September was a hard month. At least, it seems like it was. You know, when things get a little…off course for me, I tend to lose track of time. Everything seems long-interminable, really. The funny thing is, just before this little tussle I’ve been having with myself, I was doing so well! It seems like that is how it goes, though- one week, I’m on top of the world, the house is clean, I’m productive, happy, eating well, having fun, sure that this time I am finally where I’m supposed to be. Feeling so confident that I can’t even imagine how I ever could have felt sad or down before. I look back rather scornfully on my previous self, if I’m being honest- that girl. What was her problem, anyway?
And then that niggling sense of dissatisfaction creeps in- that’s how it always starts. Like I’m searching for something, I need something, but I can’t figure out what it is. I start finding fault with others, and fault with myself. Then comes the internal litany of bullshit- the negative self talk that wears me down, bit by bit. Eventually, I stop washing the dishes, stop making the bed, stop sweeping the floor. I can’t be bothered to wash my face at night. I won’t pick up the phone when it rings, and I cancel plans. Everything feels heavy and sad.
What a lot of people don’t know- I didn’t even know this until recently- is that moodiness and depression are a big part of ADHD. It’s literally part of the deal, part of the chemical function of our brains…or would it be dysfunction? I don’t know, whatever. It’s not imaginary, it’s not a “made-up” disorder. It’s a real, scientifically proven affliction, and they’ve got the brain scans to prove it. It’s a spectrum, as well, so it affects everyone differently. Learning to understand and accept this fact about myself has been far more difficult than I could have imagined.
I have learned there are people who get it and people who just do not. Reciting back to me a list of all the reasons I should be happy does not help. I understand that I have no reason to feel sad…but I feel sad anyway. These feelings cannot be reasoned with. As a matter of fact, telling me all the reasons I have to be happy makes it so much worse, because now I feel guilty about how shitty I feel.
Trust me when I tell you that I would prefer to be happy all the time. That I get no satisfaction from feeling myself sliding backwards into a slump. It’s not a lot of fun to be a person who cannot count on themselves to be steady, at least emotionally, for any length of time. When things are good, they are very good. When things are bad, they are awful.
So, I try. I try really, really hard to slap a smile on my face. To be nice when I want to bite someone’s head off, to temper my tone of voice when I want to snap. I keep showing up, even when I want to stay in my house with the blinds drawn. I try not to try to figure out why I feel the way I feel anymore- honestly, I don’t think there is an outside force at work. I think it’s inside of me, it’s chemical, hormonal maybe…that’s as far as I am willing to go. Trying to fix it seems to only make it worse.
I wait for it to pass. It always does. When it gets really bad, I just remind myself that, no matter what happens, I am safe. It sounds dumb, but remembering that I am “a spiritual being having a human experience”, that this is just school here on planet earth, that, even if I keel over dead tomorrow, I’m still going to be okay…at least, the way I think things are, that’s how it goes…well, that honestly helps a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in keeling over dead. I’m not advocating for that in any way. I’m just saying, it helps to remember that what we humans prioritize, in order of importance, is pretty screwy sometimes…and that being sad, being down, being depressed…those are just feelings. As long as I know myself well enough to know where to draw the line, when I might need a little extra help, I’ll muddle through.
Yesterday, I followed my boss into the office kitchen, and told her I needed to talk to her. “I’m just really sad.” I told her, tears immediately popping into my eyes. “I knew you were, I could tell by how quiet you’ve been.” She said, “What can I do to help?” I shrugged and shook my head. “I just wish I could understand why I get like this.” I told her. “Yeah, but you know that isn’t how you operate, Courtney. For you, it just happens sometimes. Is there anything I can do? Do you need to see someone, or take time off?” She asked. “I don’t know…I just needed someone to know that I was struggling.” I told her.
And just that, just the simple act of telling someone- someone who doesn’t judge me, or try to reason with me, or try to fix it; someone who doesn’t give me a list of reasons why I should feel differently, but instead just hears me, knows me, and treats me with patience and kindness…it really matters. I don’t know how, but it helps.
I came home yesterday and found that whatever this thing was that had been gripping me so hard…it wasn’t gone, but I could breathe at least. There was space all of the sudden that hadn’t been there before. I could see a little further beyond myself, the way you see the forest around you when you turn your brights on in the car, driving down a country road at night. Last night, I made tater-tots and a grilled cheese for Cam- not much of a meal, but I made it happily- I cut it into fourths, and arranged it just so on the plate, piling the tater-tots in the middle, and filling a stolen ramekin with ketchup. I don’t do things like that when I’m terribly sad.
I unloaded the dishwasher and changed the five gallon water jug that has been empty for days. I made my bed and swept the floor. I helped with homework, and Cam and I read together. These sound like little things to anyone who doesn’t struggle with their moods, I’m certain. But those of us who know will get it.
You know, I find it a little embarrassing to tell the truth about this. I sometimes feel like I sound whiny, or I’m being dramatic- when there is so much turmoil in this world, who am I to think my bouts of sadness even matter? But trying to pretend all is well when it isn’t keeps me silent- it keeps me from writing, and it keeps it all inside. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. Maybe you can identify with me, and maybe it’ll help you. Who knows?
Here’s to a better day- to people who can meet us where we’re at, bosses who listen, and to telling the truth, even when it isn’t easy. May we all feel just a little better today than we did yesterday…even if yesterday was awesome, but especially if it wasn’t.