|Photo Credit: Josh Massaro|
This past week brought with it the perfect opportunity to expose the real me. The me I keep to myself, behind closed doors. The me only I see. All my messy bubbled out all over my life: my weaknesses, my struggles, my insecurities, my vulnerability, my propensity toward sadness, my want (need) to just disappear.
The roller coaster on which I ride has an incline lasting approximately two-to-three months. Everything is up. I’m up, energy is up, work is up, kids are not always up but they try. Life is UP! Then I hit that perfect crest which lasts for what feels like only a moment – the world is as it should be – but, inevitably, I hit the decline, and just like the breathless drop of the roller coaster, I am in free fall and there is nothing to grab onto. Nothing to keep me from careening further into the depths of despair.
Alright, alright. That description sounds a little melodramatic. However, for people who have struggled with finding that balance between the downest of the downs and uppest of ups, colorful adjectives are all we have to paint a picture to others to describe how it feels. Like many of the experiences in life, you had to be there.
I didn’t really know (accept?) I was a depressive person until about two years ago. About the time I got stuck, once again, in my quest for (my version of) ultimate health. I fell right off the wagon again, eating my feelings. And again, this past week, the funks of melancholy took me over. I stay up all night, binge watching a show on Netflix, or I read and read and read, then I want to sleep all day. I eat a lot. Carbs, sugar, more carbs. More food. Indulge. Or I go out and drink my weight in vodka cranberries and don't come home. Get out of reality. Get out of living the day-to-day. Evading it in any way I can. Just wanting to escape.
The thing is, though, you can’t escape life. You’re alive and breathing and living and no matter how much you want to get off the ride, you can’t just push pause and get back on when you’re ready. It continues on whether you like it or not. So we are faced with these choices. It might seem insignificant at the time, but sometimes those small choices make the difference between grabbing onto the handles and holding tighter or getting off the roller coaster permanently.
It’s taken me years to realize all the little moments in my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood had lasting impressions. Impression is the wrong word. More like imprints. Actually embedded into my being. My compulsive, emotional binge eating and drinking has deep roots: Physical and verbal abuse; being excluded and bullied, being called a dog – “Rex Rover” was the affectionate moniker they came up with; constantly being interrupted, so much so, that I never felt heard; being cheated on by a significant other; drowning in another's expectations of what I should do or be; unexpected pregnancy; suicidal thoughts and subsequent attempts; sexual assault (nothing quite prepares you for that one).
The thing is, I never dealt with these experiences in a healthy way. In my totally unprofessional opinion, they were never dealt with at all. I just ate and drank and ate and drank. And then sometimes I would be OK for awhile, and then I’d get sucked back down the vortex and eat and drink and eat and drink. Looking back over the three decades of existence, I started to see patterns. How these build up in your mind, making you believe, “If I just looked like this or that, then it will all be better. I won’t be put down or taken advantage of. I will be accepted and loved and OK. I will finally be heard. I will be enough.”
A breakthrough came within the last three months. (I know, right?) Two unrelated things happened within a couple of months of each other and for some reason, those were what I needed to open my eyes and actually see. Rip off the rose-colored glasses and look upon things as they truly are and, more importantly for me, see myself and how my actions were cyclical. Comprehending that I would never fully understand the cycle if I didn't take responsibility for my own emotions and actions, and stop taking responsibility for other’s feelings of which I had no control.
My mantra became “Stay Present.” Not so much a oh-my-god-I-have-to-enjoy-every-single-second-of-life-or-I’m-wasting-it sort of present, but more so, stop dwelling in the past so much (you cannot change it) and don’t worry so much about the future (you cannot control it). Just live here and now. Sure, plan for the future. Reminisce about the past. But don’t spend so much time in either place. “Stay Present” is written on the whiteboard in my office and on the mirror of my bathroom. Reminders all day, every day, to not get caught up in my (very active) imagination.
I am only a couple of months into my “Stay Present” project, but it already has made a world of difference in my day-to-day life. I have more patience with my little humans, which is so important to me. I raise my voice less, feel angry less, am more compassionate and understanding with them. They are so young, still, and have so much to learn about life. While there are still outbursts (I mean, let’s be real), they are fewer and further between, allowing me to nurture the beginnings of (hopefully) meaningful relationships with my sons. See them for the beautiful, messy creatures they are.
There is more open communication with my husband. The tip-toeing I used to do in order to avoid a fight or preserve our relationship (so I thought) is now replaced with discussion and honesty. This is a work in progress, and I imagine it always will be. There is much labor and toil when you commit to an evolving human being other than yourself, and even after more than a decade, we are still learning a lot about one another.
And my health is at a place where I finally feel like I am in control. This past week was an excellent test of my willpower, and while I couldn't hold myself back completely from my imprinted tendencies, I reined them in enough so as not to feel like a worthless failure. I clearly can see the cycle is real and it will still keep coming around. The roller coaster will still plummet, but maybe I have found a way to enjoy the free fall, the wind whipping through my hair, and just laugh. Can I be both messy and beautiful? I think I can. I can continue to Stay Present. I like it here.
Here is nice. Here is now.
Inspire. Motivate. Move.
Gonna pick myself up off the ground
When that old feeling comes around again
I've had enough of feeling down
There's something I've lost that must be found again
Sometimes it seems like such a hard life
But there's good times around the bend
The roller coaster's got to roll to the bottom
If you want to climb to the top again -SCI