A Worthy Opponent

(Edit: don’t worry, Mom, everything is fine!)

Just for Today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life-problem at once. I can do some things for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep them up for a lifetime.

– Frank Crane

Last week, I recognized that I had slowly sank into a depressive state. It was nothing scary, dramatic, or cause for alarm. I was simply noticing that every morning it was increasingly harder to get out of bed, every day it was tougher to focus at work and to stay on task, and I found myself avoiding texts and calls and flaking on events, preferring to sit alone in silence. As much as I love my alone-time, I could tell that this particular alone-time wasn’t restorative. If you were to talk to me during this time, you would probably have no idea. I’m able to be exuberant and engaging in front of people, then close the door and allow everything to shut down.

It took me a while to recognize this as depression. It feels so different than what I had experienced in the past. Instead of the dark cloud of hopelessness that told me to just give up, this is sort of a blanket of fatigue and fuzziness. It’s warm and comforting but at the same time wholly unnatural. I should want to do things I enjoy doing. I should want to get up and enjoy my peaceful mornings during these long summer days. I should want to call and meet up with my friends. But I simply kept saying “no” to myself. That I was too tired. That it wasn’t the right time. That what I need is to be alone right now. When in all actuality, being alone is the absolute worst thing for depression.

The hardest thing in the world to do when you’re in a depressed state is to reach out. The phone weighs a million pounds, and coffee with a friend is far too daunting of an operation to try and coordinate. You battle the demons that tell you that you’re really okay, and you don’t want to burden anyone else with your troubles, and all your friends are super busy and you’d had to interrupt them. But I know if it were me that my friend is calling and telling me they’re having a rough time, I will drop everything to be there. I know now how important it is. So I made the call, my friend and I had a gorgeous hike as we talked stuff out, and my load feels so much lighter now. I was able to clear some of the space to “do the next right thing,” as Glennon Doyle says.

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And this new-to-me trail we discovered did not suck.

I still have work to do. We always will. And sometimes just picking up the phone and taking that first step to say, “this is really hard right now” is the hardest.

If you suffer from depression, or even from something and you don’t even know (or want to know) what to call it, you’re not alone. It’s a frustrating, deceptive disease that I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to get on top of. I gladly accept this challenge, because I know I am a worthy opponent.

Go make it a great day, kids!

If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, do not hesitate to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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On Owning Life Decisions

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (and you totally should, because sometimes I post unicorns) you know that last week I started a Whole30. I had been W30’ing and posting on it for six days, but now I have a confession to make … I had beer the other night. Not one, but two beers. It was a conscious choice I deliberated prior to and at the event, and I decided to go for it. And in my opinion it was deliciously and soul-fully worth it, despite the heartburn, crummy sleep, and rough morning after. I enjoyed the experience with a new friend, and we had a great time. I felt the situation called for it, so I allowed myself to make whatever choice I felt was appropriate.

Normally if I “quit” a Whole30, that’s it. I dive-bomb back into whatever my diet was before I started. But this time, I picked right back up where I left off the next morning, getting up early to make an egg scramble and pack a tuna salad for lunch. Because to me the process of getting my lifestyle and habits overhauled to embrace healthier food choices for myself matter more than giving into the “What the Hell” effect described in the “Food Freedom Forever” book, as in “what the hell, I’m eating this so I might as well eat all the things and go down in flames of glory,” which is so tempting. But I’m not tempted.

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I know, right?

Now, I’m not too proud of going off-plan. Let me just make that clear. But what I am proud of is that it was a conscious choice, I don’t feel bad about myself, and my only regret is that I chose to make this Whole30 so public on my Instagram, only to “lol just kidding” six days in. Kind of awkward. But I am picking up where I left off, and I’m back on plan. This is a huge leap of difference between old Emily and new Emily. Old Emily would throw in the towel, fully succumb to the “What the Hell” effect (as in, what the hell, I might as well also have pizza and top it off with some Safeway sheet cake … and go for my usual Starbucks breakfast sandwich and coffee with creamer tomorrow morning for breakfast because whoops I’m done oh well) and it would be several weeks before I finally emerged from my nutritional off-roading glory to crawl back to the program, confess to my dietary sins, and try again. Oh, and feel terrible and beat myself up for “why can’t you just be healthy!?!? What is wrong with you?”

So, new Emily has come to realize that this is a journey, and what’s a road trip without a few pit stops along the way? Sometimes the detour to see Carhenge is appropriate (I mean, it’s a Stonehenge replica made entirely out of cars can you not even) even if it sets you back a bit both time and budget-wise. Or maybe not. But you need to own the decision. If I had planned ahead of time to have seltzer with lime, got to the bar, and threw it all out for a beer, that would be different. That was not a conscious, deliberate decision. That is old Emily behavior. New Emily considered the options ahead of time, and decided to evaluate in the moment. And then in the moment, evaluated the options again and concluded that this would be okay. It is not sticking to the Whole30, I am not following the program in that moment, but for me personally it is okay.  And you know what? I’m still a good person at the end of the day. Well, okay, some folks might beg to differ, but my dietary choices have no affect on my morality and self-worth. And that is something that it’s taken me the better part of two decades to figure out.

I have a couple other social opportunities this week where I’ll have to make a decision whether to stick to the Whole30 plan or not, because I’ll be at a party or at a restaurant and temptation to stray will be there. But for these situations, I’ve predetermined that no, going off-plan will not serve me, and I’m making arrangements to stick to the program, such as suggesting to my friends to cook a meal at their apartment instead of going out (I offered to grill steak for them, so I’ll still be popular don’t worry), and looking at the restaurant menu ahead of time to figure out how much I will be able to make work and bringing some snacks to supplement. This is not hard, it just takes a little planning an experience.

The takeaway is sometimes plans and intentions change, but instead of regretting and berating yourself for “not being more disciplined” or “I just have no willpower,” own your choices, take the results with grace and compassion, and go on to enjoy the rest of your life.

Am I perfect? Nope. Will every off-road decision be made with this amount of contemplation and contentment of the results? Most definitely not. I’m sure at some point there will be some regretful break-room-donuts or home-alone-beer-and-nachos decisions that were more automatic than mindful. But it’s about progress, and the best kind of self-care is when you can celebrate the wins.

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And homemade chicken curry, because OMG so good.

I hope you are having a fabulous morning. Go make it a great day!