Sunday, December 4, 2016

No More Apologies

I have tried.

Over and over, with and without coffee, in the sunshine or the nighttime, I have tried.

Come, lord Jesus,
I have tried.

And the feelings come out but the words stay put, like there's nothing I could possibly say that would be considered an honest expression, or that would do justice to what I'm trying to convey. But I'll give it my best shot.

A year ago I was the most depressed I have been in many years. It is something I've dealt with for fifteen years this September, the worst of which was 2007-2008, with last winter in a close second. I've been considering that time in my life frequently because I'm approaching an interesting milestone: an entire year of being on antidepressant medication. 

Things have been going well. I will spare you the details of an entire year, for the sake of clarity and to save time, but believe me when I say that things have been going well.

I started listening to Christmas music on December 1st, but in the heat of the moment I forgot about that one song. And of course I was driving, over that exact same bridge, and in a flood of cold air and warbling voices I remembered last year.

Last year. Now my heart is / Returned to sister winter / Now my heart is / As cold as ice. Those lyrics washed over me and through me for an entire week, an entire year ago, and I drove over that bridge day after day and fought the urge with every breath not to drive off the bridge. A year ago, listening to the same angsty lyrics on repeat somehow helped me not careen into oncoming traffic, while also reminding me how badly I wanted to do just that.

Sure, it all sounds so dramatic now. But I said it then, and I'll say it now. As a teenager, I knew I could be overreacting simply because I was young and my emotions were often overwhelming. As an adult, with every imaginable support available, those feelings cannot be dismissed so easily.

And last year, in the midst of all that, I apologized. I said I was sorry for my behavior, although not for my feelings, because I didn't know how to handle myself. I spent so many years fighting these neurotic impulses, charging against my heart's desires to seek revenge or manipulate people or feign politeness just to be liked. I fought, and I lost, over and over. I was a sorry loser.

But now I'm done apologizing.

You see, before, I was fighting myself. I was fighting my dark side, the part of me that is vindictive and bitter and false. This is a part of all of us, it's human nature, but it is not always so loud.

I am no longer fighting myself. The darkest part of me still exists but it does not drown out all the other voices. Rather than a fight between my dark desires or good intentions, I am simply fighting for the truth. I am capable of sitting still and asking myself if my feelings are based on reality or fiction. I am capable of praying calmly at any time of day instead of screaming and crying to God because every moment is one of desperation.

So I can apologize for myself beforehand. I was not trying my best to be my best, was not trying to honor God with my life, because I spent all of my energy simply trying to be. 

In the aftermath, in my medicated life, I don't apologize--at least, I don't apologize for trying.

Some days I wake up and everything is fine. I am motivated. I don't have a headache. I go to work or go to the store and buy groceries, and I wake up after the first alarm and leaving the house doesn't require any mental exertion.

Other days it's more difficult. My medication often causes horrific nightmares, insomnia, or can make it nearly impossible for me to wake up. Sometimes I experience all three of those in one day. The nightmares can be especially difficult to shake off because they are very realistic, and thus waking up becomes work. I have to force myself out of bed, I have to pray for a forgetful mind in order to move on with my day, and at that point I have already lost time and must prepare for the potential anxiety of being late for events and the mental sluggishness I'll have later and of course... my favorite thing... trying to figure out how I'll explain my behavior to people.

How does an adult woman explain that she's late for church because she had a nightmare?

This is often the hardest part. Some people already know. Some friends understand my code words, the phrases that indicate I have recently struggled and need time to recuperate. However, there are still many who apparently don't get it --people who are insensitive to depression, don't understand it, and would respond badly if I said I was struggling.

And the truth is, I shouldn't even feel like I need to explain it to everyone. If I'm late for something, I shouldn't have to explain last night's terrible nightmare just so you won't think I'm lazy. If I bail on a responsibility (a decision that I do not make without a lot of thought), I shouldn't be afraid someone will chastise me publicly, or compare me to others.

When you dismiss my fears, when you call my trials "inconveniences," when you tell me other people are capable and they "have it worse," you are dismissing my entire journey. You are dismissing an entire year of trying to be the best of myself and managing the symptoms and side effects and using all my coping mechanisms. You are saying my attempts don't matter.

But even when I fail, because I fail often, my attempts do matter. For all of the fights I have fought, it matters most now that I try and keep trying and that I don't give up.

I communicate my efforts so that you don't assume I am ignoring my responsibilities entirely. I ask for help when I need it (another milestone.) I try to be honest, so you'll know what's going on, so that despite my failure others still feel respected and appreciated. I control my impulses and try not to be reactionary, and I think long and hard about decisions that affect other people.

For instance, when I brought another Christmas album into the car, I wanted to throw out that other CD. I wanted to take the Sufjan Stevens mix and toss it out into the icy air. I wanted to drive over it and hear it crackle. I wanted to smash it on the bridge that tormented me.

However, I cannot give it that much power. I will not be satisfied by simply destroying the thing that kept my depression in perpetual motion. "Trying" means more than just attempting to ignore the places I have been, the person I have been. I have to replace the bad with good.

So... I'm done apologizing for trying.

I might say, "Sorry I'm late!" but I won't say, "Sorry, I had a bad morning," unless I feel like you're going to show me some compassion and listen to my story.

If I'm struggling, I may tell you, "I'm sorry, I can't meet tonight," but won't say, "I'm sorry for bailing tonight, I'm the worst friend ever." I will not be self-deprecating when I'm really just practicing good self-care.

And in the next few days I'll make a new Christmas CD and throw out the old one, because I've thought about it for a handful of days, and I won't apologize. I won't be sorry.

Not even a little bit.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a powerful post. It so well written. Thank you so much for sharing this Katie.