It’s been more than a month since I last posted about my mental health crisis, and I suppose it’s time for an update.
Or at least let you all know I’m alive!
A lot has happened in the past two months. I tried to refocus, committing to taking better care of myself and resting my brain, which had been AWOL for awhile. I meditated, I hiked, I surfed, I read (a lot), I journaled, I walked. It felt good. I was finally allowing myself to slow down, breathe a little, rest.
Of course, this only lasted less than two weeks before the panic started in.
I’m so behind with work! I’m late on preschool applications! The dishes can’t wash themselves!”
And just like that, I was back in the hustle of my impossible life, trying to juggle too many things and believing this is what I need to do, this is what every woman does. Even while knowing FULL WELL that this isn’t true.
It’s funny to read the texts I send my friends or listen to myself dole out advice. I just texted a stressed-out mom friend of mine that no one ever said we needed to suffer to be a good parent.
It’s true. But, as my mom always says, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
For some reason, I believe that every minute of the day should be occupied by something productive. This obsession stems from a childhood marked by daily chores and a Catholic upbringing, no doubt. I hatehatehate wasting time. So when I’m watching the time-suck of Real Housewives marathons, for example, I have to be doing something else, something productive. Folding laundry, cooking dinner, sorting mail. I can’t just sit and indulge. Everything I do has to have a purpose. A surf session is a workout. The kid’s nap time is a chance for me to cook meals for the next few days. My commute to work is a chance to catch up on podcasts or check email. No second is wasted.
I realize I’m really screwed up.
I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone. I know there are people out there who feel as trapped in their lives as I do. We don’t let ourselves rest or relax because, for whatever reason, we think we don’t deserve it. And it has actually nothing to do with deserving anything.
Our bodies are like cars. They need to be maintained and taken care of, so they keep us safe and last for years. And, like many of us bad car owners, we let that slip. We skip the oil change because it’s too inconvenient or drive on bald tires because we’re trying to save money. And it costs us later. Our cars will break down and so will our bodies. One day, our bodies will say, “OK, jackass, you pushed me to the limit and now I’ve got nothing left to give.” Then what?
I watch my son, now 20 months old, just play. He draws, he throws balls, he stacks blocks. Nothing about it is very productive. (I’m not going to lie, I can’t wait until he gets old enough for chores.) But he’s happy, he’s learning, he’s content. He’s not worried about his chubby thighs or prepping for tomorrow’s day at the sitter. He’s just living life as happily as he can, without a worry in the world.
Sure, things are taken care for him. He doesn’t have to deal with morning traffic or Wednesday meetings or spotty Internet coverage. He doesn’t have to wash his clothes or prepare his meals. I mean, he doesn’t even have to wipe his own butt! What a life!
But we can learn a lot from toddlers, in the way they are optimistically curious and delighted by even little things. (I have never seen someone so excited to see the moon every morning.)
So where am I with this mental health thing? I’m still moving forward. Slow but steady. Sometimes stuck in place. But always hopeful.
On a side note, thanks to everyone who reached out — in person, by text, in messages — to ask about how I’m doing or to just share a personal experience with anxiety and depression. It has meant so much to me.