“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”
~ Frederick Douglass ~
Time to Get My Ass out of the Well; a year in the hole
The first story below sums up the way I have felt the past year (at least up to the shaking it off part). For the better part of a year I have been slipping into a deep hole of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. The frustrating part is that some of what keeps pushing me back in that hole is out of my control and some is in my head. I know better than to live in the past or future but my overactive brain drags me around in the dirt sometimes.
One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well.
The animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over & help him. They all grabbed a dirt & began to shovel dirt into the well.
At first, the donkey didn’t realized what was happening & cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing.
He would shake it off & take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off & take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well & happily trotted off..!!!
If you deal with anxiety you know that even when things start to go your way, it causes anxiety. Sometimes it is that you have been kicked in the junk just enough that you have a hard time picturing anything going right. Maybe it is simply your anxious brain over processing every scenario that could possibly happen. I want to be positive and in the moment and at times that is a constant challenge for me.
Whatever the future holds for me, and it feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I have to climb out of this hole I have dug for myself. It is nowhere to try to live a life from and I have spent way too much of my life in dark places. Being what I refer to as functionally depressed is a challenge all in itself. I show up every day, I try to be as positive as possible, and be there for others while in constant turmoil.
This post is categorically not about seeking pity or sympathy. It is a reminder to take a mental inventory of yourself and the people close to you periodically. Also, it is a reminder to myself that just because I see daylight, it does not mean I am in the clear. I have to keep a constant vigil and continue stepping up when the dirt gets shoveled in on me.
There is another story that I remember from West Wing that I really like, that I would like to share. Leo McGarry (who was one of my favorite characters) is trying to explain to Josh that he understands what he is going through and will stick by him. It starts out like a three guys walk in to a bar joke.
This guy's walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."
The spirit of both stories and of this post is to serve as a reminder that you are not alone in how you feel or what you are going through and there is always a way out. Find a person who understands you that you can talk to, or even just send a message to on the really tough days. Don’t try to carry the load by yourself or one day it will engulf you.
Final note: Being compassionate and empathetic is critical to our survival as a society, but you must practice these qualities with yourself as well. Thank you for reading this and being part of my crooked, rocky trail.