The gaping pothole in my heart

I don’t have cable but I understand that Dexter is a pretty good show.

My sister recently commented that Dexter calls his psychosis his Dark Passenger and that she was going to start calling her depression her Dark Cloak because it envelopes her yet it can be comforting in a warped way. I commented that a Dark Cloak can also make you invisible, which is sometimes exactly how I want to be.

This week has been a tough struggle against the depression. For me, depression feels like a reoccurring but always unexpected pothole along my road. I can be traveling along my path – the uphills, the downhills, the flat boring sections, the curves and the vistas – and suddenly there is this gaping hole that opens in my heart..

Sometimes, I fall inwards before I realize it and I am left at the bottom staring upwards and outwards at a far away world. Sometimes I see and feel the hole appearing, like a landslide in the road and I slip and slide desperately trying to regain my footing as the ground becomes unstable under my feet.

Sometimes, at the bottom there in the dark I am too tired to contemplate the scrabble and hard work of pulling myself back up or even calling for help. I just want to lie down and disappear into the darkness.

They say that one key piece to battling the depression is good self-care. For years I never really understood what that meant because people’s examples of self-care including things like going shopping and buying some new clothes, taking a long hot bath, treating yourself with food or calling a friend.

In my struggle with food issues and body image, the first three were out of the question. Staring at myself in a mirror, with bad lighting, wearing ill-fitting garments, aka clothes shopping, is a just plain awful. Treating myself with food was just numbing out, something I was trying to stop doing. And, lying naked in a bath staring at my body was so far from relaxing that I might as well have just grabbed a shovel and started digging the hole a little deeper.

Calling a friend was just perilously close to asking for help. The phone might have weighed a thousand pounds it seemed so heavy to pick up. And, what would be the point of worrying my friends when there was nothing they could do to help?

In frustration, one day I asked a friend (okay, my therapist) what exactly self-care was supposed to mean? He said that self-care was anytime I did anything to act upon what was important to me. Huh.

So, self-care is anytime I get some exercise because being healthy is important to me. Self-care is calling a friend; not because I expect them to do anything but because I care about them and how they are doing. Self-care is taking the time to write and journal so I can be honest with my feelings and actions. Self-care is healthy eating behaviours which separate food and emotions. Self-care is saying no when I need to set boundaries and saying yes when I’m scared to tread the edge of my comfort zone. And self-care is giving myself time each day to be creative so that I grow and learn.

Turns out, self-care means taking care of myself!! That is what allows that pothole in my heart to fill up again (with self-love?), carrying me back to the surface.

In my struggle this week, I was reminded of this when I read this list of 55 gentle ways to take care yourself when you’re busy busy busy. Some great ideas in there.

All except taking a long hot bath. That one is never making my list, even if Dexter comes out in favour of it.

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10 thoughts on “The gaping pothole in my heart

  1. I define self-care as anything I do where I feel lighter at the end of the activity than I did at the beginning. It can be something as simple as making myself a cup of tea. That’s the stuff I need to do more of.

    I’m with you on the bath thing though. A hot tub on the other hand….

  2. hi Wendy, to me self care means getting outside for fresh air, enjoying my surroundings, and tiring myself out. I’m at whistler this week and had an amazing cross country ski by myself this morning for 2 hours. I know you’re into walking (hopefully even in the dull weather we’ve been having), that would be one thing I would remember to focus on!

    BTW, you’re a beautiful writer and thanks so much for sharing your story. You’re not alone, a lot of (if not most) people (me included) have times of self doubt, lonliness, feeling lost etc.

    Look forward to a coffee or sushi lunch soon? (although not this week, I’m in whistler all week, wu hoo!).

    -Rich

    • Thanks, Rich! Walking does help a lot and its a good thing I like the rain! I would love coffee or sushi soon! Enjoy your Whistler-time and give me a shout when you’re back. hugs.

  3. For me, self care is all about being creative – working on my BOS, doing some carving, refinishing furniture, painting a room, doing some wood burning or writing. Self care has NEVER been about taking a bath … uhg! Might as well just kiss any good mood goodbye after a bath!

    I also refer to my depression in the third person. It helps me remember that The Depression is not *me* and that these thoughts are not *my* thoughts but are being put in my head by The Depression. It allows me the ability to fight something (and blame something) instead of blaming myself for an imagined “character flaw”. Once I stopped blaming myself, fighting The Depression became so much easier. Remove the guilt and you remove the barriers blocking you from moving forward.

    Plus, it’s nice to “let” the depression win on occassion without feeling like you are giving up or being weak. “Okay, Depression, you win tonight’s pity party BUT TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT!” 🙂

    • I really like the third person idea. I am not my depression. I kind of like the idea of thinking of my depression as a sick person. How can I heal that person? Seems like a much gentler way to approach it.

  4. Pingback: Out of the pothole and into the firing squad | A Fish and a Bicycle

  5. Pingback: Dancing on the edge | A Fish and a Bicycle

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