“When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the center of every constellation, and people want to be near you.”
~*~ Shannon L. Alder ~*~
I want to be the sun! I want to say Yes! I want to be joyful and have fun and spread positivity across the land! I want to be a joyful old Lady! I am tired of gloom and doom, depression and anxiety, and being afraid of everything, seen and unseen. And yes, I am, amazingly, able to write this because my new antidepressant is kicking in. It is amazing. For those who are against medication I can tell you that a week and a half ago I was so paralyzed and frozen by depression and anxiety that I called and made emergency sessions with my therapist and my psychiatrist. My medication regimen was changed, and after a week on the new drug it is as if the weight of the world had been lifted off of me. I can look up, I can see the sun shining, I can take a deep breath, I have hope for the future, I am ready to live my life again.
How will I maintain this sense of well-being? I will maintain it by being vigilant, by not letting myself get in such terrible straits again without taking steps to change things. By calling the doctor sooner and saying, “Something isn’t working, you’ve got to help me!” People die everyday because they aren’t taking care of themselves and they won’t ask for help, because they don’t think that things can be better, because they don’t believe there is a way out. I know these drugs work, or they do for me. But you forget. You start not doing well but oh so subtly at first, and before you know it you are struggling with such terrible anxiety and depression you can’t think straight, you don’t think to ask for help, you are lost. Please listen to me when I say this. Tell somebody, now, to keep an eye on you, and if you are sinking ask them to be proactive and to remind you that you have felt better and you can again. Make appointments with your therapist and your psychiatrist who manages your medication if you are on medication, and take someone with you to your appointment. A family member or loving friend can often ask questions that you don’t think to ask or bear witness to the fact that you have been in much better shape but have gone down in a concerning way. Have an advocate. I can’t stress this enough. My daughter Rachel is mine. I don’t know what I’d do without her. But if you absolutely don’t have one then you must be vigilant about self care and proactive when you start to notice the very first signs of a downward spiral. This is so important. I have done these things, finally, far too late, but I have finally done them, and I am on an upward swing, and in this moment, realizing the difference, I have come to believe that my well-being is in my hands. Yes, there will be down times, some of them will be very hard, but I have got to fight my way back to whatever well-being I can find, and build from there.
Last night I was having a cup of tea and I felt a sense of lightness, I felt a very odd sensation, I felt, happy! Nothing in particular had happened, I just found myself smiling, and content. It’s when I realized that the new medication was working. It was that miraculous moment when I came to know that I didn’t have to live the rest of my life in a pit of depression. I will always have to work with it, I will struggle, there will be days of withdrawing and hiding, but I believe that if I remember how I am feeling right now I can remember that a better life is also possible. It is hard work, I will even go so far as to say that it is my job. I will even be so bold as to say that I believe joy is a choice, something that we choose with a hopeful countenance and then fight like hell to hold onto. And in this moment a strange thing occurs to me. I have been struggling so hard to find the work that I am supposed to do in the world, all the outer things, all the making money things, and I need to do that, but if I don’t make my first priority taking care of me, choosing and maintaining joy as my first priority, then I will never be successful with anything that I do because I will never be well enough to sustain anything at all. What a revelation. Choosing, nurturing, and maintaining joy should be my first line of defense, and if it is it will be blatantly obvious when I start spiralling downward into depression and all the rest. If I cannot maintain a quiet joy in my heart — I am not talking about doing backflips across the lawn — something has gone wrong, and it is time to take steps to seek help and make changes again.
I remember Leonie Dawson used to write “Joy is an option.” I now realize that I never thought it was an option for me. And I have a lot to work on. I had a long childhood of abuse, an adult life riddled with depression, fear, anxiety, PTSD and was finally diagnosed 15 years ago as bipolar. Life for me has always been a struggle, but there has also been love, and joy, and happiness at times. Currently my therapist is working with me using EMDR because the trauma of my fire 3 years ago has not receded and is causing continuing anxiety, fear, and depression. When I talk about being joyful I do so in the face of so much that might negate that option that it will certainly feel, at times, like an uphill battle. But, well, for godsakes, what else is there? I will be 63 on the 30th of this month. And yes, I lost everything I dreamed of, and built, and planned, as well as financial security, medical insurance, and more than I can tell you in that fire, but if I am lucky I could live another 20 or 30 years. I will do the work that I need to do in therapy — and there is a lot of it — and I will continue to work with my psychiatrist with medications, and I will choose joy in the face of it all and do my damnedest to live as joyful a life as possible.
This doesn’t mean I will be a radically different person. I am agoraphobic. I go out rarely to take care of things that I absolutely must and I prefer to be at home. I don’t see that changing a lot (But who knows?), but there are so many things that I can do here. The very best, the most positive, joyful thing I’ve done in the last year was to invite my friend Noni to come and cook with me on Saturday nights, and it has grown into the most amazing friendship, and we often eat together on Friday and Sunday too. And I buy flowers for the table, and as soon as I can get off my duff and get this studio cleaned up and organized I am going to keep flowers in here too. I have even begun to sit at the kitchen table with the beautiful flowers to eat my meals alone, not hunched over in front of the computer. And I haven’t gardened since the fire. I would like to think I could begin again one day, even just with pots on the deck and hanging baskets on the front porch. And I have begun to read again. And I hug and squeeze and kiss the pugs more. And I am working on my health. I am not talking about turning my life into an ongoing party at Disneyland, I am talking about turning my everyday life into one that makes me smile, makes me laugh, makes me want to reach out to others and share my life, and most of all makes me love myself. You have to love yourself first and foremost, even if yourself is chubby, lopsided, and cattywompus. Maybe especially then.
Inotherwords I want to be a joyful old lady and I believe that I can be. I’m going to be an old lady for sure and I don’t want to live out my life depressed and morose. I want to be like the sun, I want people to want to be around me instead of avoid me because I always have a dark cloud over me. I want my children not to worry about me, I want my grandchildren to grow up remembering a grandmother who made them happy and who was fun to be around. I will be a joyful old lady, no matter what it takes. By gosh and by golly I will figure out how to do this and I will share it here with you. Would you like to be a joyful old lady too? Do something nice for yourself today, buy yourself flowers, or something lovely that you have really wanted. A special teacup is a grand thing and you can get one for $1 or less at a thrift shop. Find ways to cultivate joy and as you do I’d love it if you’d share them with me. You can leave comments here after this post or write to me via the contact form at the top of this page. Let’s spread the joy, let’s begin it now.
With a hopeful heart and a joyful countenance…