The past few months have been blurry. I open my eyes in the morning, look at the clock, take a mental note of the time and drift into a nebulous daydream. This state can last anywhere from one to three hours. It’s a state of neither thinking nor dreaming. Nor is it depression. It is simply the inability or desire to move out from under the covers. Not only is it warmer and safer in bed, it requires no effort. My mind and agenda tell me I must get up to take the dog out. If I don’t get up soon I won’t make it to the swimming pool and then I’ll feel even more lethargic. Nor is it apathy. I have simply been finding it difficult to muster up the energy to move. I’ve even learned to ignore the urges from my bladder. If my husband comes home for lunch and finds me in this state he’ll get unnerved and I’ll find it embarrassing and impossible to explain. He’d rather work and produce than face the pain. I’d sooner stay in my cave.
I’ve been living in a fog. Life has taken so many twists and turns that I am no longer a player, I’m simply reacting. Why am I responding to life this way? I’m walking a tightrope with anxiety to the left, desperation to the right and a deep abyss down below. As long as I’m wrapped up under the comforter, I can push the anxiety further away. There is no reaction required. The only thing I have to do is stay superlatively still.
I cannot always stay still. When there is a necessity, I rise to it. My family’s needs are always met. My dog always gets out in time to run, play and relieve himself. We get to all our scheduled appointments. All the errands are run. Whenever Philip goes to his dad’s house for the evening we leave the house no matter what. Friends call for coffee, dinner or a drink out. They know I can’t make plans in advance and that sometimes I have to leave unfashionably early, but they still call.
And so the days are filled with errands, appointments, meetings and household chores. I don’t allow myself to turn on the telly during the day. A book or the swimming pool will have to suffice. Watching daytime TV reminds me of sick days from childhood, lying on the couch and watching soap operas and soap commercials. The sense of wasted days on the sofa while the world is happening outside. The television set is usually turned on by 9pm. I can binge-watch Netflix series and documentaries for hours and hours. But only at night.
I need to come out of this mental and emotional haze. My reactions are slow and my mind is like a clock with a low battery. I used to be so quick and sharp. I don’t know where that woman has gone, but I am going to find her again. As I said, it’s lethargy, not apathy and I’m pretty damn feisty. I know I can’t stay in this state forever. It’s time to take the so-called bull by the horns.
What I need is clarity.
Lent is the ideal time to seek it. I’ve made a pledge to God and myself to find it. It’s easier to fulfill promises during lent because it is a ritual I have followed since childhood. The first time I ever heard of this tradition was in Sunday school. The teacher told us we should give up something for 40 days. She had suggested renouncing chewing gum. I remember thinking it was ridiculous at the time. My public elementary school would serve fish instead of meat on Fridays during lent because some of the students were Catholic. Well, at least the school district presented us something fishy, rectangular, breaded and fried. Nowadays good fish is much more expensive and hard to come by than meat, so perhaps exchanging fish for meat on Fridays is more of a reward than a sacrifice.
But lent isn’t about foregoing meat or chewing gum, is it? It’s about turning within to find clarity. It’s about making and keeping a promise. This year for me, it’s also about returning to the light.
I’ve turned old-school this year. We lived up Carnival by going to a 1920’s party and stayed out late with friends. On Ash Wednesday I woke up early and have been working my way back to clarity. It’s time to come back out of the cave.
I’m making some radical changes. No more spending mornings in bed. No more painkillers. No more allowing the pain of life to take over life itself. No more wine. No more numbing. No more staying up past midnight. Seriously, I’m giving myself a bedtime. I will allow for my half sleeping pill. Please don’t think that any of the above is a punishment. I know it won’t be easy, but I have to act, not react.
I’ll have more time for living now. On Ash Wednesday. I went to work to arrange things for my return next week. In the afternoon I had a long swim and that night I went to my first ever book club meeting (alone and in Spanish). The following morning I attended group therapy at the hospital with other families who are experiencing similar issues. At night I was able to accept an invitation to see the Asturian Symphony with friends.
I need lent. I have allowed myself to go deeply and darkly into the storm of my own mind and circumstances. I can no longer allow my grief to separate me from the rest of the world. It’s time to come out of my hole and pull myself up again. This is my promise to myself, to my family and to God, for God will give me the strength to remain standing when I waver or feel like hiding under the covers.
Thank you, Cristina for encouraging me to write again. I truly appreciate your expertise, your criteria and your friendship even though we don’t share the same views on subjects like lent! I will take your advice and try to write something more universal in the future.
Thank you to all who have accompanied me on this journey and who haven’t passed judgment or spread false rumors. We can never truly know the face of mental illness until it is under our skin or cohabiting with us under our own roof.
Mrs. Helena Jones