2010 has been a really stressful year for me. I’ve gone through a lot, and the year isn’t even over yet.
I had some medical issues earlier this year and spent most of the summer on the couch, recovering physically and emotionally from that. After a couple of weeks, I started to worry my recovery was going slower than it should, and that my emotional reaction was out of proportion. I went back and forth between feeling sorry for myself, and being hard on myself for not just getting up and getting on with life. I told myself that I was just feeling stressed about school, or depressed about being sick. I forced myself to try to make a plan to get more stuff done. I pushed myself to “get over it.” These coping techniques had worked well for me in the past.
See, I have a history of mild depression. Nothing serious. Nothing that has dramatically impacted my life. Nothing that couldn’t usually be handled by a little tough love and positive thinking. And the one time when even that failed, a little Rx-help give my brain a chance to find the right balance again.
This time felt different, though. Instead of just feeling like I didn’t want to do anything, I felt like I *did* but couldn’t. Depression, to me, feels more like “whatever” than “I wish…” And all summer, it was “I wish I could work in my garden for more than 10 minutes without feeling so exhausted.” Or “I wish I could go out for a bike ride but I’m just too tired.”
After I was fully physically recovered from my medical issue, I was still feeling down. My phrase of choice whenever presented with some issue was, “I just don’t have the bandwidth for that.” I accepted that I would probably still feel emotionally drained after that ordeal, and I let things slide. I started to shrink my social circle. I stopped calling people. I stopped responding to some invitations, and putting off others. This caused me a bit of emotional distress, because I’m a nice person, and it makes me feel bad to tell people “no.” I want to be a good friend, and sometimes that feels like I need to do things that I don’t want to do because it might hurt someone’s feelings. Even though I knew it was for my emotional health, I still felt guilty about it. Which, of course, didn’t help my emotional health.
It wasn’t until I started to let some really important stuff slide, that I started to think that it was probably more serious than I thought. I finally made an appointment with my doctor’s office to talk about it and maybe get some blood work done. Just to see if maybe there was something that was still out of order.
As it turns out, there are a couple of things out of order. According to my doctor, whenever someone comes in complaining about fatigue, they look for one of three things: low iron, low vitamin D, or low thyroid. Guess what? I have all three. When I asked him if that would explain why I have no motivation, no energy, and no emotional coping ability, he said, “Yes. Certainly. Without a doubt.”
So, that explains it. I’m not crazy. And I’m not lazy. I really don’t have the bandwidth. And I haven’t had it for a while. All this pushing and forcing is just making it worse. And looking back over the last 4 months I can tell. I can see a clear link between forcing myself to do something I don’t really want to do or have the energy for, and an episode of extreme depression and overwhelming exhaustion following shortly after.
So, all this leads up to this: as of today, it’s going to stop. I’m letting myself completely off the hook for all of it. I’m going to be very very selective about what I am doing and who I am doing it with. I’m just going to tell you right now, it’s highly likely that if you ask me to do something, I’m going to say “no.” I genuinely hope you don’t take it personally. I will try to say “no” with love, but I’m not going to allow myself to worry about explaining myself or justifying my answer. I can’t afford it.
Am I being selfish? Yes. It’s past time that I was.