Sometimes I think a thousand new things a minute, or so it seems. My mind jumps from thought to thought, settling only long enough to start a line of thinking before leaping on to the next. I always want to explain it as flashes of light, except there are no flashing lights, it just feels that way to me, the thinker; all of these stops and starts – like flashes of light, unexpected and surprising.
Very often, when my mind is like this, my body is actually very still. “I should start dinner,” I think, “what should I make tonight?” Perhaps I would actually start dinner if my body didn’t respond with, “Not just yet, I don’t feel like cooking now, in a little while.” It’s hard to say, my mind has flashed to another thought before the objection to the first is even finished. The first paragraph of a blog comes to mind, it’s good stuff. “I should write that down,” I think. “I need to find a pen and piece of paper and write that down to finish later.” My body protests, from the couch or chair or spot where it has landed, “You’ll remember it,” (though I won’t), “no need to write it down right now. Do it later.” FLASH. “I should work out, maybe I’ll go to the gym today.” FLASH. “Oh, I keep forgetting to call about that appointment, I have to do that.” FLASH. “I wonder where that shirt is. I bet it would look cute with those leggings.” FLASH. I will have thought all of these thoughts, and argued against many of them, within a minutes time or less.
These times are different than when I am actively following the course laid out by my thoughts; different than when I’m actually cooking dinner, writing a blog and making important phone calls. Sometimes I can do all of those things at once (and more) and feel completely on top of all of it. The flashing lights of my mind are far worse when I’m still than when I’m moving. When I’m still, and feeling unable to find motion again, is when the guilt starts, “I shouldn’t be laying here like this. What will people think? I should at least look like I’m doing something.” After the guilt comes the self-berating, “I can’t believe you didn’t make it to the gym today; obviously you don’t have the kind of dedication to losing weight that you think you do. Might as well keep eating.” Things worsen as the day progresses, hours counted by where I lay on the couch, watching mindless marathons of shows on Netflix and listening, like an uninterested party, to the constant arguing in my head. She and Her. The optimist and the pessimist. They’re both annoying, frankly.
It would make the most sense, if movement is better than stillness, to just keep moving. It’s what I try to do, anyway. Even when I feel it start to take root, that low energy feeling and vague sense of apathy that I know will leave me on the couch; even as it starts I push past it. “Get up and go, get up and go, doesn’t matter how you’re feeling – go, go, go!” It only takes so long though, only takes so much time before I begin to slip up, move a little less, make excuses a little more. “I’m so tired. I just want to lay here. I just want to lay here and do nothing and have it be okay. Can’t it just be okay?” It can’t. It isn’t okay because I feel guilty and ashamed when I lay still and do nothing. The flashes start. They take over. I’m confined to the couch, feeling guilty and ashamed, letting She the Optimist flutter about making plans and dreaming up new ideas while Her the Pessimist mournfully argues and lays very, very still.
It happens every time. Whenever the lows come, they come like this; they come and then they take over and they are in charge of productivity and motivation and proper nutrition and exercise – and they’re very, very bad at it.
And just when I think they will never go away, that I will never feel well enough again to be normal and functioning, just when I convince myself that I should just give up, they leave. I wake up one morning and the foggy flashes have lifted, focus has returned and productivity begins, slowly at first, but happening.
I’ve just gone through one of the emergence, dominance, and release of one of these low cycles. Sometimes it is a matter of days start to finish, one time it lasted two months. They scare me every time no matter how long they’re around. I become delusional and convinced that everyone who loves me does not, I am certain that everyone will leave. I convince myself that I am meant to be alone, that a burden like me is best left to oneself. I hallucinate (more than usual) and turn shadows into predators and believe that something is always watching me. I fight against the low cycle tooth and nail, until broken, I give in.
I give in and I make my excuses to everyone and go into hibernation. I find streaming internet, fill the house with food, ignore telephones as much as possible and take to the couch. I make excuses about the work I should be doing and let myself get away with them because I know once I am broken I no longer have the focus or strength to actually do anything, about anything. I feel what I feel and think what I think and don’t bother to write a word of it down. Bella understands by now what is happening and barely asks to go out. She sticks close to me and watches me carefully when I do move around the house.
Once I stop fighting it’s normally a 36 hour period before I begin to feel well again. As I give myself permission to be me, whomever it is that I become during these spells, the anxiety and guilt wanes. As I rest, free of guilt and to-do lists, my brain begins to quiet; the marathon show I’m watching acts like a salve, replacing the noise with noise to soften the sudden quiet within. However many weeks I may have been fighting this piece of myself are finally over and I give in. Normally it takes an evening and a full day of uninterrupted time for it to recede, though sometimes a little longer. By uninterrupted time I mean a time when nothing is asked of me; no social demands or chores, no tiresome conversations, no sex, nothing.Time alone with the couch and the television seems to work the best.
Yesterday was the end of that 36 hours. Today I awoke with a lighter heart and an air of focus that had been missing. I was able to sit and be productive for several hours before returning to rest. It takes time to heal from the low cycle, the first few days after are always light duty as I get used to things again.
I wonder, as I think about the cycle, the cycle that is the same every time, why I fight it so hard. Why can’t I remind myself in the beginning that the sooner I give in, the sooner it is over? I know this to be fact, I have lived this cycle many, many times. Perhaps there is something to be said for the indomitable spirit that simply will not give in to depression, even if the giving in is the only way out.
I’m grateful for dear, beloved people in my life who know me in this cycle almost as well as I do and are willing to encourage me to just lay down, give in a little; people who know that it will be okay and are only a call or visit away as I face the darkness. I’m thankful for new friends and loves who are just learning what this looks like and the effect it has on me, and who are willing to help me from one side to the other. I’m a very blessed woman.