I woke up feeling panicky and anxious today. I’ve learned to accept that this is not stupidity or weakness. There is always a reason for the panic, I just have to sit for a minute and figure it out. It usually isn’t a world-shaking reason. It’s usually something that might seem quite trivial to someone else, which is why I had been calling it stupid. But really, and obviously, it isn’t stupid or trivial because it throws me off balance and affects me physically.
I think of it as walking a balance beam, which is something that we all navigate throughout our lives. When I am not ill, my balance beam is very wide. When I am not ill, I’m a natural multi-tasker who thrives in a busy environment and always has lots of things on her plate and on the go at the same time. My balance beam is generally very wide and I can walk around on it from side to side without fear of falling off.
Everyone walks this balance beam, and everyone’s beam is a different width. Sometimes stress builds up and the balance beam gets narrower. We don’t have the latitude to walk around from side to side. We have to walk carefully to keep our balance. We have to work harder to juggle everything in our lives. Sometimes, we have to take things off our plate in order to deal with the stresses (whatever they may be) until our balance beam gets wider again and we can navigate safely. We all do this.
Depression narrows the beam until you are literally teetering on it. Flailing arms and grim determination is all that keeps you from falling off. When it gets really bad, the beam disappears altogether and you do fall off. However, when you start to recover, the beam gets a little wider and after awile you find that you can stand on it without constantly windmilling your arms. Eventually you can take a step forward. Sometimes a little stress will blow you off balance and you find yourself flailing as the beam turns into a tightrope again.
In the beginning of recovery this happenes several times a day. Then only once or twice a day. Then you notice you had an entire good day. And then several great days in a row. And then wham! you’re flailing agian. It doesn’t take much to overwhelm you ME.
So why did I wake up this morning to a broken day after two full days of feeling relatively normal? Friday and Saturday were great days. Energy filled, productive, happy days. What happened to narrow my balance beam and cause this panic and anxiety today? Are you ready? Here it is: the time change. The clocks sprang ahead last night. I got up at 8am, but it wasn’t 8am, it was 9am. And now, as I write this, it isn’t 9:30, its 10:30. The negative thought in my head is that I don’t have time. That’s it. I don’t have enough time. This is the thought that has completely immobilized me this morning.
I recognize this morning that I have time issues. More blogging on that later!
When my balance beam gets this narrow, my strategy is to recognize, identify, and accept it. Then I take everything off my plate and go back to the basics. Early on, I made a plan to get me through these broken days. On a broken day, I check things off of this very simple list:
- take a bath (for some reason, having a shower is overwhelming but a bath is do-able),
- get dressed,
- take my supplements,
- get some exercise (which can be as simple as walking on the treadmill while watching a TV show or taking Sammy around the block, or as complicated as taking Sammy downtown to walk the river loop),
- do one thing creative to use my brain (which can be as simple as playing scrabble on-line or as complicated as sewing something),
- eat some fruit (healthy food = right eating)
- do one thing for the house (which can be as simple as scooping the cat box or as complicated a cleaning the floors)
- identify one thing I am proud of or like about myself (usually this is being able to identify the stressor – I am proud of my ability to do that)
- connect with a friend or put myself out there in the world somehow (as simple as writing comments on Facebook or as complicated as writing an email to a friend or doing a blog post – attempting to initiate personal contact is not on the list on a broken day) or else go to town and be around people in general (grocery store, main street etc.),
- tell my husband how I am feeling.
Having this plan automatically widens my balance beam. By the time I’ve checked off several things I will feel much better, stronger and happier. I am feeling lighter already. See? It works!