my contract.  They definitely want me . . . just not quite yet. Holy Shizzle.  Oops.  Big. Freakin’. Oops.

Apparently I’ve got some extra time to commit to developing the writing and coaching aspects of my plan, the work I love.  Terrifying.  And providential. That’s what I keep telling myself, even as the panic begins to set in for real.  So this week, I spent some of that extra time working my way through an online copywriting course.  Today’s assignment?  Read a piece of advertising.  Look at and evaluate the headline and the copy.

I grabbed a glossy full-color envelope from the mail pile, a promotion for a national gym chain with pictures of fit, smiling, beautiful people riding stationary bikes and lifting weights.  There in bold red italics, just above my name in the mailing address, was the phrase whose intended purpose, from a copywriting perspective, was to get me to open the envelope, “Everything you need to succeed is inside.

Right this minute, everything looks pretty bleak and, did I mention? terrifying. Everything you need to succeed is insideI’m having a little trouble staying focused on the tasks at hand.  Everything you need to succeed is inside. I am not sure how I’m going to make my bills in the coming weeks.  Everything you need to succeed is inside.  My chest is tight and my breathing is shallow. Everything you need to succeed is inside.  I take frequent breaks in my day to stop, get still, breathe, and remind myself, Everything you need to succeed is inside.

I’ve long claimed to be one of those people who believes this — that Everything you need to succeed is inside.  (In coming posts, I will reveal just how far down the rabbit hole I reside in that regard.)  But the proof of that hasn’t showed up on the outside surface of my life.  It hasn’t because I haven’t walked my talk.  Most would work toward this kind of so-called liberation gradually.  If you were my client, I would never recommend the kind of drastic action I just took.  It’s crazy! Everything you need to succeed is insideBut I would also never discourage you from it if you felt a clear call to it.  Everything you need to succeed is inside.

I have a small amount of money yet to come from my job.  My mother  is understandably freaked out by what I have done, and also quite ready to have her home back to herself.  Earlier today she asked me point blank what I will do after that last money has come and gone.  My response, “I have no earthly idea.”  Everything you need to succeed is inside. I will cross each bridge and make each decision as it presents itself, as I need to.  Everything you need to succeed is insideI will stay in this present moment as much as possible and resist the increasing urge to freak the f*#! out. Everything you need to succeed is inside

Did I make the right decision?  The answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”  Yesterday I worked on the launch of a 6-week teleclass.  (Stay tuned for more information.) I sit here today writing and about to publish this, my first blog post.  In fifteen minutes, my daughter will get home from school and I will actually be at home to greet her.  Yesterday afternoon we rode our bikes in the glorious sunshine during the time I would previously have been at work at my old job.

We get limitless opportunities to know and walk in truth.  I have been given another opportunity to walk my talk; another opportunity to trust the guidance I have received.  This time I am trusting.  Today’s message reinforces that I have not erred.  Everything I need to succeed is inside.

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