Anxiety has been kicking my tush lately in the worst way.
Instead of being full-time roller-coaster-ville, it’s been sneak-attacking me here and there.
It leaves me shaking and physically weak – that’s a new one – and makes babystepping through my day feel like climbing a very large mountain that’s covered in poisonous snakes and those Princess Bride fire pits.
And the thing is, this is an improvement. A vast improvement over the spring/early summer when my old friend depression came back into town, pooped on my doorstep and took up residence like an old college roommate going through a messy divorce.
It was surly and tired and refused to leave, despite my not-so-subtle hinting.
I don’t get hit with depression a lot anymore, but when I do, it’s so hard to know what is going to lift the fog.
That’s one of the things with depression – if you knew it was waterskiing or meatballs or a new pair of jeans, you could just do or eat or get those things.
But instead, you wait and you wonder if this is the time it will stay around for good, because depression makes you lose all rational perspective.
This time I waited for a couple of months, hoping each morning that I would wake up and the weight would be gone.
I just wanted a normal day, not even a good one.
But within minutes my body would tell me, “This isn’t it, kid,” and I would go into get-through the day mode, trying to hold on to a the tiniest pinch of hope; the smallest dash of it-always-gets-better … right?
Sometimes the break in depression is gradual, like a sunrise (except it takes a few days or a week or more, so like a Mercury sunrise).
Still, I get glimmers and it keeps getting brighter, and I know that in time, I will find myself again, under the pillows and blankets and fear and tension.
But once in a while, it happens almost suddenly, which is what happened this time.
I was talking to my sister on the phone, and she mentioned that our mom wanted to join a volleyball league for senior women. She had even found one, but was upset to hear that the senior women, even after signing a waiver, “were not allowed to jump.”
It came out as a crack, or a snort – it was a very unattractive noise that I don’t wish to make again – but it came out all the same, and I started laughing until I couldn’t breathe.
Please don’t think me cruel. I am not laughing at these women who just want to exercise, I am laughing at a rule that makes the very object of playing volleyball sort of moot.
Still, something about the image of all these Carols and Debs standing in rows, wearing their knee pads and elbow pads and Poise Pads, being given the start-of-game reminder, “Remember ladies, let’s keep both feet on the floor …”
I just lost it.
For two days after, I continued to lose it whenever I would think about this scene – the women wanting to kick some senior sister butt – wanting to get a decent work-out, but being glued to the floor by park district burearacy.
In my bed. At the library. At the pool.
Whenever I thought about it, I would laugh until my stomach hurt. Until tears ran down my face.
For a lot of people, this kind of hysteria following a period of depression might be a bad sign, but for me, it gave me a little hope.
And I was right. Because then, one morning, it was all OK again.
Not perfect, but certainly better.
For a few weeks I thought maybe everything would be normal again, but it was more a tag-team situation – my anxiety was back, and no matter how much I thought about a coach shouting, “Barb! Final warning! Straight knees only!” it wasn’t enough to help with the shaking and uncertainty.
I talked to my doctor. I talked to my therapist, and both of them told me to move as much as possible. Breathe as much as possible.
They told me to practice radical self care and say no and to work every day to find my footing.
I added in “try to do nice things.”
This is an imperfect science – I mostly just leave larger than normal tips, but once I gave an elderly couple a pair of boat tickets.
And so that’s what I’m trying to do now, while I find my way back again.
I am mostly good, but I’ll tell you that it’s hard to write when anxiety is sitting in your lap.
Like physically hard.
I type weird when I am anxious, and the words don’t come nearly as quickly or as easily.
Plus, I doubt every word, so even if I do write something, I’m afraid to hit publish.
I’m afraid to be seen as complaining. In the grand scheme of things, depression and anxiety are treatable, and I have a wonderful support team in my doc and counselor.
But still, I want to be telling you about canoeing and our recent trip and about all the things we are learning.
I want to be me again.
So I’m working on it, OK? I promise, I’m working hard, and it will be OK again.
I mean, if the image of 60-year-olds frozen to the floor trying not to get spiked in the face because they literally aren’t allowed full range of motion is all it takes to break through the dark days of depression, something, one of these days, is going to help me reset the fear and the worry.
I just know it.
So for now, I’m sending love to my sisters who have been there or are there now, or who live in a state of worry about being there again.
I know how you feel. I know just how you feel. And I wish you peace and light.
Side note: Hey – you know one of the things that is helping a whole lot? Podcasting with Cait. Every two weeks we talk out something new – something that we are both going through or have been through. This week, it’s setting up rhythms and routines (which help SO much with depression and anxiety!) Head over here to listen.