About a week ago, a good friend and I were texting back and forth. I had shared with her that this past month felt harder than the ones before. She responded, “I was wondering if you were OK because your social posts felt unfull.”
She wasn’t wrong.
As I have chronicled over the past 7 months, we have all experienced energetic ebbs and flows and prolonged exposures to stress. And how that manifests depends on who you are, your situation, and what is happening in this moment. While some days were hard, I always knew two things:
- This feeling was temporary
- I would figure it out
Now when I say figure it out, I don’t mean some magical distraction or permanent solution. But rather, I knew I had the self-awareness, tools and most importantly, support to navigate.
Then September came.
And my moments of stress and exhaustion turned into hours and then days of feeling something I had never experienced before. Hopelessness. During the week I’d focus on work and connect with people. But by night, that little thought would creep in and by weekend it had taken up residency in my home.
Hopeless about not being able to see my family. Hopeless about not having anything exciting to look forward to (or so it felt). Hopeless about our country. And other times, I didn’t feel anything at all. Which was even worse because I am used to feeling things deeply.
I had never experienced anything like this. But I realized I was not hopeless. I was depressed, and according to my doctor, I wasn’t the only one experiencing this for the first time. She said that at multiple times a day she hears some version of, “I miss having things to look forward to.”
According to psychologist Dr. Danah Barazanji, “We know that the stress will catch up and get you eventually. Right now, we need to accept that it is going to get us sometimes. We are at a point in this experience where we can’t see behind us anymore and we can’t see ahead either.”
I realized that my normal practices of of non-judgmental curiosity and compassion weren’t enough. I needed to be impeccable with finding things that gave me energy, even if it was just a spark. Which is hard when you are already struggling with joy.
As I reflected back on other times of struggled, I was reminded of navigating my panic disorder. One of the things I learned about myself is that I could give my brain a break by doing random acts of kindness with strangers that made me a little uncomfortable.
For months in 2013/2014 I would go to the flower store on Friday and buy a few Gerber daisies, and then over lunch I would randomly find people and give them a flower. I’d look for my target, my heart would race, and I hoped they wouldn’t be freaked out. I called it Fresh Cut Flower Friday.
Since I can’t walk up randomly to strangers right now, I tried to think of the something similar. So, the other night I posted this:
For over an hour, anyone who liked or commented was sent a unique hug image inspired either by my relationship with them, or what I could gather about them on their profile, as many of them were strangers.
Even though it was virtual, every moment of connection settled my mind, filled my heart, and gave me a little thing to look forward to. Fifty virtual hugs were shared that night before I fell asleep, with 50 more coming this weekend.
What I wasn’t prepared for is that there were so many others across the world also looking for a settled mind, a filled heart, and something to look forward to.
I don’t share this as a silver bullet. While sometimes we can let things run their course, we need to be sure that we notice when it doesn’t and reach out for help. I realize that I am fortunate because I have a supportive husband, family and team as well as the means for therapy. My hope is that sharing my experience navigating through and out might inspire your own experimentation. If nothing else, I hope some of you feel less alone.