Tuesday, February 8, 2011

getting to Normal

I'm supposed to be at a task force meeting this morning, but I decided at the last moment to skip it; I'm trying to get over the flu, not to mention a slow adjustment to med changes and one of the longest periods I've ever been afflicted with. I'm in a bathrobe and slippers, watching myself from a distance as I slowly emerge from an exhausted fog that has lasted for days, testing the new boundaries of emotion (as antidepressants kick in) and thinking about the past five years of my life.

I was just reading a Cary Tennis advice column in Salon, no link because the content wasn't really critical to what I'm thinking. Someone dealing with lots of challenges in every aspect of her life, including depression, was given permission in Tennis' response to simply grieve her own losses; applaud her joys and strengths, and apologize to no one for feeling blue and occasionally incapable. "You are loved and cared for by others." he said. "You will be accepted if and when you are occasionally honest about how you feel." I'm paraphrasing some.

It's not that no one has ever said that to me before. It's just good to hear the message from time to time.

He also advised her to "slow down" as much as she could. And that leads me to a related topic that came up in conversation with a friend yesterday: finding "Normal."

I've immersed myself in my job these past five years, and the job has been a real roller coaster of change, transitional challenges that are logistical as well as financial and spiritual. My office has moved three times in five years, the congregation I serve has moved three times on a slightly different time line, the food shelf I run moved once; we merged three congregations, sold two buildings and bought a 52,000 square foot former elementary school after forming a non-profit corporation. There've been hirings, firings, raises, paycuts, conflicts. There have been successes against what seemed like highly stacked odds, joy in discovering new personal relationships and new avenues of rewarding service. Through all this I've struggled with my marriage, worked to be a good parent, and tried to maintain my side-career as a visual artist. And I've started antidepressants, an option I considered many times before last year and always refused to try.

The stress of the job played a part. The losses felt in the course of the job may have played a lesser part, in bringing my need for help more visibly to the fore. But what I know now is that my depression kept me from fully feeling the joy of our successes, and the joy of peaceful times at home. As I drank more and continued to crave more and more drama in my life, more sweetness, more love, more passion, more conflict, I don't know now whether it's because my life was short-changing me or if it's because I simply felt so empty inside.

The exhaustion that has come with this flu makes me anxious in part because I worry it could somehow be a side-effect of my new dosage increase; my last increase was an easy transition for me, and the positive effects endured a good nine months before I started scraping bottom again. Someone else I know had this flu recently, and I tell myself this feeling will go away: the need to lay down every 20 minutes. It has improved some though, and it's really only been in effect since Friday -- five days of flu is not unusual. It's simply rare that I get sick at all.

Is "Normal" on the horizon?

Last night my friend postulated that this might be the first normal summer we've had at work. I found that idea sort of surprising, laughable even. And was amazed to feel myself resisting the notion. Wait, Normal is boring! Normal means day after day of similar routines, static patterns, ceaseless predictability.

What is normal? Why am I so against it?

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