Let the Bad Times Roll

I am having a bad week, and it is getting worse. By “worse,” I mean a persistent pit in my stomach, dark thoughts of doom, a deep and abiding desire to consume an entire chocolate cake (the one at Whole Foods with the ganache and the raspberry filling) and an ennui bordering on death itself. It used to be that a downturn like this would gain its own momentum, that the worse I felt the more scared I would get, and the bottom would fall out overnight, launching me into a spiral that would take six months or more to exhaust itself. I still have that capacity, the capacity to take a perfectly normal dip in mood and turn it into a crash and burn, overlooking the possibility of tapping the brakes or turning the wheel into the direction of the skid.

Not this time, baby. I may still have the capacity to pack the suitcase, but I no longer have the willingness to take the trip. I finally have enough perspective to step back and look at the course of my life and know that there will be an end to this period, just like there was to the time before and the one before that. There is no denying that I feel like shit, that my mood shifts are so abrupt that they are giving me whiplash and I am Scared with a capital “S.” It won’t last forever and it won’t kill me. It’s a royal pain in the ass and I wish I didn’t have these proclivities, but I do. So let the bad times roll; the sooner I stop fighting them, the sooner they will pass through and be gone.

How odd that these bad times are probably critical to my efforts as a mental health advocate. They are the single thing that make what I have to say on the subject of mental health believable and relevant. A couple of times I have gotten far enough out into “recovery” that I started to forget what the bad times really felt like. Then I had to dig deep to talk to people about their own troubles, because I couldn’t really call mine to mind any more, not with any degree of immediacy. And when I am telling my story to try to help someone who is depressed or bipolar or anxious, you had better believe I want to be in touch with my own struggles. We all know who has been there and who hasn’t, and there is no substitute for the connection to someone who has been in the trenches.

It’s rather interesting to hold both things at once, recovery and struggle. I would even go so far as to say that it is fulfilling. A wise woman used to correct me every time I said “either…or” and remind me that most things are “both…and.” And so it is with the bad times. I think peace will come as I integrate them into my life, instead of trying to cut them out like a sick calf from the herd.

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