Photo of Walden Pond, taken by me, October 2013
Today was my first day back at work after my stress leave. I was glad to be back in some ways, since it forces me out of bed in the mornings and gives me structure and routine. But I will miss all the visiting I’ve been able to do, and helping my husband at his workplace.
I have been thinking a lot about how I have lost myself ever since the anxiety and depression started, and wondering how to find myself again. When you’re going through this, you can’t even remember who you are. Looking around I see all the familiar things I once identified myself with, as if I were an amnesiac trying to remember a former life. Even looking through the photos on my computer, I find myself going, “oh yes – I remember that trip!” like I’m greeting a long-lost friend. Depression seems to warp your sense of time and place so drastically that you forget about everything else. It’s a strange kind of thief. Nothing is missing from your life, yet everything is robbed from you.
I find myself thinking obsessively about the future, when before I hardly gave it much thought, except for looking forward to things. I’m catastrophising and mental filtering – two things on the list of “unhelpful thinking habits” that my therapist gave me. All I can see is a bleak future, one where I’m old, alone, unemployed, helpless, unloved. Does anyone else do this?
What I’ve really lost, I think, is my self-esteem. My therapy sessions are uncovering lots of hidden negative self-talk. I’ve been so hard on myself these past few months and I didn’t even realize it. I think I’m worthless because I choose not to have children, don’t go to parties, am not an extrovert, like to spend my weekend mornings in my pyjamas, like to daydream instead of doing housework, prefer to read instead of running errands, etc etc. When my ability to work crumbled, I began to heap scorn upon myself. You can’t do your job, you don’t even deserve to be lazy like you were before. Your dreams are nothing. You’re nothing.
Before I started work today, I made a list on my phone. It was a list of all the people to whom I am not Nothing, but am Something. So even if don’t want to get out of bed for myself yet, I will get out of bed for them.