Cascading Failure

Trying to overcome a minor depressive episode feels a lot like trying to wrestle a queen sized futon mattress down a narrow staircase by myself. I know, logically, if I ask for help the task will be easier, but instead I grab the mattress and pull. Sometimes I get lodged in place, smashed against the wall and can’t move, and other times I lose my grip a little and go tumbling down the stairs after the mattress. I might land on it, I might not. I will definitely bend back a nail until it breaks at the quick, my finger now throbbing, reminding me of what an idiot I am for attempting this task on my own.

Depression feels like cascading failure. One thing goes wrong and then everything follows. I feel sick. My head hurts. I’m achy. I don’t like the way I look, I’m not making good decisions, I’m not eating well, I’m not exercising, I want to sleep all the time. Being in public makes me anxious and nauseated so I stay in my house which makes me feel lethargic. On Sunday Derek coaxed me outside for a little walk and I tried to explain why everything was so hard for me right now. The walk helped and talking about my crummy brain made me realize I might have the power to initiate a little cascading success.

Yesterday I wanted to get up early to go for a swim. Start the day off with some exercise and it’s bound to make the day go a little more smoothly. When the alarm went off I was still so tired, so I decided it was important to sleep. The pool could wait. When I did get up I had a few messages from friends about a weird situation unfolding at my previous job. (If you are retiring from your job of 13 years and it’s all planned out, why would you clear out your office under cover of night and then send an email saying you’d be working from home until the end of the year? Totally normal, right?) Reading and responding to those messages took longer than it should have, but I rallied and got myself to the pool and didn’t have a real plan. Just got in and swam laps. It helped. My body felt tired and my brain felt better. I went to the grocery store right after and bought good, healthy food I was excited about so I could make a nice dinner. Instead I baked a potato and ate some leftover lentil soup but it still felt like a win.

It was not the best day of my  life but it was better than the day before and cutting myself some slack made the difference. I often come up with a very regimented list of things I need to accomplish in a day to feel good about myself and when one thing doesn’t go according to plan I feel like I shouldn’t even bother with the rest. I am easily thrown off course. But when I let myself deviate from the plan without internal punishment, I manage to feel ok about the day. It takes a lot of small steps for me to make a big step. I’ve been trying to take a big leap for a while now and I keep falling on my face or just not moving at all. I’m not sure why these lessons are so hard for me to learn but I will keep on trying to get them to stick.

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