I think I will spend my entire life reckoning with the reality that progress isn’t linear – that the only thing guaranteed to come with feeling on top of the world is that eventually, you will fall back down to earth.
On an intellectual level, I know that these ebbs and flows are inevitable, but on a gut level, it still feels like failure. My instinct is to clutch to the low as irrefutable proof that I’m destined to be lachrymose and downtrodden, that life will mostly always be a little bit too much for me.
This is the crux of “high-functioning depression”. When my last therapist praised me as “proof” that lifestyle can go a long way to mitigating chemical imbalances, all I heard was that since I know what to do to keep myself relatively afloat, then it’s pretty much all on me when I start to flounder.
However, there is a difference between knowing what needs to be done and being able to get it all accomplished, especially when you are responsible for the well-being of someone other than yourself. This was a week without daycare, a week of constant proximity to my daughter, a week of so many pure, true, joyful moments of watching her bloom, but also a week where she developed this tendency to scream hysterically whenever she noticed I wasn’t in the room.
I’ve come a long way in terms of my ability to remain calm and just be with my daughter as she experiences the extreme emotional fluctuations that I recognize all too well. On a good day, I can withstand a thirty minute meltdown with a placid demeanor. Yet, there is something about separation anxiety that cuts to the heart of my biggest insecurity as a mother – she seems to need so, so, so much and sometimes I just feel like I am not enough. I work outside of the home, I prioritize exercise, I continue to send her to daycare sometimes when I’m off just so I can tackle some things on the self-care to-do lists. And when she has these phases of being extremely clingy, it can feel impossible to walk away to do what I need. This was a vacation week. Vacations are about being together as a family. I spent arguably too much time being mom, and the things I need to do to remain okay as a person just didn’t get done.
When I crumble, it accomplishes nothing. It wreaks havoc on my own immune system – some kind of physical distress inevitably follows the emotional malaise. It is extremely difficult for those who love me. I try to insulate my daughter as much as I can, but kids are wildly perceptive creatures. The take away every single time remains the same – take the 25 minutes you need to go for a run so that you don’t lose entire days to the heavy fog of hopelessness and self-abuse. It seems so simple when I lay it out like this, but I’m sure I will falter again in the future and feel even more shame when I once again realize that I let it happen.
If nothing else, writing itself is powerful self care. Starting this project was a huge catalyst for how great I was feeling a week ago. It takes time, which is hard to come by, but it is so undeniably worth it. Each word I type makes me feel like me, myself, with all my neuroses and high-maintenance needs might be worth it too.