“I am writing because you are enough.”
This is the first line of the card I wrote to myself when I was in the hospital.
I wrote this to myself over a month ago. The pastor who provided the cards mailed it four weeks later.
I waited four days after getting the card before opening it. When I first took the envelope out of the mailbox, I did not even remember writing the letter. Then after I finally realized it was a letter from me, to me, I panicked.
What did I say?
What would I have been thinking? I had been in the hospital for almost two full days at that point. I had gone to every class, every activity, every workshop the hospital had offered. My goal was to learn as much as I could about depression from the experts. And then we had a visit from the pastor.
Her message that we could and should love ourselves must have been the starting point for the message I sent to myself. “I love you because you are special, unique.” As I read that, I couldn’t remember a time where I had said that to myself. It just never came up. I was too busy to think about that.
“I appreciate you because you are strong.”
I had always thought of myself as practical, able to focus on the task at hand. I could do what must be done. I never stopped to appreciate that quality. Or to remind myself that I have that ability. Or to stop and say that to myself. There was never time.
Nurses and doctors told me I was strong for making the decision to seek professional help. I heard them, but I’m not sure I see it as strong. I see it as the least frightening of my choices. Does that make it strong?
I wrote, “I feel accomplished because I chose to get help.”
I think one of the staff had just used the word accomplished. Accomplishing things, tasks, projects, is what I do. So, the word must have seemed correct at the time. Now I would say “I feel relieved and happy” that I chose to get help. As stressful as this process is, doing what I was doing and expecting a different result was even worse.
“I am beautiful because I have lost weight and I look terrific.”
I have lost over 30 pounds, but that was the by-product of the depression. However, I do look healthier, and I had added 20 pounds in the first six months after retiring. So, to get that off makes a big difference in how I look.
It has been many, many years since I have said to myself that I am handsome. There have been times in my life where I have felt that way, but not in recent memory. However, over the past five weeks, I have said that to myself a time or two. Putting on my suits in front of the mirror, before each of the workshops, I looked great. The question then is, at what cost?
“I wish a happy, loving, fun-filled life for you.”
As I read the last line of the note to myself, I wish that too. My life has been a series of impulsive actions, sandwiched between the good times. I served depression as my master without ever understanding what it was costing me, or why I was even thinking that was the best course of action.
“You are enough.”
I want that to be true, I want that to feel true. I want to believe that is true. I have sandwiched that feeling between my professional persona and my family persona. It was ok for it to be true at work.
In fact, it was my goal. And at home, it felt good to me to be the provider, to be able to give what I thought the family needed. Boy was I off base. Depression showed me a world of limited choices and has pushed me towards impulsive, unhelpful thinking.
There was no room to love myself.
Until recently, unknowingly, I loved the depression. It was my silent partner I didn’t have to acknowledge. What’s the big deal that it didn’t let me love myself? It was a beacon in the blackness. I could count on it to show me what to do each time I was up against the wall. I didn’t even need to ask, it just appeared and gave me the only answer it wanted me to see.
Without even acknowledging my depression, I could count on it.
What I did not understand about depression until now, was what it was really showing me. As each situation would play out, I would get wound up in one underlying idea. This would take over my thinking and stomp out any idea that challenged it.
Depression made sure that I could not see any other way. It was clear that I served its needs, even as it gave me the illusion that I was in control. I was never enough, but the depression was. I didn’t need to love myself; I had the depression.
So, I have faced my thoughts that I penned while in the hospital.
This was an expression of my love for myself. A start at learning self-care. I am glad I finally opened the letter. I am glad that I was kind to myself. I was happy that I saw value in encouraging myself.
At this moment, I can see how I could easily go back down the rabbit hole.
I know there is more to the story than just self-care. There are wounds and open sores that still need to be addressed. The outcome of this has not been written yet. Each day I face the reality of my impulsive choices and where it has left me.
Most days, I have pushed those thoughts aside. But I must face them and learn from them. I am a complex person, just like everyone else. It will not be all unicorns and rainbows.
The good news is, the future has not been written.
There is still a chance that I can make my letter to myself come true. I am committed to doing the work needed to make it possible. I will face the past and learn from it. I will seek out other points of view to validate my choices or show me other ideas to consider. I will be alert to the ups and downs of my life. I will ask for help.
“I am enough.”
As I continue my journey, your comments are appreciated.