When I was attending Texas Woman’s University, the girls all called me Mama Michal. I was always happy to put my studies aside (stupid!) and give that time to a friend in need. They would cry and vent and I listened. Sometimes I doled out advice. Each friend was gracious for my time and I would often tell them that I was happy to help.
“If you don’t get that stuff out you will end up emotionally constipated,” I’d tell them.
I always thought that I was emotionally “regular” but what I’m realizing is that the reason my chest hurts and my heart hurts and my head hurts, etc. is because I am emotionally constipated. It’s more than just talking about what bothers you, because I’ve always been able to do that, but it’s about allowing yourself to be hurt and not rushing the healing process.
I often say that I’ve had an easy life but, if I actually told you all of the things I’ve weathered in my life it has not been as easy as I’ve believed it to be. When faced with life’s hardships I would pray, cry, and vent to a friend for a bit and then I’d tell myself, “You know, it’s not like you’re Corrie Ten Boom surviving the Holocaust or something. You’re not trying to scrape out a living on the streets or shoeless in a 3rd world country. If you can’t handle this common hurt than you won’t be able to handle the big stuff when it comes. So buck up. Suck it up. Be grateful that this is all you have to contend with.”
My advice to self was not wrong per se but it belittled my pain. I would never had said something like that to a friend who was unloading on me. I would’ve had validated her feelings, agreed that it’s hard, encouraged her to work through it but never would I have said, “get over it.”
So, though I HATE that saying that depression is a sign of someone who has been “too strong for too long,” I think I finally get it. Now here I am with so many issues to deal with that I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know how to get it all out and dealt with. I am emotionally constipated.
Depression and anxiety seem to go hand in hand. Almost everyone I know who is clinically depressed also has anxiety and vise versa. In fact maybe we should call it Anxpression or Dexiety, depending on which one is more prevalent in you. In my case it is “major” Anxiety (that’s what the Dr. said, MAJOR) with underlying Depression. I argued that it was situational not chemical and so I don’t need medication. It is in fact both. In hind sight the doctor and I can see the physical effects of anxiety in my medical records over the past two years which is how long I’ve seen him. It’s also how long I’ve lived here so maybe the move (situational) triggered that. I know that I’ve had battles with depression seasonally for about 20 years. I think that started about the time of my parents divorce (again situational). The doctor and the therapist say that I had/have a chemical unbalance in favor of depression and anxiety and then a situation fires it up.
I would like to fix the situation. They would like to balance the chemicals and the situation.
I’ve read and received so much advice on how to tackle this. It could be changed with a diet or a pill. I could pray it away or exercise. Making a life change could help. All of the options set my head to spinning. They all sound right and plausible.
Before taking the pills I had physical pains, a pit in my stomach and a hole in my heart. Food aversions and stomach issues ensued. Sleep deprivation and (if lucky enough to fall asleep) nightmares. An indifference for life. (I don’t like to call it the “S” word because I don’t feel that I really want to die; I just don’t mind if I do.) Memory loss. Not like I can’t remember life events but more like my mind would just go blank and I can’t remember what I was doing or where I was going or the words I was singing/saying. It was like being pregnant. Hot flashes. I couldn’t stand feeling lonely but when I was with other people I just wanted to be left alone. Temper. Is that everything….?
When I started the meds the stomach issues subsided but I also had a loss of appetite. The chest pains left and the hole in my heart was a little more shallow. The insomnia worsened. My hands shook with a palsy. I had a much better temperament towards my children. Hot flashes stopped. Memory returned. I could be around people but…I had this artificial sense of serenity. Like, I could be around people but I didn’t really want to. The meds just made it tolerable.
Once things balanced out a bit, my appetite returned. Boo! I gained 3 lbs. All of the physical manifestations of anxiety were gone but the sadness lingered. I would have more good days than bad. I started to sleep. I still felt restless, unsettled… This is where the situations have to change. I talked to My Man about how he could help with that. I talked circles with friends and self about what I need to do to help that.
I could do more shows. I’m more actively pursuing auditions now. I could really do something with my art. I have thought about self-publishing those children’s books that I wrote and submitted to publishers only to have a three year long parade of rejections. That little endeavor could combine my artistry as well since I would be the author AND illustrator. I could be a party planner. Man, I love to throw a party!
I’ve recently considered the idea of becoming a doula. (Google it.) My friends think I would be fabulous at it and have encouraged me to do it. Man, being ever so reasonable and cautious, said, “Sounds like something you may want to research.” This idea did not just come out of no where. I thought about it after having Buddy 10 years ago. I just may not have been very verbal about it.
Maybe I could go to Haiti and help kids there or something. A friend of mine recently took clothes and shoes there. I cried while going through her pictures on Facebook. I have other friends who serve at an orphanage in Africa and another who is adopting from the same orphanage. Those things entice me and pull on me. Go big or go home!
I have a hard time pursuing my artistic talents because I don’t see how they help in the broader scope. Man said that that’s not for me to figure out. I should just do them and let God use it to effect the “broader scope.” Being a doula though…I would feel like I’m touching lives! I could be involved with children without having to be bound to them forever. And ever. I’d make a little money to boot but with the wonderful freedom of not needing that revenue and so if I don’t have a mom delivering this month or the next, that’s ok.
All of those options also make my head spin.
I’m no longer on the meds and I still have an appetite. (Damn it.) I sleep (mostly) and dream (nightmares returning). The chest pain comes and goes. The pit comes and goes. I seem to have a couple of days of plummeting into the pit and then a couple of good days where I feel somewhat normal. I’m seeking solitude again. My head hurts because I’m still clenching my teeth. The tremors are gone. The indifference to life has returned. (Almost slipped on ice yesterday and thought, that wouldn’t be so bad.) I sit a lot. Like, I go to the grocery store and then sit in the car for about 5 minutes before I can muster the….what?…energy? Not energy. To care enough…to go in. After getting the groceries I drive home and then sit in the car for about 5 minutes again. I’ll bring some groceries in and then let the pantry wall hold me up while I fight tears before going back down to get the rest of the groceries.
“What’s wrong?” Man asks. Friends check in on me from time to time, “How are you doing?”
“Good,” I say because it’s a lot easier than saying how I’m really doing.
So, how am I doing? See Above.