Depression lies. To your face. It looks you in the eye, and with the warm smile and firm handshake of a car salesman will lie to you. About everything, about nothing, but mostly about yourself.
My depression tells me I’m not depressed. This is, I think, the basic lie of all mental illness.
You are not stuck on the sofa in a filthy apartment alone and isolated and shaking because you are depressed. You are stuck on the sofa in a filthy apartment alone and isolated and shaking because this is all you are capable of; because this is the result of the hideous choices you have made; because this is all you deserve.
So while a great many things have gone right for me since my last post, I remained stuck in the space between the falsehood that is my depression and the reality that is simply this — I am unwell.
My friend Sarah, one of the few people on this Earth I would throw myself on a hand grenade to save, says that when she is stuck, she needs to Do A Thing. Anything. Do the dishes, go for a walk, scoop the cat box. It doesn’t matter what, just do something.
I never understood that simple suggestion, until yesterday. I stumbled across a wonderful little post on Unfuck Your Habitat that really resonated.
I struggle with depression and anxiety, and 2013 was a hard year, full of a lot of stress about money, about serious illness, members of my family and my own, job frustration, the works. The house got pretty seriously fucked; there’d be weeks where it was all I could do to make sure the cats had clean bowls and litter boxes—for me it was too exhausting, too overwhelming to bother even though the clutter and dirtiness just made me feel even more tired and ashamed, isolating myself in my grubby little hole because I didn’t have the wherewithal to go out, and I didn’t want people to come in.
UFYH helped me to realize that things didn’t have to be perfect to be better. That spending a little, manageable chunk of time could make a real difference, and that if I did a little and then felt tired or discouraged it was okay to walk away, regroup, do something else to care for myself instead of beating myself up and declaring it pointless. Things still aren’t perfect; my closets need weeding, my file cabinet’s a disaster and the craft room could more accurately be described as “the crap room” for the jumble of miscellaneous that’s managed to accumulate in there. But I don’t feel hopeless and out of control any more, or like I don’t deserve something warm and happy when it’s cold and dark out.
And just like that, the fog lifted from over my eyes. This person basically read my story back to me, and found the way out of it. It didn’t have to be perfect, it didn’t even have to be good, it just had to be better than it was.
All I needed was to Do A Thing.
Yesterday, it was the kitchen:
Today it was some laundry and writing a long overdue assignment. Tomorrow, it will be something else (probably shoveling snow, I reckon). The next day it will be something else. Just keep moving forward and Do A Thing.
I started this blog as a forum to exercise a muscle that has never really been developed in me — to show some kindness to myself. Just writing these words is going a long way toward making that a reality.