I’m not nearly as clever or brilliant as I think I am most of the time. It’s a lesson I learned a few years ago. It may surprise you (if you’ve known me for a long time) that I didn’t realize I came across as something of a pretentious know-it-all for so many years. I’m being real when I say this: I genuinely believe that people want all the knowledge that I have, or at the very least, want to know more in general. My husband kindly informed me that I was wrong on this front. Not everyone is interested in becoming a semi-expert on nearly every interesting topic they come across, and most of them don’t want to be corrected over seemingly insignificant things.
So, to be honest, I kind of assume I’m something of a Tiffany expert. I assume I know myself better than anyone else, and I assume that I can see myself clearly most of the time because I’m a good self-assessor. I am also frequently wrong.
That’s right. I’ll admit it. I am frequently wrong.
I have a great friend/mentor/accountability partner named Lisa. She’s been a God-send from the day she walked into my life. She’s never seemed put off by the fact that I talk a lot or think a lot or am a bit needy in my interpersonal relationships. She’s never backed down from telling me what she thinks. She interrupts when she needs to, and she’s direct when she needs to be, and she’s kind and hilarious when she needs to be. She’s something of an anomaly in my life, and she’s anomaly that I had no idea that I needed.
The last SEVERAL months have been hard for me. I haven’t wanted to write (though I have been a bit more productive in my fiction writing). I haven’t wanted to do much self-care. I haven’t wanted to do much of anything except talk. And I’ve talked. A ton. Mostly to Lisa. Without her, I’m not sure I’d be in on the “right” side of sanity today.
Last week, around my birthday, I went through a particularly bad bout of self-loathing. This is not something I engage in on a regular basis, but it is the result of too much introspection and not enough life-engagement. My brain fires rapidly, and I have some deeply rooted neural pathways that are easy to fall into. Things like:
- How could I have done that?
- Why can’t I do better?
- What am I even good at?
- Why can’t I do this right?
- Why can’t I figure this out?
- Why am I so stupid?
Anyone else got those pathways? Anyone else have these kinds of conversations within yourself:
- Everything you do is wrong. They said so.
- Everything you think is dumb. They think so.
- Everything you want to do can’t be done. They’ll tell you so.
- Everything you think you’ve done wrong. You’ve done wrong. They know so.
- Everything about you sucks. They think so.
- Everything about you needs improving. They hope you’ll fix that ASAP.
Last week, I fell into one of these pathways. I’d been working myself around these ruts for months without being aware of it. My body was aware of it. My husband was aware of it. Lisa’s been aware of it. Even my mom knew something was off with me.
Only I was in the dark.
Literally. I’d reached a dark place I haven’t been to in a long time. The last time I was here was in the post-partum agony following my oldest child’s birth. Before that, it had been almost a year. Before that though, I’d spent years in this place. You’d think I’d know this space as well as I know my own body. My own mind. I’d been here before. In this place of self-loathing and self-hate.
I’m a self-punisher, and a serial self-critizer. I spend WAY….let me emphasize WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY too much of my time thinking about all the ways I need to do better and be better. I punish myself by indulging in every person’s opinion or perceived opinion about how poor I’m performing.
This tendency is one of the reasons I shy away from writing so often. Even though I enjoy it. Even though I feel a calling to it. I feel self-defeated most of the time because I keep on believing that this is something that will never matter for me. This is something that doesn’t matter to other people. This is something I just hope I’m good at, but really I suck.
And I don’t like to feel vulnerable.
And writing this today. Putting this out there today. It makes me feel vulnerable.
Here it goes y’all: I’m a bit depressed. Quite a bit actually.
And I’m strangely relieved to discover this fact.
To be completely real and give y’all a peek at how someone whose mental health seems obvious on the outside can still be in denial, I was surprised to discover this to be true last week.
My final clue, after months of hints, after countless conversations, was some random suicidal ideation that took hold of me while I was driving home this past Sunday. I’d had a wonderful day with my husband. My mom was gallantly taking on my three children to give me a date day. I’d thoroughly enjoyed my birthday week on so many levels.
But driving home, after I’d read some random comment on some random article, I felt horrible. I can’t even put to words how awful I felt. Like a cloud had settled over me. I heard my own inner voice mocking me and telling me that this random lady was right: I’d made horrible choices for my family and my children. I’d done too many things wrong. I was too whiny. Too ungrateful. Too selfish. And I felt like this was the real truth. I felt in that moment like this was the truth that everyone around me believed about me too.
That I was worthless and no good. That I’d been screwing up my kids from the day they were born. That my husband couldn’t love me. That my family was tired of me. That my friends weren’t really interested in me and just thought I was a whiny, chatty, dramatic brat. That they’d all probably be relieved and BETTER OFF if I just did something about this little problem called MYSELF.
SERIOUSLY. This is the raw, real set of thoughts that went through my brain. This is what depression can do to us if we leave it eat away at our minds and our hearts.
Now, I have a lot of education. I have a lot of training. I have a LOT of recovery experience. This moment was my light bulb.
At the intersection of two major and very busy roads, I sat at a red light and took a VERY deep breath.
I said out loud so that I could hear it and not shove it away, “Well, I think I have to admit it now. I’m depressed.”
The weight lifted dramatically. I could feel something like hope and shock and fear all mixed together. I suddenly realized what I’d been dealing with for all these months. Since September really.
I’d put a good face on it. I’d made a good effort. I’d tried really hard to match up to my own hopes and expectations. I’d been determined not to let trauma interrupt my life or rob me of my joy.
But I’d failed to give credit where it is due: depression is a chemical problem, not an effort problem. Depression is deeply rooted in the brain, it is not simply the result of my poor attempts at life. Depression is a thief, and it seeks out every opportunity to intrude and drain and take. And it hides.
But I saw it. I named it. I called it into the light.
Now, this is not a story of how I magically took power back with my words or my will. No, this is a story of a struggle. This is a story of a stumbling, bumbling, and often rambling little girl trying hard to be what other people want her to be instead of just appreciating the person that she is today and hoping in the person that God is making her into.
I am struggling to stand up, but with God’s help, my husband’s help, my friend’s help, I’m doing it. Today is better than yesterday. I’ve been practicing changing the messages I’m saying to myself by reminding myself of who I am in God’s family. I’ve been practicing the thoughts that I want to have in response to one of my bad moments instead of focusing on the thoughts that come first. I’ve been restructuring my day so that I focus more of my energy on being productive when I start my day rather than partway into it. I’ve been trying to call moments that cause me irritation and frustration opportunities instead of inconveniences.
And today is better than yesterday.
I still feel the pull, and I’m not sure that I won’t have to seek out some extra help (because I will if this lingers on). But at least, I see it.
Because I saw through the depression, I’ve been able to see myself again.
This is the gift that God has given me today. I can see me today through the fog.
And I’m hopeful that I will see myself even more clearly tomorrow.