If I make shitty
Art, and no one sees it, do
I really exist?
According to the WebLogic Server site, “the overload protection features help prevent the negative consequences that can result from . . . continuing to accept requests when the system capacity is reached.” It seems obvious that overloading anything, from computer software to electrical outlets to elevators, can have negative consequences. I wonder why it’s so hard to accept, at least for me, that my body, mind, and spirit cannot continually take heavier and heavier loads without breaking down too.
As per my typical MO, I’ve been pretty busy. I don’t mean to glorify constant activity, it just seems to creep up on me. Picking up extra work here and there, volunteering for my favorite organizations, getting errands and chores done, going to workshops, making time for friends, attending events, social media, watching live music. There’s a lot to do in Dallas and I like to stay active and try new things. But even too much of a good thing is bad when you get so overwhelmed and imbalanced that your system is teetering on the brink of full capacity. Then it only takes one more little thing to initiate automatic shutdown.
That’s exactly where I was two weeks ago. I had just driven to South Louisiana for my cousin’s wedding, which was amazing and it was wonderful to see my family. But like any family, there are issues and challenges that sometimes present themselves. Having lost my mom, it’s always bittersweet when we all come together and she’s not there. On Sunday after the wedding, I drove back to Dallas. An already long trip was much slower and longer due to heavy rain off and on the whole way. Perhaps that should have been foreshadowing that my own storm was brewing inside. I returned late Sunday night, exhausted and drained from highs and the lows of the weekend. I had to be at work early the next morning for the first day of a new teacher training session. I absolutely love my job, but work is work and it can still be stressful even when you enjoy it. I promise you, if your job was cuddling kittens all day, after a while you’d be resenting the fluffy little bastards. Similarly, while I love teaching yoga and leading the trainings, it can still wear me down. As my 50 hour work week dragged on, I could feel my energy ebbing. I tried to be proactive by getting my weekend classes covered. I gave myself permission to rest as much as I needed for two full days. Apparently I needed a lot more rest than I thought because two days turned into four, then a whole week.
During that week I lived mostly in the dark, in every sense of the word. I ordered pizza three times, showered twice, and brushed my teeth once. I barely got online or communicated with anyone. I felt flat, like a Topo Chico that was left sitting out too long. I had no energy, no motivation, no desire. Feeding the cats and cleaning the litter box was a Sisyphean task, and the only thing I managed to do consistently. I didn’t really have a choice, unless I wanted them start to gnawing on my flesh as I slept. Though I have had issues with self-harm in the past, thankfully this time that wasn’t on my mind, which my support group reminded me is a sign of improvement. It didn’t feel like a victory at the time though. True I didn’t want to hurt myself, but I didn’t want to do anything else either. After a few days of total shutdown I began to creep back to life. I started writing and drawing, and wrote the haiku that opens this essay. Obviously I still wasn’t happy, but at least I was moving beyond apathy. Something was stirring inside me again.
Some people describe depression as feeling like a different person or as if someone else takes over their mind and body. When I fall into those holes, I still feel like myself but something is missing. It’s like a light has been blocked, and the dark is so deep I can’t see out. But eventually, slowly, the spark starts to rekindle. Thinking of it in terms of the Ayurvedic elements, my main imbalance is vata which is an excess of wind and space. A little wind stokes a fire, too much puts it out. When my air element goes out of control and I’m taking on too much and running from one thing to another without enough space to rest, eventually my fire gets blown out, the wind dies, and I crash hard into the earth. After slowly working up some motivation, I left my apartment for the first time in a week on Friday to get my mail, and Starbucks. The next day my best friend picked me up and we talked for a while at her place, which definitely helped me to continue to turn on the lights. Systems were slowly coming back online. We went to a wedding reception that evening for some mutual friends who recently got married, and while I was a little anxious at first it did help to be around people, and to dance. By Sunday morning I felt back to baseline.
In the past I would have tried to push myself to get back to work as quickly as possible. This time however I’ve decided to take another week off for self-care. As part of my commitment to authenticity, I realized I need to do a better job of walking my talk. It’s easy to let things pile up, put yourself last, and let those little rituals slide. And it always ends the same way. There’s a saying in the 12 step movement that if you don’t put your recovery first before everything else in your life, you’ll lose not only your recovery but everything else as well. If I’m not prioritizing the things that keep me healthy in mind, body, and spirit then I eventually will get sick or shut down and then nothing gets done and no one benefits. This week I’m doing a lot of introspection, and organizing and prioritizing my time and energy.
After almost two decades of therapy and hard work, my depression is mostly under control. I maintain mental health through yoga, meditation, diet, exercise, writing, talk therapy, and my support system. Most of the time, I feel like a badass, kicking butt and taking names. My program works pretty well, but nothing is 100% effective, my needs are always evolving, and sometimes the perfect storm brews. I tend to be hard on myself and it’s tempting to beat myself up for not being proactive enough, for not being able to manage my illness, for not being strong enough, for not being enough. Then, with a little help, I remember that all that negative self-talk is bullshit and I am a badass. I’m a badass who deals with depression.