I am a hysteric-in-recovery, and I live with an insidious enemy: anxiety/depression, the foundation for an emotional valence that comes and goes.
This morning I am writing. I don’t really care what comes out of the keyboard. That’s not the point. I am in the activity of writing. That’s what matters.
Writing is not as satisfying as getting high and working with Sculpey (polyform clay). At the end of writing there is still more work that needs to be done. It is called rewriting. It goes on and on. There’s always more to do. Kind of like life.
I am in a good place right now. These days I wake up, and tired or not, there is no ambient, overhanging mood. There’s just a map of what I have to do, and a basic sense of well-being that accompanies it .
I do the things that nurture me: go for a walk with my dog, make my morning coffee. Three days a week I meet my brother Mike on-line and we write together in a virtual room 3,000 miles away from each other.
The day has started and the rest of it purrs along– one minor miracle after another. It is amazing how simple, basic, and ordinary life is.
I still have an often-accompanying sense of “I haven’t done enough yet,” but it seems separate from me. Maybe it’s a family trait, or a social convention, and not a personal flaw. I’ve had that same sense of urgency since I was eighteen, so it is nothing new.
In my non-depressive/ anxious state I feel good about life. We are buddies, life and me. We go along together. Nothing bothers me that much or that long. I forget where my keys or cell phone are, but it’s no big. I get annoyed, I get over it quickly. I make a mistake and cringe, but I find my balance again.
But when I am anxious or off-balance it’s different.
I live in a scary place. I don’t breathe. I feel compressed. The fact that I am not breathing increases my anxiety, of course, but there is no use pointing that out to my body. I’m caught in an endless, downward spiral.
I know that I need to change something, but knowing that doesn’t change anything or suggest what I might change. I feel I am being self-indulgent, as if I could simply say “knock it off- won’t you?” and I would, and that would snap me out of it. But I can’t, and that admonition lands on top of all the other negativity that is coloring my perceptions.
When I am in an anxious/depressive cycle, the basic operating mood is dread, and my ambient mood is high alert. It is red on the inner terrorism scale. There is no escape until it ends.
I can’t believe that I am stuck. I rail against myself, as if I could choose to get out of this state immediately.
I am amazed at people who don’t have the inner emotionality that keeps them frozen in place, waiting for some other being to solve the problem of living and breathing.
I have a name for this phenomenon; I call it “waiting at the train station.” Waiting at the station means someone else has the power to decide what to do with my life… even if they didn’t ask for that power. I’m waiting at the station because I have unconsciously given up control.
HOW could I do that?
Years of practice.
Believing that what someone else thinks is more important than what I choose. Imagining that choosing to do what I wanted or needed would threaten the source of love I imagined I was dependant on; so tied to. Choosing meant loss, abandonment.
When I was young, my Mom was the Beneficent Goddess of Love, Light, Charm, and FUN. Really quite a powerhouse of a woman. But she could also be the Wicked Witch of the East. When she was ”on the warpath”, (which could happen at any time, for any reason,) she was scary. No wonder, I felt the threat of nuclear invasion as a reality. I needed a bomb shelter to protect me from my own mother. At the same time, I was completely emotionally dependant on her. I was fleeing her. And I needed her with me. Duck and cover and take the bomb with you.
I am still working on growing that part of myself up.
It comes down to this: tolerating how I feel on red alert. Not pushing it away or trying to explain it. “Knowing” doesn’t help when I’m dread-filled. I have given myself to the Dark Side of the Force and I have fight to keep myself from disappearing into THE DEPRESSIVE PANIC-FILLED UNIVERSE. (Ominous music plays in the background.)
For a long time, I have used my friends to help me tolerate these awful feelings, to make the emptiness more bearable. Sorry guys! I am consciously working on not doing that now. I am sixty-five. I am looking down the road to life’s inevitable conclusion. I want to grow these parts of myself up, to the best of my ability, and be able to navigate the dark forest of my mind, pleasant or unpleasant as it might be. I want to think less negatively and feel more love toward the being that is me.
I have a new plan.
I will develop an avatar–RavenLight Ganesha– the clearer of all obstacles, real or imagined.
The next time I hear the sirens that signal red alert I will ask RavenLight Ganesha for a map to help me out of the Miasma Swamp. It will involve looking for buried treasure or finding hidden trails rather than feeling helpless, overwhelmed and immobilized. RavenLight will carry a flashlight and bring some snacks. In the middle of moving through the underbrush and those dark, shadowy areas, the lighted terrain will feel more familiar and friendly and the path will appear.