Saturday, March 21, 2015

You can't care for yourself if you don't know what you need.

A few weeks ago, Bill and I had a pretty intense conversation. In it I detailed all the things I needed in order to be happy. Time alone to pursue my creativity. Support from him. A slice of life outside our home.

I also conceded that I might already have those things. Because, as he was quick to point out and I was unable to deny, I DO. I've been fighting the same fight for so long I had neglected to realize that somewhere along the way I won.

I already have the life I want.

And yet. Why was there still so much to fight about?

Part of this, I believe, is simple brain chemistry. At the time of this conversation it had been about a year since I weaned off antidepressants. It was one of the hardest years I can remember. Partly because whatever issues I had been suppressing with Zoloft had resurfaced and needed to be dealt with. Fair enough. But so much of it felt completely unfounded. Like I was digging deep for problems to fix and when I came up empty handed, I had to find something (or someone) else to blame.

Hence fighting about things that were no longer issues. (And getting disproportionately angry and crying all the time and being irritable and sad and unable to recover from the slightest setbacks and just generally feeling depressed...)

It turns out, the things I really need are not at all what I thought.

I don't need more time alone, I need to manage the time I have. I need to let go of guilt and find some hustle. To pursue passions for no other reason than I'm passionate about them. To do the things I want to do without feeling like I'm taking time away from my family. They are not stopping me! I am stopping myself.

Also? If I don't do anything at all above and beyond raising happy kids, nurturing a successful marriage and being a decent human being, that's okay. Why is that so hard to accept? Am I mommy warring myself? Thinking I have to compete with all the other amazing women in the world? Why is it so hard to believe that I am enough just exactly as I am?

I already have support. What I'm lacking is self confidence. Not all the time, of course. But there are times it feels IMPOSSIBLE to create a single thing (hello, lately...). When the self doubt creeps in, it's easy to look to someone else for support. To think if they just believed in me more, surely it would override my inability to believe in myself. But that's just not the way it works. Self doubt is part of the process. Unfortunately, I think, it's just the artist's way.

Time for a re-read...

As for my life outside the home, it is alive and well. I don't need more of anything except awareness and appreciation. This is true pretty much across the board. In fact, I made myself a little journal just so I could keep track of all the good in my life. Experiencing it is one thing. But experience is fleeting. And if you have trouble seeing the silver lining from time to time, writing it down can really help. Not only do you create an opportunity to sit with the good a little longer, you contact a sense of gratitude you might not have felt otherwise. For me it also helps to have something to look back on. So the next time I'm feeling sorry for myself or thinking I never do anything but laundry, I can flip to a page and know, without a doubt, that just isn't true. 

I also realized I needed to go back on a little bit of Zoloft. 

The difference has been night and day. All of the external factors in my life have remained the same and yet the way I am able to navigate them has changed completely. It's pretty mind blowing, actually. Makes me feel like I could have fought for years to get through this, never realizing there was a locked door in my way. Maybe I could have broken it down eventually. Maybe. But at the expense of what? Having the key might not be everything but it sure as hell helps.

It basically came down to this: my children will only be children once. Their childhood is not the time to be wishy washy with my mental health. Perhaps someday I can throw everything I've got at my demons (if there even are any...) and beat down the door with my bare, bloody hands. But this is not the time. This is their chapter of my life. As we've all heard, we have to put on our own oxygen masks first. To care for ourselves in order to care for others. For me, Zoloft is a piece of that self care puzzle. 

It's just a piece. But it might be a corner piece.

And I think, this time around, I might feel okay about it. Actually, no. I feel great. Like night and day, you know? There's nothing heroic about turning your back on something that improves your life. When I realized taking an iron supplement made it so I could get through the afternoon without falling asleep, I didn't think, Yeah, but what if I just tried harder? I thought, Hooray for iron! There's no reason to feel any different about this. And if time goes on and I start to wonder if it really helps me or not, I can look back in my journal and know for sure. Yes. It helps us all. And for that, I am truly grateful.

1 comment:

ae said...

I've been on and off of anti-depressants for 20 years, and I always come back to them. I don't regret it. Depression is an illness, and sometimes you have to treat illness with medicine. You can't just will yourself out of kidney stones, and nobody ever suggests that you should. Just my two cents.