It will all be OK.
For most of my life, I’ve lived with depression that fluctuates from non-existent to crushing.
Lately, it has been crushing.
I have written about self care before, but this time, as I was lying in a bed with no sheets on it, unable to eat or muster the energy to get up and put the sheets on, I thought about what it would be like to tell someone else how to deal with me, at work, as a leader, when I’m like this. You see, this is pretty rare. I’m one of those “high-functioning” people, where you likely would not notice I’m depressed. I hide it well. But when it is bad it is bad. It is a fog that clouds every single interaction I make – saying hello, giving and receiving criticism, making dinner, everything.
This is what it feels like: Every morning I wake up and try to gather up all of my energy, literally all of it. It takes an hour sometimes. I would rather sleep, presumably forever, but I have obligations and as always, people are expecting things of me. So I get up. Work is not easy. I cannot concentrate and the smallest things will set off an irritation bomb. I am a blind bull in a china shop. Things feel more fragile than they are, more breakable.
On weeks like the recent ones, where I’m down and on top of it, I am covering horrible news(hello, PTSD), I think of that song “Is That All There Is?” by Peggy Lee. It feels like there is nothing I can do to make this world better. I became a journalist to change things, to show people different sides of the world. More than a decade after I started this career, I am covering the same tragic stories with the same tragic outcomes.
I am not quite blind, I am guided by those who support and love me, but I still can’t fully see. Moving about this way means its hard to find the finish line, especially when I’m supposed to be leading a team there.
It can be incredibly lonely to lead on a regular day, especially to try and lead at the edge. There are few people to look up to. Mentors are hard to find. The loneliness of this position makes depression all the harder. I think it makes me seem very difficult sometimes. My mind is a mess and sorting out real, valid frustration and anger from that which is partially fueled by the chemical imbalance in my brain is hard, and I’ll make mistakes in the process. When you’re managing, there’s often little room for error. One mistake can fester into distrust very quickly. I’ve learned this and I’ve been practicing pulling back, taking it much slower and not taking on extra things. I’ve been taking that extra time to try and forgive myself and analyze.
Space isn’t a given. As a Middle, there’s demands below and above me. Frail isn’t something we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be strong, and only slightly vulnerable. Depression regularly tips this balance in awkward ways and the pressures around me won’t forgive me for it. *I* have to forgive myself and accept not everyone will get it and I will seem temperamental to some when I’m hiding my state and weak to others when I am honest about where I am.
This weekend, my fiancé and I sat down and had a deep talk about my chronic unfulfillment. I want to create and build things, but I have failed many times. I’m analyzing what I’ve done so far and trying to forgive myself for all the missteps. Moving forward blindly in a fog of insecurity wrapped in a blanket of sadness is a frightening thing. But moving slowly, which does not come naturally, means I’ll break fewer plates.
“You’ll be OK” is what they say. It is hard to believe in my blind moments. But I know I will continue. That is a small thing, but “I will continue” is something I firmly believe. I can continue to find small pieces of joy in the things my team accomplishes, or the stories we tell. I will gather up that joy and hold onto it tightly. It will keep me company as I move slowly ahead, as I continue.
I like fancy fountain pens.
This is a good starter fancy fountain pen. It makes writing a pleasure.
|Great things I’ve read lately|
The differences between a maker and a manager’s schedule (Farnam Street)
How to manage your energy as a boss (Lara Hogan)
On collaboration and the difference between men and women (Heather Bryant)