I’ve had about 4 months of incredibly good functioning, generally decent mood stability, and high productivity. It’s the longest I’ve felt so well in years, but it seems to be slipping.
We’ve just passed the autumnal equinox. The days are getting shorter, which always seems to bring me down. Since getting home after the car troubles, the weather has been nothing but gray and rainy, and it’s suddenly dark when I wake up in the morning. If you want to call it waking up – it’s more like a zombie state.
My stress level is up: I have to apply for jobs, I’ve got deadlines galore, I need to deal with disposing of the dead car, and my usual motivation is absent. I’m just plain tired a lot, but can’t get to sleep any earlier. I felt genuinely down for the first time in quite awhile yesterday and then caught myself obsessing over an error I’d made – ruminating – which I’d managed to avoid doing for months. It made me worry all the more. Today I haven’t been able to make myself do much work, I see huge flaws in everything I do manage to accomplish, I’m irritable and reactive, easily overwhelmed, and even cried a bit.
Nothing shows you how good the good stuff really is like slipping back down the slope. This summer, part of how I managed so well was cutting back and simplifying things. It really helped to stop expecting myself to do activities that were basically unnecessary. But that too is a slippery slope. At this point, it’s been months since I picked up my knitting or did anything with photography. I really need a new winter hat because I lost mine (again) last year, but I tried to swatch a pattern out, realized it wasn’t going to work with the chosen yarn, and haven’t touched the stuff since. I miss doing these things, but can’t get up the motivation to do them – and loss of interest in one’s usual pursuits is a classic sign of depression.
Since I’ve finished DBT, it’s been harder for me to remember to maintain mindfulness practice. I haven’t been going to yoga either, although it’s definitely very helpful for me. It just became too hard to schedule and it’s not cheap to take classes, but I’m also not keeping at it without classes to attend. I haven’t been getting as much exercise, largely because there are only so many hours in the day and I’ve been exhausted. It seems as though I loosened my grip on a whole lot of things that are now starting to drift out of reach, things that were good for me and that I enjoyed.
Most of what has taken their place has been work, food, and TV (Netflix, actually). The TV-watching habit has been going on for awhile; it’s basically my most effective means of shutting down my brain in the evenings. Since getting on board with mindfulness, I don’t do other things while watching TV as much as I used to, because that’s also counter-productive to the winding-down goal – hence not knitting, for example. The food part is generally positive; cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients takes time, and we have been eating well. I do like to cook when I don’t feel pressured about it, but on the down side, it often really does take a lot of time, leaving very few waking hours to use any other way.
And then there’s work. I was loving it for awhile there, doing really well with stuff, and very productive. It was like I had my brain back after an extended hiatus. A couple days’ hiccup in productivity shouldn’t be a matter for concern, but I fear there’s more to come. I suddenly don’t feel like I should be applying for jobs, but I must, and I haven’t been able to force myself to work on the applications. It all adds up to a not-so-good outlook.
I hope against hope that this is a hormonal flutter and will pass before long. Maybe I’ll start remembering to use my light box to help fight the darkening days. Things had been so good that I convinced myself that they just might stay that way. Silly me. I should know better.
Update: Things have improved since this post was composed – still tired and stressed, but more or less doing OK.