In the post before this one, on Friday, I indicated that my Thursday evening had been full, but generally fun. What I did not indicate was that my Wednesday morning had been horrible. I haven’t been very vocal about it on this blog, if at all, but back in the summer of 2010, after a truly horrendous winter, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.) If you don’t know what that is, please do go read the article in the link, since that will save me having to explain right now and the rest of this will make much more sense.
One of the many reasons I wanted to start this blog was because I process things through writing, so I occasionally write a lot, and I wanted to share some of that. I also wanted to help people understand a bit of what it is like for someone with SAD, a bit of first-person perspective, that might help you with your interactions with people who have it, or similar mood disorders. One of the things I have encountered during my three years since diagnosis, and even before I knew what was wrong, was that because there is nothing visibly wrong with mental health sufferers, like there is with a broken leg, people sometimes don’t know how to react, how to help. So, attempting not to get up on my soapbox, I thought I would just let you into what a “rough morning” looks like from inside my head, in the hope that you might come to understand a little more.
Before I do that, I should note three things: One, this is what it feels like for me, which is not the same for everyone. Everyone is different, so their experience of even the same diagnosis is going to be different. Two, since this is my experience, if you have something you would like to say about it, please do be gentle. Even though I do want to share, and I would love to dialogue and answer questions if you have them, this still involves something that carries special dread for an MK: vulnerability. But I have thought this through and I do want to be honest with you, my readers, when things are not all rosy. And three, mornings this rough do not happen as often as they used to. I am learning to cope with them and I am in the process of getting additional help.
That said, here is what I wrote last Wednesday:
Disaster. Went to bed determined to get up. Zero determination present when alarms went off.
I don’t know how long I laid there, after I’d woken up again on my own, post-alarms, trying to talk myself into moving. Eventually I resorted to micro-steps. “You need to get up and go to the bathroom, so let’s start with sitting up. Just that much. Okay, now swing your feet over and put them into the slippers.” Which finally worked long enough to get me through the bathroom routine. Then, as I looked out the window at the lightly falling snow, I could feel the despair coming down like a mountain about to fall on me, could feel it already weighing my body down, slowing me down, so I got on my knees by the bed and prayed.
“Lord, this is obviously not working on my own. I need you to help. I need the strength to do what I need to do, to function enough to get to work and through this day… Also, can you hold this mountain up so I don’t get smashed underneath it?” I had a very clear picture in my head of a huge triangle-shaped chunk of black mountain rock hanging over a little tiny me figure. Maybe God could put his hand in between the bottom of the mountain and the ground I was standing on so it wouldn’t actually mash me into a non-functioning pulp? And then I thought “Or even, if you wanted, could you take it away?” Verses from Philippians and John flipped through my mind “peace that passes understanding”; “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives”; “do not be afraid, you trust in my father, trust also in me…” Okay, I thought, okay, we can do this, God and me. I took several deep breaths. Then I looked up, still on my knees, and saw the clock for the first time that morning.
9:15. Oh Lord.
I was supposed to be at work forty-five minutes ago and I was still in my pajamas. I put my head back down on my hands, still folded on the bed, and just tried to breathe deeply for a few moments, hanging right on the ragged edge of a meltdown. For the second time that morning, I had to talk myself into moving. “Ruth, we prayed already. We asked God for help and he said he would.” I whispered out loud to make sure I would hear myself. “You are strong enough to do this, I know you are. Philippians 4:8, you know it. You can do this, one step at a time.”
I did get up then, and that pep talk worked until about halfway through getting dressed when I realized that it was now pushing 9:30 and my supervisor didn’t know where I was. As far as he knew, I was a no show. I was going to have to call him, before he called me. Getting up on a morning like this is the first hardest part. The second hardest part is making that call, yet again. I’ve never gotten an angry supervisor at this job, like I used to when this happened at my old one – understandably frustrated on occasion, but not actively angry, which is so devastating when I’m often already so angry with myself for whatever mistake landed me here. This morning I wasn’t angry with myself, just trying so very hard not to despair.
So I did it, I mustered my courage and made the call, hoping it would go to voicemail, which it did… but then on the first try my voice caught and I stumbled to a halt. Thankfully (?) I am familiar enough with our voicemail system that I could delete that message before delivery and start again with a deep breath. I managed, on the second try, to leave a coherent, if somewhat wobbly, message with a rough estimate of an arrival time and then hung up.
“It’s okay,” I told myself silently.
“No it’s not!” was the instant reply in my head, and then I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. “This is not okay. This is the second late morning in a row, multiple times in the last few weeks, this is all kinds of not okay.”
“You’re right. This is not good. But we’re working on it. We’re communicating with our supervisor and our department head, we talked to the benefits lady yesterday and found out what we need to ask the insurance company to find out if counseling is covered, we’re working on it.  It is not okay, but it can be okay, it will be eventually.” It was only about ten minutes total of crying, and I managed to finish getting dressed through the second half of it, but it was still a minor meltdown. I’m usually able to talk myself out of meltdowns in the mornings because they are just a waste of time and energy – I end up being even later than I would have because of sitting on the toilet crying for twenty minutes. So I have learned over the past year or two to either not have a meltdown, or to have it quickly and quietly while I get on with something else. (Sometimes this is good, because a crying spell really isn’t needed; sometimes this is not so good.)