I want to do everything. I don’t want to have limitations, but it’s nights like this that make me think I’m just fooling myself.
January in Australia means re-runs on the TV, and I’ve been reliving some old memories by watching Beverly Hills 90210 – the original series! Apart from being amazed at how many clothes the girls are wearing (there’s so little flesh compared to teenage TV shows today) I’ve been struck by the show’s strong moralistic tone: each episode has a message, and just in case you miss the not-so-subtle clues, it’s neatly reiterated for you in the last scene.
The above quote was a last-scene reflection by the Walsh’s cousin, grieving over the limitations imposed on him by the skiing accident which left him a paraplegic three years previously.
It’s corny, I know, but when I heard these words, they struck a chord.
I, too, would still like to do everything. Let’s face it, I was able to do ‘everything’ in the past: work full time and study and volunteer and exercise and … but not in this phase of my life. Right now, I have limitations. My depression and anxiety limit me. I can’t do everything any more.
Another incident which drove this point home for me was a conversation with a friend today. She made a comment along the lines that although I am going to focus on getting well this year, I wouldn’t want to do so to the extent that I thought about my mental health all the time. I didn’t say it, but the fact is, I do think about it all the time. I can’t help it. When I take all my medications, morning and night, it’s right there in the palm of my hand, looking up at me. When I find myself exhausted to the point of nausea at 8pm, I know there’s no point trying to do any more reading that evening. When I think about going into the city, and literally can’t get past the end of my driveway, of course I’m thinking about my anxiety. What else would I be thinking of?
Anyway, her comment has me thinking: how can I structure my life, so it’s not all about being depressed and anxious? Or perhaps she’s misguided, and for this period at least, I need to have that level of engagement with my ‘unwellness’ in order to address it, so I can become well again? I don’t know.
I will say that I generally think about my depression and anxiety in ways which are constructive – at least, that’s the case at the moment, when I’m not severely depressed. For example, I might notice my mood shifting, and try to pinpoint when and why the shift began; or I might begin to go into a panic attack, and circumvent it through controlled breathing and measured walking.
I think I’ve answered my own question: if I am committed to making 2014 a year I make great strides towards wellness, then my mental health issues are going to be on my mind a lot – not because I’m ruminating about them, but because I’m working towards overcoming the limitations they place on my life.
Does anyone else struggle with this question of how much thought-space to allow to thinking about their depression and anxiety? (And was that possibly a terribly constructed question with which to finish this post?!)