One of the coolest benefits of mental health is that remembering yourself crazy can give you quick hit of endorphins, a kind of hindsight superpower. What I mean is that nowadays, no matter what is going on or wrong, I can easily call up a memory from Before – i.e. before I found the medication, therapy, yoga combo right for me – compare my twisted, nervous thoughts then with my relatively clear mind now, and just feel flushed with rich, rich relief and gratitude.
Aaaah! That’s not me anymore. Relief.
Anxiety mind is not true
I wish I could offer that split-second of ease to plenty of my friends and family who are clearly struggling with degrees of depression or anxiety of their own. And if you’re in IT, then I wish ease for you, just for a second. Because then you would know:
- How great it is to feel well.
- How it is worth nearly anything to get there.
- That all those nasty thoughts, those worries, those horrible people surrounding you, are not really real.
But when you’re in the middle of those anxious or depressive episodes, IT seems real. You should deal with IT by trying harder, not with doctors, or happy pills, or moving with your breath. Trying to “get better” even seemed dangerous to me at the time. What if all the bad shit get even worse because while you’re off in a Prozac fog, because you’re not keeping your eye on it?
With my new superpower, Hindsight, I can see how my anxiety made every minor problem so much worse. In contrast, my clear mind still observes the same mistakes and injustices, but coping is so easy and obvious, I almost don’t think about it. That’s how normal (mentally well) people feel ALL the time. Amazing! Of course, if I’d never been depressed, I wouldn’t now get to enjoy my Hindsight superpower.
Before and After
For example, on our recent family holiday to England, my husband visited an old buddy in Ireland, while I my in-laws took the kids and I to nearby Oxford for the day – a place I associated solely with shame and embarrassment from our previous holiday.
As last time, we took a double-decker bus from the park and ride. As the bus pulled up, I was digging through a purse full of wipes, toy cars, snacks, Euros, Loonies and Toonies for bus fare.
My mother-in-law said, ‘Oh, never mind. I’ll just get it.’
‘Oh, great,’ I said. ‘Thanks.’
She held onto the ticket and we had a lovely day in one of Britain’s oldest, cruelest prisons.
No big deal right?
Somehow (untreated depression and anxiety) it was a very big deal last time. Four years ago, my in-laws took all of us sightseeing in Oxford, taking the same double-decker bus from the car park to town centre. After we arrived, my mother-in-law reminded us to keep hold of our return ticket. My husband checked his pockets. ‘You have it,” he announced.
I checked all my pockets, jacket, jeans, purse – no ticket. ‘I don’t think I have it.’ Pursed lips. My in-laws, including my husband, do not lose important tickets.
‘Well, maybe you had it,’ I said tentatively to my husband. Nope, nope, nope. Not him.
For the rest of the day, all along our sightseeing tour, during our pub lunch, viewing Cathedrals, all I thought about was:
- Great….now my mother-in-law thinks I’m even more incompetent than before
- My husband knows his parents think I’m an ‘in-cape’…why did he have to insist it was my fault, throwing me under the bus.
- My husband is a mean and nasty asshole.
- Did I have the ticket? Maybe I should check all my pockets again.
- I bet my husband had the ticket all along. Let’s see ….I paid, but then I was also holding the baby and everything and so my husband probably …. and on and on.
Two days later we flew to Ireland to visit the same friend and have a weekend holiday without baby. (Only one kid then, so we could afford both of us)
While listening to the security demo on the plane, I thought about the missing bus ticket. I thought about those same four thoughts all through customs, while trying to figure out the bus into town, while looking for our AirBnB. How could he say I lost the ticket? It could have been him. How could I have lost the ticket? My mother-in-law thinks I’m a loser. I am a loser. My husband is a jerk.
All the while I was saying, ‘Fine,’ whenever he asked how I was. I was afraid to bring up lost ticket one more time because I knew he would lose his temper, insisting that he’d already apologized. Why couldn’t I just drop it!!
Finally crossing over Dublin’s Ha’penney Bridge, the one hanging with love locks, I burst into tears and told my husband all my thoughts, and how in one way I knew it was silly, but in another it seemed rational and important that I figure “it” out to the right conclusion. I just COULD NOT STOP.
Seek Mental Wellness Until You Find It
Looking back, my husband was as kind as he could be given my state. It’s not to say he didn’t have moments of being a dick in the situation. But his minor selfish actions and remarks were NOTHING compared to the case I’d built against him.
So this time, when me and kids returned to Oxford, and he visited Ireland solo, I was really nervous about having my “craziness” brought to anyone’s memory. But actually, it was like a beautiful makeover reveal – ta da! It’s a just a bloody bus ticket! Amazing!
The moral of the story – life, travelling, your marriage, parenting, everything is so much easier when you’re mentally well. So try the meds, pay for the therapy, give conscious breathing a go…whatever cost is worth it, for hindsight moments like this.