On Sunday I felt it. The subtle creep of anxiety and the faint quickening of my heart. It was there, hovering and looking for a crack in my recent contentment, sniffing eagerly for a place to slide in.
I was sitting on the edge of discomfort, a place I hadn’t been in many weeks. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. It had been a busy weekend, starting from the moment I left my office on Friday. I had an important personal commitment right after my workday, busy prep for a dinner party Saturday morning including a whirlwind dancing session with my mop and vacuum. Soon after we packed the family into the car and scurried off to a birthday party that quickly filled our Saturday afternoon.
After the part we raced home, stopping for a few quick errands that would supply some key ingredients in preparation for our dinner guests. We’d been warned that Sunday morning would bring a planned power outage and thus were up, showered, and out early to join our neighbours for breakfast at a local family restaurant.
Couple what seems like everyday commitments with several sleepless nights and by the time we finally settled into a quiet Sunday afternoon I was running on empty. And I still had loads of laundry to tackle, a kitchen to unearth from the chaos of the previous night’s dinner party, a dishwasher to empty and re-load, lunches and dinner to make and Monday morning to prepare for.
But this is where the pattern stopped.
Not so long ago I would have spent hours wallowing in useless self-judgment and feelings of inadequacy because of feeling rushed, scattered and overwhelmed. When you barely have time to breathe, you can forget to give yourself a break.
Today I recognize it’s all about the triggers. My triggers.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do since being diagnosed with depression has been learning to recognize my triggers—the things I do, choices that I make, the habits and behaviours that contribute and fuel my my anxieties and drag me to places I’d rather not go.
When I set out to conquer my demons, I expected that I would have to make difficult decisions. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I was also completely unprepared for how telling they would be and how significantly different the image I had of myself was from the person that I actually am.
I’m reclusive and crave the regular solace of quiet. I’m physically and emotionally tied to a set routine, for my children and for me.
I need to read. It’s like a meditation that calms my mind and feeds my soul.
I need to protect time for quiet reflection, to focus entirely on my family and to enjoy and nurture my own interests.
I need to reserve the time I need to fully prepare for a busy work week so that I can tackle our schedules with calm resolve
I need to thoughtfully consider the promises I make, remembering how easy it is to over-commit, and how that leads to guilt and resentment.
I need sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.
I need to forgive myself these triggers, and embrace them as my own.
I’ve lived a life ignoring the importance of personal boundaries, thinking them a weakness, rather than the key to my own vitality. It’s because of a lifelong belief that I am meant to have it all, but it also comes from a deep-held insecurity that I am not good enough.
All of them involve time: protecting time, being mindful of time, slowing down, doing less, simplifying. The poetry of it is almost intoxicating.
My whole life I’ve thought that being enough meant keeping up and doing everything. Now, FINALLY, I know that being enough means doing what is best for me. What’s more, I truly believe that if I do, if I freely acknowledge my own limitations, that everything else will continue to slip perfectly into place.
Brené Brown, a sociologist and author once admitted that she is “a much more compassionate person because [she] is a boundaried person.” I can see how this would be, how much easier it would be to give of yourself then you give to yourself.
And so, I’m not surprised when the dark starts to whisper in my ear. I expect it when I over-extend myself and ignore the rules I’ve worked so hard to embrace.
But this time I was ready for it. In acknowledging my limitations, I feel like I’ve taken away their power. I used to cry for hours because I felt broken. I believed myself deficient, because I would never again be able to do all that I had once been able to. But I now know that I’m not broken at all.
I just haven’t been living my life the way I’m meant to live it.