For a long time now, I’ve felt like I was struggling to get through a desert. Choking on dust, slogging through sand, extreme heat and cold, walking into cacti (I’d probably do this in a real desert), falling into craters, running scared from those creepy sand worm things you see in the movies. It’s not real. I know it’s not real, it’s not even logical, but it’s there. I’ve made this trip every day for over a year. Three hospital visits, dozens of drugs, tons of time missed from work – I’ve had respites, mirages that seemed so real. But I always return to this damn desert.
I’ve run a long time. Sometimes it’s from the anxiety causing (I’ll say) sand worms. Other times it’s running toward something – the cure. Surely there is some pill, some treatment, something, that is going to cure me and make me all better and normal and functional. I run and run and run. Until I can’t run any longer. I look back, but it’s too far to go back from where I’ve come. If all stays as it is, if I continue to run, continue to fear, continue to tell myself “Once x happens, then y= HAPPY”, I’m not going to get anywhere. Already I’ve collapsed several times from exhaustion, ready to just lay down and give up on the desert sand.
Obviously all this mental desert time has caused problems in my “real” life with my husband, my kids, my work, my health (nutrition is pop-tarts right?), my cluttered, sometimes disgusting house (Let’s play what’s that smell today), my finances, and on and on. And I’ve tried to solve these. Or hoped that a new med or therapy would give me the ability to solve them. ALL OF THEM. As Allie Brosh, author of the blog Hyperbole and a Half and a fellow sufferer, would say “CLEAN ALL THE THINGS”.
It doesn’t work. It’s too much pressure. You will drown. Even in the desert.
So I told my therapist about the desert. And she said something simple. “Build a tent.”
Don’t focus on “cures”. Don’t focus on what’s behind you. Don’t focus on what’s ahead. Just keep hanging in there – exactly where you are right now. Use whatever “coping” mechanisms you can, and I don’t just mean “deep belly breathing” or making gratitude lists (Thank you so bloody much for depression.) No, use YOUR coping mechanisms, anything that makes you able to make it through another hour. Some of mine are getting away somewhere that I can cry alone (especially while trying to tolerate work) hot cocoa (it soothes my nerves), soft socks and this sweater / throw rug my friend gave me. And my Things of course, they are my two favorite things.
So I’ve stopped. I have my tent, and my goodies, and I sit and I peek out occasionally. I am counting down the days (three weeks now) until I can visit a shrink who is not a total jackass. I’ve gotten a small increase on one of my meds from his nurse who is not a jackass. I’ve missed work, gotten time without pay, and gone home and napped. I missed half a day today, and woke up depressed. Sleeping that much is not a good coping skill. Naps are good. Hours and hours, which leads to hours and hours up at night watching Lifetime and infomercials (I can lose 80 pounds without exercise if only I do extreme damage to that heart thingy!), is not good. I need good sleep. Without it, even the tent shakes.
So I just have to focus on day by day. I hope I can stay at work, because being at home is not much better. If anyone has tips for handling depression at work that do not have to do with breathing (trust me, I’ve heard it), please feel free to offer them. I thought a lot about just quitting, but realizing today how bored and sad I get at home (especially whilst playing the “what’s that smell” game), I know I need my job, and for more than just the income. I also need to know what I want. If I sit in the tent instead of constantly racing and racing, my counselor says it will come to me.
What do I want – in work, with my husband, with my kids, with family, with my house, with my life. What do I really want? I don’t know right now because I am too blinded by everything else, all the hurry and worry and sad and sick. If I can just sit in my tent, can I just sit and thinks? What do I want (besides getting well). I hope I can find it. But I can’t rush it. The knowledge of what Alice really wants will only come when I stop looking.
So I have to stop. Take comfort in the tent. Survive. And listen to that voice in my head. Not the mean, depressive one.
The one that belongs to Alice.