Monday, October 22, 2018

Quicksand

You know, when I was a kid, I thought quicksand was an ever-present danger.

I knew that to escape, you had to calm yourself and spread your body weight out to swim. You had to  paddle yourself to safety, rather than stay upright trying to run.

Flailing wildly would just get you sucked down to your death.

I knew the concepts as well as I knew to stop, drop, and roll if I caught on fire. Better, in fact, as we didn't dwell on fire prevention.

Although now that I say that, did we dwell on how to survive quicksand?

Maybe.

It was tricky, though, because unlike fire, which is obvious, quicksand could be anywhere.

You might be playing and think it was mud you could walk through. It might just look like the floor of the jungle—so tricky! So you could be waist or even neck high before you even realized.

Best case scenario, you'd have a friend along, one with a long and sturdy stick to offer. If they didn't have a stick, they could lie down flat, making sure they were secure, and extend an arm to pull you to safety.

If you didn't have a friend, you could pretend you were swimming and get yourself to solid ground.

And this is how the slide, or stroll, or plod into depression is for me.

I realized last week that rather than being on the same plane as my peers looking them full and brightly in the face, I was peering out at the world from a grim, grey, industrial twilighty kind of place.

This journey in, which I’ve written about before, is so slow and gradual it’s almost imperceptible. I walk further and further in, until I almost can't see out.

It's like that frog in the gradually heating pot. It's not like raaiiiin on your wedding day, or a free ride when you've already paid.

If you don't know me well, and only see me at the office, or school, or wherever out and about, you wouldn't know it. I smile. I make jokes. It's just inside my head where everything is dark and relentlessly negative.

I knew that the rain pulled me down, and that we had an awful lot of it. In fact, I was pretty sure it had been raining my entire life.

But I was taking my medication. And as I’m at the office I have a an almost two-mile walk to work, and a free gym. So I was exercising pretty regularly. I mean, mostly, except when I wasn't.

And I was eating pretty well. More or less. Except for chocolate.

I was fine. Just tired. And frustrated and short-tempered. But I don’t have a single female friend who doesn’t feel that way lately.

So actually, I really was fine.

I mean, not great, and some days it took every bit of my willpower—and I have a lot—to force myself out of bed. But lots of people feel that way, right?

I was drinking a lot of coffee, and all of the coffee was not enough.

But other than that, I was fine.

I was fine and fine and fine, until I wasn't. Which is how I always am.

I stroll blithely forward, never realizing till I’m waist high, neck high, till I’m under. The farther in I get, the harder it is to do the things that help me surface.

I need that friend with the stick or the arm to extend.

Last weekend, after I'd snapped at him repeatedly, Nick pointed out that I was awfully annoyed with all of them. I was about to tell him that it was because he was being particularly annoying, when he said Betty had mentioned my behavior to him as well. I was short tempered.

And this is what happens now.

I don’t tuck into myself and cry. I get angry and direct it outward. It’s more unpleasant for others, but I’m a more functional human. I don’t have the luxury of time to stay in bed and cry all day. Not getting up and dealing is not an option.

This is what I need to do, every day, to keep myself balanced: Exercise. Walk in sunshine. Eat well, with little to no sugar. Sleep at least 8 hours. Take my meds. Have some time alone.

On a perfect day, all those things happen.

It is rarely a perfect day.

Because sometimes it rains for your entire life or anyway weeks and weeks in a row, month after month.

Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly you absolutely have to review everything you've done wrong, every single misstep, for the next three hours.

Sometimes chocolate seems like the only solution.

Sometimes for a long time you do not have one single minute to just breathe.

So after Nick said that, I upped my meds. And I ordered a sun lamp for the office. I have floor lamp for home that I use when I’m on my laptop. But now I spend a lot of time in the office, no sun or sky in sight.

On Saturday, Nick took the kids camping overnight. I had a whole day to myself. I had quiet time. I sat in the park under a tree and read a book.

This weekend, I felt like it was turning around. The world still seems grim—I mean, we are heading for a planetary water crisis and the bulk of my government is comprised of pustulent opportunistic lying cheats—but my particular personal little world is not quite so grey and apocalyptic.

Half a dozen colleagues have inquired about the lamp, because it is visible from a great distance, perhaps even outer space. Some asked if it was a grow light, and wondered if I was cultivating pot in my office.

It's legal in DC, but even so, that might be pushing the bounds of acceptability. Also, it is not my thing.

After I explained what it was actually for, several of them asked for the link.

When it rains for your entire life, or anyway weeks on end, months on end, and you cannot function without sunshine, it’s nice to have your own personal grow light to feed your soul and trick your brain.

The quicksand, for me, is always there. I'm vigilant, but it can look like the jungle floor, and I can be neck deep before I know it.

I am always at least neck deep before I know it.

8 comments:

  1. I hope you get some sunshine and find the lovely things again soon. One thing my dad said to me when I was a Teenager and struggling a bit was ‘ Jo, find even just one thing everyday to make you smile. Doesn’t matter what it is but find one thing, even on the dark days, that will make you smile. You are doing just fine’ For some reason it stayed even when he passed so young and I was still a teen. Remembering that pearl from him helps me some days. Xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Jo! That's a lovely memory and those are beautiful words from your dad. Big hugs.

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  2. Love that you share your story! Many of us have been there at one time or another. Glad that you fight. Love your writing and your pure honesty!a

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    1. Thank you so much, Sandy! I appreciate it. Big hugs to you!

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  3. Hi! Could you post a link the the sun lamp you got? I suspect I have depression (waiting to see my doctor) and it definitely seems worse in the winter months.

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    1. Yes, happy to! Here's the one I got: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002WTCHLC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      Amazon has a ton of sizes and price points--I chose this one because it seemed like it would be easy to angle to shine on what I am working on (and I feel like that's true) and it would deliver enough light that I wouldn't need hours and hours--though I actually do have it on whenever I'm at my desk.

      Good for you for reaching out to your doctor and taking care of yourself.

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  4. All the sunshine, soft and pillowy, with a stream to jog by and clusters of dewy grass and flowers beside it for you! I needed to read this today.

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    1. Thanks and hugs, and all the sunshine and goodness right back to you.

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