So you’re in deep

(that’s what she said)

Immature jokes aside, I’m talking about being deep in a dark, wonky brain hole. Maybe you can’t even see the light when you look up. Maybe it’s too cold to feel anything and you have no energy left to move. Or maybe it’s so burning hot you can’t think straight because your thoughts are flying a mile a minute in all sorts of chaotic directions and you feel like you’re about to pass out.

You’re tired. You can’t sleep and then you sleep too much.

It’s been a while since you’ve felt okay, felt like yourself.

You’ve told no one because you’re too afraid. You’ve told everyone but it didn’t do the trick. Perhaps they weren’t helpful or understanding. Even if they were, perhaps it wasn’t enough.

You’ve laid out convoluted plan after plan for how to get it together, but you can’t seem to carry those plans out because you don’t have it in you.

You feel heavy with all sorts of emotions. Sadness, anger, shame, hopelessness.

First of all, I’m so sorry this is where you are. I wish I could make it better and it hurts me just thinking about you feeling the way you do. I’ve been there. I’ve written more in depth about these times in my life elsewhere on my blog if you’d like to creep.

All I can really offer are some words on my experience. I can’t promise they’ll have answers for you. I’m not a doctor or a counselor. I’m just a woman who has been in a similar place.

So here’s the short of it:

Life is all about decisions. And, no, I’m not going to tell you what you need to do is decide to stop being depressed or paralyzed with anxiety or whatever it is you are right now. That’s such a ridiculously stupid idea that it doesn’t deserve any more of our attention right now.

I say life is all about decisions because one of the most important turning points in climbing out of that deep wonky brain hole was a decision. It was NOT a decision to stop feeling the way I did. It was the decision to take care of myself. I remember having this realization that no one else was going to do it for me, even though that would have been nice.

Sure, there were support systems and they were crucial. My family and friends (though at the time I was just starting to develop the ability to open up). My counselor. But none of them were going to come to my house and make sure I get out of bed or get dressed or eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner or drive to my counseling appointment and be honest with my counselor or make serious decisions about treatment. It wasn’t reasonable to expect them to. They were support systems not caretakers. In addition to being incredible important in mine, they had their own lives.

I remember saying this epiphany out loud in the shower (taking a hot shower or a long drive were the only way to calm myself down at the time–sorry, Mother Earth), “I’m just going to have to take care of myself.”

It didn’t mean I was suddenly going to have it all together, but just recognizing that the little part of me that could still kind-of, sort-of function was going to have to gently yet firmly carry the rest of me which couldn’t function until I could stand on my own two feet (whatever that would look like and however long it would take) was crucial. I knew it might not work but it was worth a try.

It was a game-changer and so worth the try.

What it ended up looking like was, at first, weighing the pros and cons and deciding to try medication (I’m very happy I did) and to keep seeing my counselor.

On a day to day basis, though, it looked like taking microscopic steps toward extremely basic goals to keep myself alive.

The first that comes to mind is giving up the idea I would cook and eat complicated, healthy meals because they were supposed to be good for my brain and instead just making sure I ate at all, even it was a PB&J or soup or a microwave meal with tons of sodium. Something was better than nothing.

Something is always better than nothing.

Another is taking a walk for five minutes or trying a 10 minute yoga video instead of beginning and failing a 30 day running or exercise plan off of Pinterest. Earlier this year, I heard a speaker (who was actually talking about ADHD but the concept is the same) say the right amount of exercise [to help combat your ADHD] is the amount of exercise you’ll actually do. It applies to your wonky brain too.

Because something is always better than nothing.

Trying to go to bed by 11 and set an alarm for 8 instead of browsing the web until 2:00 AM when my anxiety is alive and ready to thrive then sleeping for 12+ hour and waking up feeling like a piece of shit was another one. Even if I did toss and turn for hours worrying about going to hell or wasting my life following a religion that was nonsense or being murdered by an intruder.  Even if I didn’t actually do anything at all before noon.

Why? You guessed it. Something is always better than nothing.

It looked like  peeling myself out of my bed and dragging myself to work even though I hadn’t showered (or discovered the miracle of dry shampoo yet) instead of calling in sick again.


From the outside, I sure as hell did not have it together.

I wasn’t eating healthy by a nutritionist’s standards. My exercise routine wasn’t close to the recommended amount. I wasn’t on a productive sleep schedule by any means. And it was certainly obvious I hadn’t showered even if I wore a large head band.

But I was still taking care of myself, even it was just barely enough to count as taking care of myself. And it helped get momentum for taking slightly bigger and bigger steps toward recovery and eventually toward preventative care, which is where I am today.

The thing is, I had to let go of the vision of what my ideal self would be doing in these areas of life if my brain wasn’t wonky and instead remember, as the quote goes, “You’re in pretty good shape for the shape that you’re in.” I ended up writing that quote on my mirror so when I wanted to look at myself in disgust I also had to be reminded in my own stupid handwriting I was doing okay for someone who had such a wonky brain.

And you are too, in pretty good shape for the shape that you’re in.

You’re still kicking, aren’t you? You’re still reading this. You’re still searching for things that might help, even if most of you is skeptical anything will. Maybe you’re keeping that suicide plan in your back pocket as Plan B like I was, but you still haven’t used it. You’re still trying to make changes here and there to Plan A. You should be proud of that.

(PS the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255)

Let that be enough. You’ve already got your brain being a wonky pain in the ass. Don’t also weigh yourself down with impossible expectations for yourself. YUCK. Instead, at least try taking one or two little steps. And, by the way, fuck anyone who tries to make you feel like you’re coming up short with a baby step, including you. You are where you are and you’re amazing where you are. I mean that.

So, take a step and treat yourself to some gracious self-talk as much as you can, even if you roll your eyes the whole time because you don’t believe it. Eventually, you could start to.

Anyway, conclusions are hard and that’s a glimpse of what climbing out of the wonky brain hole looked like for me in college.

I don’t know what taking care of yourself right now will look like. But I hope you try to.

And I’d love to hear about it.





1 Comment

  1. alissa says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s kind of crazy how different we can become when our brains are under the weight of depression or anxiety. I tend to retreat and isolate myself all the while hoping someone will take care of me magically. Which of course they won’t! And shouldn’t! Thanks again!

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