Recently, rather than working on my blog or my second book, I have been focused on my work in the home–the house, yard, pets, Ada, Jim. The days are longer, the sun is out more, and it rains less. Spring is arriving, and it’s such a relief. I feel like working on stuff. I feel more energetic and motivated. Since I needed a break from writing, I have put my extra energy into my home. It’s incredibly healing for me. Physical activity is healing; I really don’t enjoy exercise, but cleaning is exercise at times, and I appreciate the results of cleaning.
It has been making me think back to my most recent severe depressive episode, which started in 2012. After months of, at times suicidal, struggle, I decided to take a good, old fashioned rest cure in November of that year. I took an extended vacation from the pressures of adult life and got myself back together. It started as a desperate need for help with my depression. I was in treatment; it was useful, but I was past the point of managing my life and my depression. My best chance for recovery seemed to be where I had been able to recover before. So, I went home. I booked a one way ticket for myself and my daughter and flew from Washington to Texas without any plan other than to stay alive and get healthy. My parents welcomed me, provided for me, and nurtured me. They found me a doctor, and my sister found me a counselor. All I had to do aside from get better was to care for (pre-t1d) Ada. She was 3, and generally more of a joy than trouble.
The best thing I did, though, was to move out of my parents’ house, after a couple of weeks, and into their cabin close to the lake. It’s very small and secluded, inside the church’s gated property. One family lived on the property fairly close by, but we could not see or hear them from our cabin. I loved that I could hear the birds moving from tree to tree even though I was inside with the windows closed. It was so quiet and peaceful. But more importantly, it was mine and Ada’s, and it was my responsibility to keep it livable. My parents paid most of my bills, and Jim took care of others. My jobs were to cook, clean, grocery shop, and take Ada to and from preschool three days a week. It wasn’t much, but it was constant work. I had plenty of time to rest and work on my health, but I also had chores and errands. And Jim wasn’t around to do them. It was good for me. It was like I was retraining myself after forgetting how to live. I had been severely depressed for months before I began to get better. I was no longer functioning. So the four months I spent in that cabin gave me a chance to relearn, to readjust.
And, recently, I have been trying to remember how healing that time was not just because of the seclusion but because of the work. The daily tasks. The visible results. The physical exertion. It’s good for me. It’s boring. It’s tedious, but it can be rewarding. I think it has something to do with control. There are so many things that I cannot control, but I have a better chance at controlling what’s right in front of me. I can clean my house, I can care for my pets, I can play with my daughter. Depression makes everything difficult, but I find I have far more success when I focus on what’s right in front of me.
Even though I am not terribly depressed right now, I was struggling a couple of months ago, and I’m finding–again–that the domestic work has been helping. I don’t feel pressure to do it for anyone’s approval. I don’t feel like it’s my job. It’s good, old work, and when done in manageable doses, it is not only doable but it is also beneficial. Not everyone responds this way to domestic work, I imagine, but we all benefit from setting small, manageable goals and working to complete them in a personalized way. I start small and slowly take on more. I take lots of breaks as a reward for the work. I find that I get more accomplished when I try to do at least one chore a day. The hardest part for me is just getting started. The more I do, though, the easier it is to keep going until I need a break rather than just stopping because the task is complete.
It really is a one-step-at-a-time kind of life. I can’t predict the future, and I can only work with what I have. When everything is too much, I find comfort in my ability to function in my small sphere of life. If I can do this, then all is not lost. If I can keep moving forward in even the smallest increments, then there is hope. I’m sending you all good energy, and I’m hoping that you, too, can find some comfort in what is right in front of you.