When Just Being Feels Like Too Much
Part 2 of 4 in a Short Series of Living with Anxiety & Depression
“C’mon, Weinand, smile! It’s Friday - what’s there to be so serious about?!”
“Can’t you just be more positive?”
“Ummm….are you okay?”
“What’s got you down? It can’t be that bad.”
These questions from well-intentioned friends, colleagues, and family members ring in my brain like an interrogation.
In my heart, I know they are trying to just make me smile, to encourage me to have a good day, to really just relax. In my head, my brain is reeling.
I wonder if they know the voices I can’t quiet - the worries about the future, the irrational thoughts of what might happen, the stresses of being a step-parent, the fears I have over my own future.
I wonder if they experience it, too. And if they don’t, I wonder if they’d be able to do it, what they’re not-so-explicitly asking of me - to put on a smile, to stay positive, to always appear okay.
In my heart, I know they mean well and that they are truly trying to check in. Yet, when I am faced with these innocent questions and simple interactions, all I can think is “I am. I am trying.” I am trying to lighten up, I am trying to be more positive, I am trying to appear – and be - okay, I am trying to not be down.
I am trying to want to be happy it’s Friday, I am trying to find one good thing about every day, I am trying to ‘fix myself’ and be okay, I am trying to understand what does have me down. Often, I say nothing or I try to comply with a smile, a positive thought, a brief ‘I’m fine,’ just to be left alone. Inside, I feel guilty for my complaining, for being down, for my seemingly incapability to focus on the good things, for my never-ending eye for the negative.
In my heart, I know. In my heart, I notice.
I see the beauty of the weather changing. I notice the excitement over the changing of the seasons. I see how the boys are growing and thriving. I notice the competent young men they truly are. I see all my husband does for me and our family - the dishes, the yard, the snuggles, the listening, I notice his creative projects, I hear all the kind words he shares with me.
But these knowings and noticings pass and in the moments of anxiety and depression, the transient struggles in my life feel overwhelmingly permanent. I notice instead the struggles at work and they overtake my brain. I hear instead the drudgery of the day-to-day and it drags me down. I see the busy schedules and am, at times, paralyzed. I notice the dishes and see only a daunting task that feels as though it will eat up hours of my time. I notice the little moments of resistance and they grow in my head to a lifelong battle of rebellion. I see the playfulness and good intentions but can only feel them as incredibly intrusive.
All of this simply takes me over. It becomes all I can see, all I can notice, all I can hear. It becomes all I can embody.
Though I don’t always become paralyzed, I too often simply exist.
I am burdened by the fact that being present seems, at times, to be all I can muster. I notice that to show enjoyment for these things seems like more than I can manage. I hear myself thinking and saying that most of my energy feels spent at just showing up for these moments - I hear myself futilely trying to quiet my mind enough to experience them.
I see that to hold the knowings and the hearings, the joyful moments, the peaceful moments in my heart and let them overtake me feels impossible. I notice the frustrating times come naturally to hold onto - the I can’ts, the it’s hards, the could’ve’s, should’ve’s, and what-ifs.
And seeing, noticing, and hearing all of this in itself is overwhelming. I begin then to only see, notice and hear the guilt - it is oppressive.
I notice myself wondering what kind of partner am I being if I can’t even accept words of love? I hear myself questioning what kind of parent am I being if something as simple as doing the dishes seems like too much?
I fret over these questions. I beat myself up, almost violently, denying that feeling as though something is hard is a valid feeling.
The fight is constant. The internal reprimanding never stops. The desire to simply sit at home is increasingly strong. There I feel peace, centered. It is a place I feel I could eventually focus on the positive and let the worries work themselves out. I know the worries will pass - I’ve seen that they will...and so the internal reprimanding continues.
So, in the worst of it, I’m trying to smile, I’m trying to be more positive, I’m trying to be okay, I’m showing up. I’m doing my daily tasks. I’m there and I’m aware of the positive feelings.
Some weird part of me doesn’t know how to express them. But they’re there. I’m there - I’m at work, I’m on my Zooms, I’m at the sporting events, I’m at dinner.
Sometimes, it’s taking most of my energy just to be there. I hope it is enough.
If you or someone you know is struggling, connect with a mental health provider today.