Most days, I must explain to you why I am allowing myself some self-care time.
For some reason, I don’t feel like I deserve to have “me time.” I grew up without learning how to look out for myself first. Now that may seem off-base to those closest to me. I have set goals, achieved results and always been the go-to person. And many of my projects were thought of and implemented by me with little input from others.
But it turns out I have taken many directions from depression.
Whatever the reason, I do not value myself. I have been working on that for the past year, but some days, including today, I do not feel like I have made any progress. It turns out that I identify myself with titles, Dad, Husband, Manager. But set me on the front porch with a cup of coffee and no titles and I do not know who I am.
Worse, I don’t feel I deserve even this depression filled life.
I carry around so much guilt about things I have done, and many things that I have not done. I am an equal opportunity guiltier if that’s a word. Events from my past pop into my head unannounced and the next thing I know, I’m shoulda, woulda, couldaing. There is guilt and shame for not doing what, from a perspective of after the fact thinking, I think I should have done.
I don’t understand how my mind works.
People ask me my initials and I tell them my middle initial is E, for Excellent. So, on some level, I value myself. I know I am extremely competitive, and it’s hard to win if you don’t think well of yourself. But somehow, I can achieve wild goals when I set my mind to them. And yet I feel like I must explain myself and my choice to spend 15 minutes reading a book.
I feel I must show you and tell you what I have done, so I can justify taking that 15 minutes for myself. Here’s what I wrote so I won’t feel ashamed:
- It’s Hot & Humid and I’m Feeling Slow and I haven’t done much of anything today, except:
- Before it got too hot, I worked in the garden. I weeded and fixed one of the rabbit fences poles that were leaning. Then I got the weed eater out and worked on my strawberries. I removed the netting and then trimmed around the edges of the strawberry bed. The result was that it no longer looks ratty and unkempt.
- Then, I repurposed the netting, draping it over my grape vine and securing it to the ground.
- Then I took the weed eater to the entire fence, the driveway, and trimmed grass at the front porch.
Now if you want to talk about crazy…
Why is it so hard for me to value myself? I’m the only one of me that has ever or will ever exist. I am unique in this world. My exact life will never be duplicated, not even by a dozen monkeys in a room typing for eternity. They will never write my entire story.
Monkeys aside, I still feel guilty when I do something just for me.
And it’s not like a commercial where they announcer is talking about the guilty pleasure of watching Netflix. It is real guilt, served up with a hefty helping of shame. Thinking of myself, only, is bad. That is what I tell myself, when it is just me and no one else is around.
Of course, depression is still around, and it feeds on my guilt and shame.
Depression enjoys listening to me defending myself from what “they will think.” This is so hard for me to understand because many times I am a pillar of confidence and the master of all I survey. But somewhere deep down inside, I am still trying to believe that I have value.
As I struggle with guilt and shame, I know some people will identify my actions as selfish.
After all, why should I only think of myself and my career? Other people are impacted by my decisions. Who am I to say this is what I need? Often, depression will feed me my lines, writing the original script for my actions. It gives me the outline and allows me to fill in the blanks.
Wanting to win, I have given all for some of depressions schemes.
And it was my time, energy, and resources that were spent on schemes that on closer inspection, would not make sense to the average person. Yet there I was, advocating for the idea, without any proof of its achievability.
My most recent encounter with depression’s grand ideas was to retire early.
As I have said, everything was going along too perfectly. I wasn’t worthy of having things working so well. In the dark reaches of my mind, I was feeling guilty for feeling good. This fueled depression’s pull on me to listen to it, and not to think about anything else. After all, depression and I have been through a lot together. And this time, things will be different.
READ: Am I Going Too Fast?
Different is what depression told me; more of the same is what I got.
And this time, the abyss was much deeper and the path out of it invisible to me. Just before going into the hospital, I felt up against the wall and saw no path forward. In the past, I had always figured a way out of depression’s crazy schemes. I could sweep all evidence of the episode under the rug and go about my business as if it never happened. And that was that.
But there I was, facing myself.
I could no longer lie to myself and not say what was going on. Seeking professional help was what I needed, and I advocated for it. I pushed for hospitalization, knowing that if I only was in the emergency room and I went home, I was getting the broom out and sweeping things away.
Had I done that; it would have been a little clunkier than the other time’s depression took me under.
Eventually, I would find a way to conceal what was going on in my head, and I would have gotten back to something that I could bury myself in. Work and side work have been my go-to plans to keep me from having to deal with and face myself and my depression.
Looking at myself, I see guilt and shame for everything I haven’t done, but could have done, or did and should not have done.
This is a huge weight to carry around.
It has come close to pulling me under many times. And depression has been their cheering me on, while all the time secretly betting against me. This moves me back to learning more about depression and unhelpful thinking styles. There I times now, where I recognize I am using one of these unhelpful thinking styles and call myself out.
Then there are times I ride on unhelpful thinking for weeks or longer.
I have allowed the pandemic to short circuit my therapy appointments. Having long-distance therapy sessions has not been productive for me. I envision my therapist doing a crossword puzzle while I talk. Now I know that is not true, but why would anyone listen to me in the first place?
Guilt and shame are going to need some more work if I am to understand their major influence on my way of life.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder last year, I am sharing what I learn. If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share.
I very much appreciate your comments.