Last week, I had a lot on my plate. Straight off 24 hours of international travel, I made it to a doctor’s appointment and told her that I hadn’t felt “right” for a while. I described it, fearfully, as mild depression, discouragement, cynicism, moodiness.
I was embarrassed to tell my doctor these things.
Growing up, I’d gotten the impression that these things were “attitude problems,” and would be easy to resolve with a quick morning “quiet time” and a dive into a devotional. Over the years, I’ve developed a ton of mental hacks to help me overcome some of these issues, but the struggle around them has continued.
On top of struggling with these “attitude problems” themselves, I’ve also realized that I’ve started to harbor quite a bit of shame around them. It’s hard to admit to friends and colleagues that I often feel lethargic or tired. The term “lazy” pops into my head, and I start to figure out how to reword my excuses so they don’t sound lame.
But as I told my doctor these things, she nodded, and with great understanding, listed a few things that could be happening, like Atypical Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. I made a mental note to research both and headed home to, of all things, MOVE.
My husband and I relocated our family to a rental house earlier this year. We were ready to make a change as a family, but the neighborhood where we wanted to purchase a home didn’t have anything on the market at the time. In a random twist of awesomeness, we heard of a home for sale a few weeks ago, made an offer, and asked for a quick closing. We got everything we asked for—a home for the holidays, literally—but the result of our travel schedules left me moving, by myself, with three kids…and jet lag.
I thought I’d be up for the task, but by Sunday night, I was crying on the floor of the bathroom. I was spent.
Things rolled over into Monday as we continued to move and started to organize. My friend Hill showed up on Monday night and offered a hand, a welcome reprieve. Two kids ended up in my bed at 4 am on Monday morning, and I forced myself out at 6 am. And Tuesday was a full day of Day Designer work and planning.
By Tuesday night, I put my kids to bed thirty minutes early, and was in bed by 8:00 myself. And I didn’t wake up until 6:00 am the next day. I had hoped I would feel rested, but I didn’t. It felt like I was back to the same old drag.
And then the phone rang. It was my doctor’s office. My bloodwork had come back, and it showed I was deficient in vitamin B12. “Take some supplements,” they said.
I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I was grateful to have an answer for what had been troubling me, and grateful to have a solution. But I learned a few things in the process that I thought were worth sharing:
If something doesn’t feel right, say something.
It’s easy to assume that you just had a bad night’s sleep the night before, or blame your mood on a piece of bad news. But if something has been nagging at you for a while, it’s time to speak up. Let a loved one know how you’re feeling. Pursue medical assistance and/or therapy. It’s time we stop struggling in silence.
Courage sounds a lot like asking for help.
We are conditioned to think we need to bravely “go it alone” all the time. We don’t. We aren’t supposed to. We were built for community, and we shortchange ourselves and others by not leaning into community for strength and support. It takes a great deal of bravery to be honest with ourselves and with others in asking for help when we need it.
Self-care is far too underrated in our hustle-focused culture.
We need to practice extending the same grace to ourselves that we so much more easily extend to others. Give yourself permission to rest when you need it. Unplug. Take that nap. Go on a walk. Say “no” to things. When we are drained, we have nothing to offer others anyway. But when we make own physical and emotional health a priority, we have “overflow” to give to others.
We need to talk about depression more often.
Mental health and emotional fatigue issues are still so taboo, it’s frightening really. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with shame around my “attitude problems,” but it often feels like I am. We need to be willing to start talking more openly and honestly about our feelings and experiences, even when there’s no red bow neatly tying them all together.
So no matter how hectic or challenging or exhausting your life is right now — and no matter what situation you find yourself in the middle of — just know… you’re not alone.
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I’ll be sharing personal stories like this here more regularly.
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