It’s the middle of the night. Actually, for me, it’s only a couple of hours before my alarm will remind me that it’s time to get up, get dressed, and head to a job that helps pay the bills in a reasonably gracious way, but is not a place that feeds my soul. I’m grateful I have two jobs and that the other job is one I care about a good deal.
Yesterday, my son called me. We hadn’t talked in a few weeks and I was glad to hear his voice. It touches me when he reaches out. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t reach out to him more often. But our conversation was just what I needed, even though I hadn’t known what that was.
He picked up on something in my voice. When he tried to identify what it was, he said I sounded “negative.” Oddly, I hadn’t even realized I was coming across that way. I was simply focusing on him and how he was doing, with little interest in talking about me and my life. Maybe that was the tip-off.
He asked me if I felt “happy,” if my life and where I was living right now felt “stable.” (He’s already becoming a good psychologist, even though he still has two more years of undergrad work to do.) I told him “no” that I didn’t feel what I would call “happy,” but that my life felt “stable,” sort of… How “stable” can it feel when my housemate may rent the other room but I may simply be surprised one day to find a stranger moving her things in? How “stable” can it feel when the ‘housemate’ living in the converted garage never communicates, in that I never know if she’s around and may – or may not – need to use the bathroom we share? (And will share with the new roommate, when she comes.) How stable can it feel when I rarely see either housemate because one is a night owl to the point that she often doesn’t come home till a few hours after I’ve been asleep and I leave before dawn and the other has an indecipherable schedule that includes frequently staying elsewhere and communication amongst us is a foreign concept to them both?
After my son and I got off the phone, I was appreciating the opportunity to hear his voice and to connect (we talked for a full hour) and feeling grateful that he had helped me see something I hadn’t quite brought into focus: I’m depressed.
I have noticed feeling defeated, almost hopeless, on a number of occasions, but hadn’t connected the dots. It’s odd, in a way, at least to me, that depression has a way of sneaking up on me without my realizing that the negative attitudes bubbling around in my thoughts are actually an indicator that I’m moving into depression. I have always seen myself as a positive person and an optimist, so it’s hard for me to recognize, let alone accept, that I have shifted into a negative, depressed frame of mind – even though I see the clues.
Somewhere along the way, in the past two to three years, I seem to have lost my way. The passion I felt while I was in grad school, anticipating work that was meaningful, rewarding, satisfying, seems to have faded. I feel buried in a life focused – or not so focused – on survival, paying the bills and simply getting from one day to another. My energy level varies from day to day, rising most when I have projects at work that can capture my attention and keep me from thinking of how powerless I feel over my life right now. Even the longing for a loving relationship has joined the vague pile of hopes that sometimes feel unreachable.
Yet this is not where I want to be. This is not where I want to stay, in terms of my attitude, my feelings, my energy. I may not have much control over my energy, but I can make choices around my attitude.
I won’t pretend to feel “happy” or “stable” or “good” when I don’t feel that way. But it helps to recognize what’s happening. Now that I know I’ve been sliding toward depression, I can accept that and let it go. I’ve discovered that when I try to fight feeling depressed – which most often happens when I don’t yet realize that I am, indeed, depressed – it makes it worse. What works best for me is to realize I’m feeling depressed, to recognize my powerlessness over it, and to do what I can to help myself through it.
Before bed, I pulled out some of my flower remedies to get started. (Larch, for confidence; Sweet Chestnut, for optimism; and, after admitting the despair underlying the depression, Gorse.) When I woke up in the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, wondering how to find my way out of the quagmire of defeat, I pulled out a book that has never failed to help me walk through the dark periods: When the Heart Waits, by Sue Monk Kidd.
It will go in my backpack “tomorrow” (which is to say, in a couple of hours) and I will again appreciate the best part of being dependent on public transportation: the time and freedom to read as I take both bus and train to get to work. I may not be very bright and alert all day (funny how lack of sleep does that), but at least I’ll be on a good path to find my way again.