dark days

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today 2017 passed into december and i’ve returned to my home in north georgia for three weeks. upon my arrival i noticed our maples finally dropped their lackluster leaves … and that it’s still warm and muggy enough that my echinacea, blanket flower, and yarrow is blooming. yesterday on an afternoon jog i even spotted a redbud tree that was budding out on it’s lower branches – what a confused soul.

jogging and walks to run errands are the extent of my time spent in nature over the last month. while walking to our grocery co-op to buy loose leaf tea for kombucha, i realized that perhaps this is why i feel so depressed lately. i spend most days yearning for land of my own to connect to, or simply a place that feels like home. i’ve been living nomadically and joblessly for four months now, and this apartment that holds all my possessions feels less familiar and comfortable as the weeks pass. i know that i will soon leave this home, this state and start a ‘new’ life as the same person with the same possessions and the same dreams?  i guess i am already moving into that space.

i’ve become fixated on searching through for-sales on zillow. i am eager to nail down concrete plans for what comes next, but curveballs keep getting thrown at me and the logistics seem to complicate exponentially with each passing month. there are two of us with two different sets of goals and sometimes this is difficult to reconcile and i am trying to be more giving and receptive to change. but the analytic side of my brain keeps screaming ‘you need a plan!’ and this sets off cycles of anixety and distress.

i went back to therapy yesterday after eight months off. last year we worked with my anxiety which was interfering with work and personal life. i learned how to identify and move through panic attacks and bouts of anxiety which had come on in 2015 as i started working full time and juggling that with running my homestead and living with a partner for the first time. anxiety was new to me, and when i started therapy i didn’t even know i had it. now i understand the anxious thought patterns and how they affect my mood.

but in the last two months specifically, something else came back up and i knew it wasn’t anxiety. it was much older in my life history than that. it was intense fear of abandonment and absolute self hatred and voices and thoughts in my head that i didn’t know where they came from, didn’t want, and didn’t know how to get rid of. scary thoughts about suicide that used to haunt me as a teenager, then in my early twenties, then in my mid-twenties with my headaches. i’ve been ok on the road, but then spending days at home irritated with the world, hating myself, and incapable of feeling normal. the worst part is that i have no clue why i am feeling this way – i am happy with my life and for the first time feel excited about the path i am on.

so i told my therapist all this and we talked about other kinds of mental illnesses i may have and he reminded me that these things may never go away, that there is no cure. i like that he is blunt with me because anything less would feel like an insult to my intelligence. and it felt good to hear him say – when i left therapy last march it felt like i was on the mend and things were o.k. but now things aren’t o.k. and that’s just how these things work, not a reflection on my worth or character. sometimes i feel like i’m not trying hard enough and like i’m addicted to my illness. but those are not true thoughts.

i am sorry if this talk about mental health feels too personal, but my struggles with mental illness are a very real part of my story. our culture does not allow for open discussion of mental illness and all too often i hear people say things like ‘get over yourself’ or ‘it’s all in your head.’ the other side of the spectrum is that most of us don’t know how to deal with people with mental illness. we may unintentionally hurt them by making their illness a pity-case or treating them like they are incapable, lesser, making excuses for them. or our society as a whole may disenfranchise mental-illness sufferers by making it difficult for them to lead normal lives due to lack of support systems or expectations proliferated through the media of what it means to be ‘normal’.

i feel privileged in that i suffer from mental illness that primarily affects my moods and interpersonal relationships, but is that usually (not always tho) not debilitating and does not interfere with my ability to be a productive member of society. and in that vein i feel like i have a responsibility to talk normally and openly about what it’s like to live with this so that others may at the very least gain a perspective. i spend as much time thinking about mental health as i do homesteading or money and in a lot of ways my desire to self-treat my illness is what lead me to this path in the first place.

anyways, i am glad december is here because it means the darker days are coming. there is more time to sleep and read books and watch twin peaks and organize all the five million thoughts and ideas in my head. there is time to look at houses for sale and begin plotting my next move. to make plans that will manifest when the days start getting longer and warmer. to do all the boring inside work like budgets and taxes and websites and business plans so that when the spring comes i can get back to being outside and back to feeling like myself.

and even though i don’t want to do anymore inner work because i am exhausted by my mood swings and learning to cope with anxiety, it looks like my body has other plans. winter is here after all, and it sure is a good time to hunker down and feeeeeeel the inner feelings.

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