Currently I’m working through a hard season. I’m in a disease flare-up (severe exhaustion and pain) and a depressive episode. The two intermingle and make it a very difficult time mentally, emotionally and physically. The gravitational pull is hard to overcome and this is where self-care checklists feel almost impossible to accomplish. You’re just in an entirely different head space, mood space, and body space where any one of the checklist items that used to make you feel good, that you logically know will help you, just don’t appeal enough to overcome the total lack of vitality.
I’m not writing this post to have a giant complaining session, because there’s an important point I want to make at the end when you’ve read through this.
First, that you are not alone, and second, that this kind of stuff is a great gift. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but read on…
I’ve been through both before, but this time it was compounded by driving myself into the ground at work. And truth be told, this round doesn’t feel straightforward to get out of. There is a deeper matter here of who am I and what does my soul need?
I think THIS is the million dollar question that we must ask ourselves, when we find ourselves in a state of dis-ease. Not just disease (illness) but not at ease. Unhappy. Dissatisfied. Frustrated.
With my return to work, I came back to the same pace I had always gone at. Except, this time I was ill, tired and also the mum of three kids. I jumped straight back into my old habits . I just kept working bigger, better, harder, faster. I stopped taking breaks, or self care, or anything. I love what I do, I truly do and that’s why it was so easy to get back into that crazy unbalanced work mode.
But here’s the thing. My symptoms don’t discern between work I love and work I don’t love.
They discern between I am taking care of my soul and I am not taking care of my soul. I beginning to suspect that disease + depression are so closely intertwined with whether we are on the right path for our souls at any given point in our life’s journey, or soul’s journey. I believe they are a reliable indicator that we are ignoring our own intuition, and the body’s best way to yell at us to pay attention 🙂
I had returned to work in the summer fresh off my disease diagnosis, surgery, 3 kids under 5 and major passion for my side projects and full time work. I was excited that I had negotiated to work 4 days a week for the first few months.
Then, it began to all fall apart. First, I was feeling great so I came off of my SSRIs. I think that was not the wisest choice in hindsight. If you are on anti-depressants, no matter how good you think you are feeling, do not come off of them in a major transition!
As I found myself back at a desk and in pain, I began to struggle with a level of exhaustion that I’ve never known. It was so bad that I desparately sought out places to lie down on breaks, struggled to put my socks on (immobility) in the mornings, a few urgent care trips, and increasing panic at work with every additional meeting, or project in an already full schedule with people waiting weeks to get one of a few coaching slots. I have an hour commute each way, and each commute was filled with this horrible impending sense of dread – dread that work demands were far exceeding what I was capable of. Doubts that I could keep up to others as a mother of three That I couldn’t handle my own life. Usually, this is a pretty good sign to buckle down and take care of oneself. Except, I was so far in, I couldn’t even claw back the time for ANYTHING that fuelled my spirit. Nor was I motivated to. Being outside in nature. A social life. Creative expression. My happiest places couldn’t lure me back. Mostly, I just wanted to lie still, sleep away the pain and exhaustion and shut my panicking mind down.
My days became – Just drive to work. Work like a madwoman (keeping up the standards of a worker without 3 kids.) Buy unhealthy snacks and a crazy amount of coffee to keep me going. Drive home. Make dinner. Put the kids to bed. Pray for no-one to wake up. Go to bed at 9. Repeat. This is the story of so, so many people out there.
Nothing was keeping my soul afloat, and I could tell that was making the disease worse too. Yet, I couldn’t clamber out, because in my mind I would say to myself “ah, you’ll get through this just start going to the gym, get an extra nap, etc.” You know, the usual self-care checklist. But I literally couldn’t move past the exhaustion, pain and total lack of desire to do anything. I ignored intuitive alarm bells.
And that friends, is depression. You feel so utterly overwhelmed and exhausted that you want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world. You don’t know where or how to begin, because nothing you knew before, seems to work this time (or it still does but you’re in a bleak place and totally unmotivated to do them, and the gravitational pull of the bed / rest is too intense to overcome.)
That is depression and auto immune disease intertwined. And this, for any of you parents out there reading this, is when you get your ass to your doctor, and a psychologist and be KINDER and more LOVING to yourself than you have ever been before. That is when you dig deep and listen to what your soul really needs.
It’s time to start listening closely to your intuition in the moments when your brain stops panicking and rushing. The Universe has been sending you hints all along as to what is right for you, it’s just that you’ve been ignoring them.
So at this point, it is sending you MAJOR hint bombs that what you are doing is not ideal for you at this stage, place, moment in your life’s journey and that change is ahead.
Depression and disease can be one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever receive because on the edge of massive shifts for the better, is suffering. Suffering prompts us to shift, to change, to grow, to listen to our intuition and get one step closer to who we really are. Yes, it’s a shitty process, but it is one where pain overcomes fear. Suffering forces you upward and forward and will not allow you to stay where you are. There are always, always gifts and rewards from the hardest moments and that knowledge is never lost, even in tough times like these.