We are already 11 days into 2021.
And that nagging feeling of possible problems is still trailing behind me like Pig Pen’s dust cloud in the Peanuts comic strip. Everywhere I go, I am anxious, and I cannot put my finger on it.
Worse, I am lying about it to those that care about me.
I AM FINE. Life is good. Things are going well. These are the stock answers I have when people ask me “how’s it going?” Without hesitation, I default to things are ok.
The crazy part is that they are surprisingly good.
Things are certainly light years better than when I was circling the drain. Coming up on the second-year anniversary of my diagnosis of major depressive disorder, the landscape looks exciting. Yet, there is a part of me that is still anxious about the future.
I wish I could talk about it to someone.
The closest I have come is with my therapist. Even with him, I am not totally honest. Getting into what is really going on requires a boat load of energy. Sometimes, I just cannot muster the courage and resources to open that package.
So, what 3 improvements would I like to make to my life in 2021?
- Understand where this nagging anxiety is coming from.
- Actually feel joy in my life
- Reduce or eliminate my survivor’s guilt
There seem to be unanswered questions about how I got to this point. At least, for me, the answers are still eluding me. I have worked through many issues related to medication and I am very thankful that I can arise each morning. For over 5 months last year, getting out of bed was a huge struggle.
I think this is part of number 3. I feel guilty that I have made significant progress, while others have not. And some have committed suicide and are no longer here. Why am I still around? What makes me different? Will I continue to improve?
And the anxiety, the waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I am still dragging anxiety around, just in case. You cannot be too careful with the future, things might get hairy. The reality of my recent days is that things are NOT hairy, they are not bad or depressing. Life is sweet. I am loved at work. I have a wonderful family, a great place to live, and the means to have a secure future.
So, what keeps me looking over my shoulder? I will have to get back to you on that one.
Feeling joy. I have done this in the past. But I have not experienced this in several years. Is it something I must relearn? Joy is one of the core emotions. I have a lot of recent experience with some of the core emotions:
But the two happier core emotions are not currently at work for me.
Joy and excitement seem to be tamped down and not accessible. Thinking back over the past few weeks, and months, I know there have been times where joy would be an appropriate emotion for me to exhibit. Anticipation and excitement could have been on display, too. Yet I do not think I showed that.
I carefully avoided those two emotions. Why?’
What is it about these two core emotions that have me avoiding them? I understand how anxiety, shame, and guilt can thwart access to my core emotions. Maybe these inhibitory emotions are keeping me from my true feelings. From a textbook viewpoint, this makes sense. You can see it in the change triangle.
Yet, I am not a textbook. I am not a science project. I am my own person, with my own feelings. My actions create consequences and my ability to access my authentic self depends on me. Understanding where I am on the change triangle is a way to know what is blocking me from reaching and experiencing my core emotions.
Clearly, my 3 improvements for this coming year will require work.
When I have my next session with my therapist, I will attempt to be brave enough to ask him about this.