Sweet Jesus, tomorrow I’m gonna be on time. This weekend I’m gonna make a healthy quinoa casserole and pack it up in tupperware for five days worth of lunches. When the semester ends I’m gonna revamp my wardrobe so that getting ready in the morning doesn’t take so long. Over winter break I’m going to turn the upstairs into a yoga and writing oasis. Next semester I’m going to create a dedicated writing time and stick to it.
These are all resolutions that I have made this evening. Unreasonable? Probably. But I cherish them nonetheless.
I’ve lived with depression for over a decade now. It comes. It goes. I remain. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a really great support system primarily made up of people who also live with mood disorders.
The things I cherish about my support system are that they never make me feel weird about my mood disorder. They reassure me that my mood disorder and its myriad effects on my life are real and important, especially when I begin to suspicion that I am nothing more than a worthless and lazy, complaining POS. They are also an incredibly gifted and generous group of people.
I like to imagine that, in another world, mood disorders would be read as a sign of great sensitivity, creativity, and even genius. In this other world none would stigmatize mood disorders and there would be special retreats you could go to when life was too much. It would be okay to call into work and say that you needed to go on retreat for an indefinite amount of time. Then you could go someplace with big, warm blankets to pull over your head and cozy warm drinks to sip. In this other world your friends and family could also take time off to come to retreat and be with you. You could sit and hold each other indefinitely. At this retreat there would be instruments of all kind: musical and artistic. There would be yoga and meditation. Everything would be optional and it would be perfectly okay to starfish on the floor and do nothing all day. Also, there would be lots of chocolate chip cookies because those always seem to help my depression immensely.
When you ready to leave the retreat you could resume day-to-day life. No penalties.
My imaginary world is built around accepting mood disorders and trauma as parts of the human experience and the simple triumph of going on as one of the most valuable acts a person can engage in.
But that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world that doesn’t stop, or even slow down, when you feel like you’re falling apart inside or when you feel nothing at all.
Because I tend to surround myself with people who have also experienced or lived with mood disorders I think I have a skewed perspective on what it’s like to live without them. First of all, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone really lives without them. Second of all, I often wonder what people do with all the extra energy they must have when it doesn’t take all of your willpower to just get to the damn bus and start your day.
I will probably never really know what it’s like to live without a mood disorder. I’m sure that, like living with a mood disorder, it can’t be fully understood unless experienced.
What I have noticed about myself is that, when I am doing alright, I have a certain level of optimism about tomorrow. I believe that I can make changes that will make tomorrow, next week, next semester, next year, better than its current counterpart. When I am depressed I feel that I am out of control and I cannot make these changes which probably wouldn’t matter anyway. When I am anxious I feel that any attempt at change will probably end in my utter ruin and the disappointment of those I most care about.
When I start to make lists and plans I know it’s a good sign that I’m coming out of a depressive episode. As unrealistic as they may be, I cherish the lists and the plans and the optimism for the future they represent.
I often wonder, does living without a mood disorder mean that you have that type of optimism, that tomorrow might be better than today, every day?