I was cleaning my third to last stall of the night, the one where my mamas and babies live, when a text came through. I paused to read it and took a moment to pause in my barn work as well.
Huh…Dementors…that’s about right.
My friend and I don’t always talk much. She’s busy. I’m busy. We have three hours of backroads and interstate between us, but we have horses and mental illness in common, plus a long history together, so we do our best to show up. Whatever that happens to mean on any given day.
Today, it meant talking about the dementors.
I checked my watch, glanced around the barn, and tried to guess how much longer chores would take me.
Cleaning stalls gives me a chance to think, and tonight was no exception. While I worked through the last three, I thought about my friend and her dementors. Then I thought about me and my dementors. (For those of you who don’t know, dementors are monsters from Harry Potter who get inside your head and suck all the joy and happiness out of your world. If that isn’t a metaphor for depression, I don’t know what is.)
Maybe it’s something in the air…or maybe depression cycles and our minds are prejudiced towards patterns (think the Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon), so I see a connection where there is merely coincidence.
2020, so far, has been difficult for me. Making myself go to the barn this evening took some real effort. Getting up in the morning has been taking real effort, probably because my “early” sign of depression is almost always an effed up sleep cycle. (Monday night it took me five hours to fall asleep, even though I went to bed early, completely exhausted.) I’ve had a harder time focusing lately, been more easily irritated, and am reacting more strongly to things outside of my control. (Also, my god, I’ve been trying to limit my access to the news, because what in the actual hell?)
These symptoms are my early warning system. They tell me to start intervening in my own life. For me, that means yoga, dietary changes, more time outside, more intentionality about my sleep schedule, and, if necessary, therapy and medication. I guess, in short, it means self-care, of the hard work variety. After the last week of working to be more intentional about all of that, I started feeling better today, but, as usual, it’s a climb.
I gave my friend a call once I was back in from the barn.
She started off by telling me that nothing was wrong, persay—and depression can come on without an obvious trigger to be sure–but the longer we talked, the more I realized that she had a lot going on, everything from family issues to work issues to exhaustion, and that she wasn’t cutting herself any slack at all.
I told her about my own depression, and then chugged into my “it’s no big deal, but…” list. You know, the one that almost always contains one or more items that are actually a big deal? (Like, in my case, losing one of my very favorite llamas to a choke about a week ago…)
Looking back, I’ve had probably a half a dozen of these conversations in the last month or two, where someone talks to me about feeling overwhelmed or depressed “for no reason.” Then, with a bit a time and talking, it usually turns out that there are a lot of reasons; we just don’t give everyday life enough credit for being hard.
Let me just put it out there: Life is hard. Adulthood is hard. (Also, so is childhood and adolescence and all of the other things, but I digress…)
It’s also good. But sometimes it feels like the “good” dosing is all off, and we don’t get enough of the good when we need it, or we don’t see it consistently, or we get it in our head that we’re supposed to be happier, or more productive, or less tired, or whatever, and our brains spiral, and we feel off and don’t quite know why.
*Deep breath in…*
I don’t think these depressive episodes happen because something is wrong with my friend or with me. (Though I do think both of us are prone to this and are deeply sensitive individuals.)
I think they happen because we forget that life, by it’s very nature, is hard.
Instead, we believe the lie that if it’s hard, we must be doing something wrong. That there are things we aren’t taking “good enough” care of. That there is fault to find, and it’s with us.
Culture tends to tell us that we should never feel this sort of discomfort, and that, if we do, we need to respond to our discomfort with something or other that can be purchased or consumed. We spend instead of reaching out. We suplant connection with consumerism. We buy a new essential oil or pillow, or we numb with tv, or addiction, or whatever, when in reality we just need to make peace with the fact that things are hard because that’s how life is.
Just in case you need to hear it: Life is hard, not because something is wrong with you, but because life is hard.
Take a beat if you need it.
Reach out, whether you’re sure you need to or not.
Be kind to yourself.
You’re not overreacting.
You’re not alone.
As I reminded my friend tonight, and as she reminded me: Life is hard, but we can do hard things.