A Difficult Few Days

Turns out it’s really difficult to keep writing every day when every day feels muddled and exhausting. (Maybe that’s when I should really be writing, but that’s a topic for a less tired brain.)

I have been in a depressive slump the last few days. It happens every once in a while; the shadow monster slinks in and pees in my corn flakes and acts like it’s enhancing the flavor.

It’s a hard thing to explain, these slumps. It’s like I’m coasting along to some degree of “normal” and then I trip over nothing and roll down a hill. My clue that it’s “getting bad” is that I get very tired by simple tasks or the thought of simple tasks. My self-care goes all to crap. Hygiene becomes exhausting, and I sponge-bathe rather than shower (though I do wash my hair because I am vain about not having greasy hair ever). I also get emotional and cry easily over… well, a lot. One time, a slump and my period coincided, and I cried for 20 minutes–like straight up sobbed–because Chris Evans’ eyes were “too blue,” whatever that means.

When it gets bad, I also withdraw from people I love and people in general. I don’t go to the store because the thought of a cashier–even the self-check guardian–saying hello is too exhausting. I don’t go through the drive-through for lunch because I can’t bear the thought of speaking to the person behind the order screen. I hide in my office and take too long in the bathroom because I just can’t muster the energy for human interaction. And when I get home at the end of the day, whatever I have done has been so wearying that I often flop onto my bed and fall asleep for two, maybe three hours, then get up and immediately go to bed.

That’s where I’ve been lately. The worst part of it, though, was Sunday. A friend and I were planning to start a weight loss thing together, and we were going to start on Sunday. I opened the box of supplements and powders and potions and got so overwhelmed that I had a meltdown and pushed it off to yesterday (Monday). Once I got myself calmed down, I got ready for church and headed off. I was okay for most of the service, but I felt a low background wrongness, like the tremors ahead of an earthquake, but moving through the liturgy distracted me. Once we got to the sermon, though, and I was sitting quietly, I felt it: an anxiety attack, welling in my chest like lava, threatening to burst forth any second. I sat there fighting tears, but not because of the sermon. I couldn’t even focus on most of it. I kept telling myself if I could just survive to Communion, I could leave. If I could just make it that far, I could slip out and go home and pull myself together.

I was on the second or third row, so I got to go up to the altar rail pretty early. I almost bolted from the nave right after I partook and rushed out to my car, crying the whole way. I’m sure anyone who saw me thought that I had been grasped by the Spirit, but nah, I just felt like I had to run for my life because my brain chemicals told me to. I cried the whole way home, trying not to hyperventilate in the middle of traffic. I didn’t feel better until I had gotten home and locked the door behind me, kicked off my shoes and my cardigan, and went into the kitchen to make lunch. I’m sure the FLBs wondered why I burst into the house in tears, but it was okay after a while. We all curled up on my bed and napped for three hours.

I think I’m on the upward swing now, though. I feel pretty calm and collected, though I’ve caught myself clenching my jaw, which tells me there’s an unresolved background stressor. I’m actually planning to pick up some groceries this afternoon, and I’m not exhausted by the thought of speaking to my coworkers. Plus, I’m writing this post. That alone is a strong indicator that the shadow monster has retreated to its lair for a while.

I am so incredibly grateful for my friends and my sister when the shadow monster emerges, though. It means more than they will ever know when they say “You’re going to be okay,” or “I understand,” or “You and your feelings are valid.” It is such a blessing when they give me small steps that I can do to take care of myself in the grip of a slump, or when they show me patience and grace by letting me be alone while promising they will be there. Then, when I finally crawl out of my cave, there they are, waiting with open arms.

It really does feel like crawling out of a cave into the sunlight, like the worst kind of hibernation; instead of feeling refreshed, I feel spent but somewhat ready to start over. But when I swing upward, I begin to notice beauty again. I washed my hair over the side of the tub this week and couldn’t help but be awed by the flow from the faucet and over my hands. I walked outside and to the mail room at my job and couldn’t help but notice the brilliant scarlet of the seed pods on the magnolia trees. I admired my coworker’s lime green car and appreciated her vibrant personality. I listened to the melody of one of my favorite hymns and thought about writing my own words but found myself utterly without words in the face of trying to describe Divine majesty.

I’m going to try to keep writing, now that I have seen the sunrise. I think that’s the most encouraging thing to keep in mind as I swing through these highs and lows, doing battle with the monster followed by respite–the sun will rise eventually. I just have to make it through the nights.

Per aspera ad astra,

Stephanie

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