“Some days you are the bird, and some days you are the statue.”
Ever hear this phrase? It rings true for a few reasons. It’s saying that some days you are the one on top. You fly along, and everything is cool. Gotta go? No problem—let it go!
Right onto the statue. The unwavering statue. It can’t move from where it sits and just has to take what happens with a straight face. The rain will come eventually and wash it away, but there will always be another bird.
I have always found this relates well to life.
It doesn’t matter how much you think you have it all together. Something will come along to derail it all eventually. For some of us in the trenches, it’s a constant shift between bird and statue. Work, family, finances, life—it’s a struggle to balance it all and keep our focus. Factor in a lifelong battle with depression and anxiety, and the balance is more complicated to maintain. Your scale seems perpetually too heavy on one side, so you are always trying to compensate for that on the other side. It’s exhausting.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 16, though I felt its creeping darkness long before that. Over the years, I have tried everything to keep that darkness at bay, or at least under some sort of control.
Younger days were spent trying to pretend it wasn’t there. I numbed it with alcohol. I covered it up with the attention from other people—doing whatever I had to in order to get it. I fought the loneliness with promiscuity. I made a lot of broken promises. My heart took the brunt of it.
Later as I moved into my 30s, I was a divorced single mom and the old methods were no longer applicable to my life. I tried various medications. Some worked, some didn’t. I finally found one that did the job better than the rest and I stuck with it. I stumbled into meditation and yoga and those helped. I found Buddhism and threw myself into my studies, trying desperately to understand the world around me.
About this time, I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder that affects the nerves. I was on medication though, so I was coping with it. The darkness was more of a gray than a black these days, and sometimes was even a blue or a purple. I fell back in love and got engaged.
We became pregnant, but then lost the pregnancy.
My world stopped spinning for a little while. I seemed to forget all those coping mechanisms that I had used over the years and just shut down. It was a working shut down though, and I continued to function. I went to work. I planned a whole wedding. I attended several. I lost a job, and got a new one.
Things just kind of happened around me and I took part, but I didn’t seem to feel any of it. It was like trying to talk with novacane. You can make the sounds, you can communicate, but you can’t really feel it happening.
This is how depression happens—it will always be there. Eventually we get a handle on it and can finally see the sun again through the clouds. But, something will happen to knock it all off track, plunging us back into darkness and we have to scramble to find that footing again. This is hard as hell.
But we can do it. Even through the darkness, positivity is possible.
My husband and I became pregnant again last year. The fear that filled me was incredible. I was afraid that everything I did would make me lose the pregnancy again. I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of the world. My depression and anxiety were incredible despite the medications I continued throughout my pregnancy.
I gave birth to a healthy little girl.
Would I be okay with this? Would I be able to feel the love through all the darkness?
It’s not easy for me. My ordinary depression and anxiety has been compounded by postpartum depression. Every single day I have to wake up with determination to make the day a success. Depression is not a choice for me. It’s a disease. I have to fight it like one. Part of that is being positive.
Some days I win. I wake up and tell myself I will make this day a success, and it is. Some days I lose. I wake up and tell myself I will make this day a success, and I lose terribly to the darkness. But, I know I did my best and always will for my children. I know they need a mom who is present, who can get things done and keep a smile on her face. I won’t be anything less.
Let’s talk methods. How can we do it?
I have found that being kind to others is a huge motivator.
Kindness is infectious, like laughter. Once you see it happening around you, it’s hard to resist. When everyone is being kind to one another, do you want to be the lonely jerk? No! Simple things, like a smile for the person you pass in the supermarket, or holding the door for the person coming in behind you, or being polite and cheerful for the cashier, no matter their demeanor toward you—they become habits, and they feel good.
Being neat also helps me.
If I keep a clean environment around me, it helps keep the environment in my head a bit cleaner as well. Simple acts like making sure the dishes are done every night has a big impact on me. Waking up to a dirty, disorderly kitchen ruins my mental space for the day. Waking up to a clean, orderly kitchen in the morning is a breath of fresh air to start my day. I am also a big fan of occasionally moving my furniture. The change seems to shift the energy in my home and things feel new and improved, even if all they are is in a different place.
Keeping lists is another small thing with a big impact.
It seems like a small thing, but if I have a list of things I need to get, things I need to do and people I need to pay, it feels like things are orderly and organized.
Mostly, though, it’s telling myself that I am doing okay.
Sitting in meditation for a few minutes to clear my head, I then let myself know I am okay. I am doing well and can get through the task at hand.
Some days I will still be the statue. But I am having more days than I used to where I am the bird. Here is hoping you find your feathers as well.
Author: Amanda Hornick
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Julie Raccuglia/Flickr