We have the best intentions to stay on top of life, but sooner or later it catches up to all of us. In fact, sometimes it feels as though life has completely swamped us, and it’s all we can do to keep from drowning. At times that overwhelmed feeling is due to completely suffocating grief. Other times it’s because of stress and having too much to do. The crying kids, lack of sleep, house maintenance, job performance, and ailing relatives can make each day seem like a year.
I don’t struggle with any of those tangible issues right now (post originally posted 5/12/2016). This time feeling overwhelmed is primarily due to a flare up of my mental illness. Frankly, right now I’m having a hard time staying afloat. I haven’t written for a while or even successfully managed my social media platforms.
Depression takes away my ability to function and it takes an incredible amount of energy and effort to do every. single. thing. Each day is an effort, from getting out of bed to going to therapy to trying to be well to keeping my house semi-clean to even feeding myself. Those of you who have been there understand.
For those of you who haven’t, try to imagine your most stressed out day, when you had too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Got it? Now imagine that you haven’t slept enough in the last three weeks and you’re completely exhausted. Your limbs are heavy, your brain is processing slower, and standing up requires at least a three minute pep talk. Don’t forget, on top of all that, you still have many tasks to do and not enough time to do them! Well, that’s a small glimpse into my daily experience with depression.
I had planned a blog with some thoughts about dealing with being overwhelmed. I’ve outlined the entire piece in my head, so all I have to do is write it down. I even have pictures planned for it. It’s as easy as blogging will ever get, but I still can’t do it. Ironically, I’m too overwhelmed to write about being overwhelmed.
I could’ve forced myself to write it. I could’ve tried to post something on social media at least every other day. I could’ve pretended that I just lost track of time for a couple weeks. But that just doesn’t feel honest, and honesty and heroism in the face of the daily struggle of mental illness is a main component of this blog. So here I am, being real about life. Frankly, it’s a struggle and has been for quite some time.
I’m not ready to write about everything that happened in 2016. Someday, I will be completely honest about it, but right now I need some time to process on my own before I share publicly. Instead I’m determined to simply be honest about where I am at this current moment. Truthfully, I don’t have a special reason to be overwhelmed right now; it’s really just that my depression makes it hard to manage the daily responsibilities of life.
But you know what? That’s enough of a reason.
I’ve been telling myself to handle things as best as I can, but ultimately that’s not the message I need to hear. What I need is to give myself a hug, take a deep breath, and extend myself some grace. I need to accept that being overwhelmed is not a failure; it’s part of depression.
I’m not going to provide you “Three Steps To Not Being Overwhelmed”. I’m not going to put on my “mental health writer” hat and pretend I know all the answers.
Instead, I’m just accepting that right now I am overwhelmed. I’m giving myself some grace and self-compassion. I’m going to stop beating myself up by telling myself that I don’t have a good reason to feel this way. I have a mental illness and that’s a reason in its own right. I’m going to stop thinking that I’m not being a proper adult. I’m no longer going to tell myself I need to get my act together and I’m not going to feel guilty about barely keeping up with life.
It’s OK that I feel this way and I don’t have to fix myself immediately.
“Depression is enough of a reason for me to feel overwhelmed with life.” Honestly, it’s incredibly hard for me to speak those words to myself. I really struggle to view myself with compassion instead of expecting that I can pull myself out of this very real illness. It’s not easy to be kind to myself, but I’m going to practice day by day.
Experts say we need eight hugs a day to maintain a healthy emotional state. I don’t know many people who actually get that many. I wish! (Kids using your body as a jungle gym doesn’t count.) But maybe instead of expecting other people to fulfill my need for hugs, I need to focus my compassion inwards and simply give myself a hug.
Today I’m lowering my expectations for myself. I’m giving myself compassion and accepting where I am at this moment. Today I’m giving myself a warm, loving, safe, gentle, protective hug that encompasses all of my being and accepts my somewhat disheveled, messy state. Will you?