Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Heart of Gold

I have anxiety.

I started seeing a therapist this summer because the emotional breakdowns got worse, and I was getting so overwhelmed that I'd just procrastinate on everything, even simple tasks like replying to emails or doing my laundry.  I was brave enough to try therapy because of the influence of a few understanding friends. I've been learning why my hands are always cold (physical symptom of stress) and why I eat so much pasta (craving carbs = imbalance in serotonin levels).  I'm finding some comfort just in the fact that something really is wrong with me and it's not necessarily all my fault.

But I still have to struggle with the three-headed monster that is my mental illness.  The cascade of thoughts churning in my head is a familiar sensation now and I dread it. Some of the worries are rational, some are not.  Some come back over and over while others seem to pop up out of nowhere.  It's like Audrey Assad says: "Just when I think I've reached the center of my heart, I inevitably discover inside myself whole worlds and galaxies that terrify me." That's why I have to write- I am continually learning about myself and I write mostly about not what I have already mastered, but what I am currently learning and struggling against.  There are some nights I read my own words and feel as if a stranger wrote them, someone much smarter, stronger, and better than I am.  But it helps to know I have the power to express myself in a way that lets others relate and learn with me.  It helps to know when my thoughts get ugly that I can still create something beautiful.

The anxiety can be scary and painful, keeping me awake and overly involved trying to juggle the problems, but it doesn't threaten me quite as much as the other two monsters I live with.  In fact, the anxiety is sometimes what prompts me to put on the happy face and helping hands that a lot of people know me for.  It turns me into a sponge, absorbing the emotions and concerns of everyone around me.  And helping people makes me happy when I can manage it.

It's the depression that stops me.  The utter exhaustion after chasing every wild goose of a thought the anxiety throws at me.  The sudden and random surges of loneliness, both when I'm at home in bed in an empty room or when I'm at parties and public functions surrounded by people. The anxiety makes me cry my eyes out sometimes, but the depression makes me feel unable to cry, which is even worse.  To lose your heart, your capacity for emotions, your empathy, can make you feel like the monster.  It is strange to be so lost and isolated that you miss yourself.

Anxiety and depression are in a sense two sides to the same coin, despite how different they are.  I have slowly become suspicious that they are both symptoms of a deeper problem, minions of a more terrible monster.  At least for me, they stem from my perfectionism, which I've written about before both as my blessing and my curse.  I have too fickle an idea of perfection to be a good perfectionist.  I listen whenever my anxiety tells me what things in life to value and what things to cast aside.  It's like being King Midas-- you learn that gold is the ultimate treasure, so you start to fight all the raw, authentic little imperfections that make life and people beautiful, squeezing the life out of things, leaving them glittering cold and hard.  You give up on your desires to fill the mold of the ideal.  And eventually, you turn your own heart and everything you love to gold.

I am trying to learn how to get mine back.

I am trying to allow things to live and breathe in my life.  I am trying to love the fact that I'm human.  I am trying to teach myself that I don't have to be complete or "fixed" before I can be happy.

This probably seems different from my standard blog post.  It's a bit of a downer.  You may very well be wondering why I'm telling you all of this.  I'm not quite sure.  I think different people are meant to read this for different reasons.  I have often been surprised by the response my writing evokes.  I just know that I am supposed to write it because it is an act of defiance toward my fear and because it is dangerously honest.  And if I become more honest, maybe I can stop hiding from my imperfection and pretending to have a heart of gold.

"I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." ~ Ezekiel Chapter 36 verses 25-26

Thank you for reading this.

Love, Sarah

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