As the daughter of a person who has struggled with mental illness for 35 years, I am hyper-aware of the causes and treatment possibilities and also hyper-resistant to ever walk that path. When I feel myself begin to slip into a dark place I can usually redirect my fears and feelings of defeat by changing something or tackling something new. Sometimes it takes longer than others. And I know that if I ever truly cross the line into clinical depression it will not be something I can just pull myself out of. So, anyway, I am jacked up and loathe to admit it and so I throw myself into projects and refuse to go down the rabbit hole. I can’t say that it is my healthiest personality trait, but there you are.
One of the ways I deal with my anxiety is by exercise. I train for things. I make myself hurt. I beat myself against a goal until I don’t feel so down about myself anymore. But I also make things. Little things, big things. Things that use a miter saw and things that use my stenciling skills and things that need a drill.
I’m not sure why I find it so comforting. Maybe it’s because I then have something to point to. Some way that I’ve spent my day or something that I, despite my many flaws, have accomplished. My latest project is these stairs. Last week they were covered in carpet and boring. This week they are blue.
Back in March, when I realized that my seasonal funk was lasting a bit too long and that I was feeling defeated and useless every day, I decided to pursue the possibility of returning to work. I miss teaching (although I also am grateful and enjoy the freedom of staying at home) and I thought that if my mind were busier I might not have to deal with my feelings of inadequacy. I could just fill my thoughts with grading papers and lesson planning.
That route didn’t work out for this coming school year in what turned out to be a rather spectacularly unfortunate fashion from my point of view. So I was left with, what? No immediate career path. No sense of accomplishment. No sense of moving forward or upward or victory. Which brings me back to the stairs.
I use projects to propel myself out of the deep moments, but I also use them to celebrate my victory over the darkness in my mind. I use them to declare that I am still here. Still fighting. Still hopeful.
Eventually, finally, I remembered sometime in late April to pray. Really pray without any sort of secret agenda except to be and become a better human being. I prayed for purpose and direction and I am still waiting for answers. But my prayers helped me remember that I am not what I do. I am not even who I love. I am loved by God and my purpose is to share that love with others. How joyful. How hopeful. How uplifting. Just like my stairs. 🙂