I’m reading a new book called The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. After reading the introduction and the first chapter, I’m feeling better. I’m feeling like I need to blog the findings I’ve had within myself. If only to create discussion or to help someone else feel like they’re not alone.
I’ve never kept it a secret that I struggle with depression. I think there’s this stigma of shame on people like me. We bring it upon ourselves, other people put it on us. It’s so easy to judge. So many people say “well why don’t you just ________” and they think they can solve your problems. They think that if only we’d do this or if only we’d do that…we wouldn’t be depressed anymore.
Nothing is further from the truth. Just as a person with a chronic physical problem will always have that problem, people with mental illness will have it too. Because it’s not visual, because it results in some very unhealthy lifestyle choices, people are so quick to judge it. They think “well if I were them, I’d do it this way” but they don’t realize if that if they were them, they would struggle with mental illness.
The other day we were driving into Vancouver. There’s always the same man limping along the boulevard when you come off the freeway exit onto Hastings. He holds a sign asking for help, food, money and he has a very prominent limp. My friend looked at him and said “it’s so much easier to have compassion when you see they have a physical reason to not be working”. Yes it is so much easier. I reminded him that mental illness is ALSO something physical. A mentally ill brain is physically different from a healthy one. I know, first hand, that our government pays shit-all attention to our mentally ill people, especially those they have no diagnosis for. Those people ultimately end up on the streets if they do not have a well-minded person fighting tooth and nail for them. Even then, they just can’t get it together. (Early intervention is a thing they save only for kids with autism, it seems. Which is a shame.)
If you’ve never struggled with it then it’s really hard to explain. But believe me, it’s there.
This summer I was actually the happiest I had been in a VERY long time. Part of that kind of came from me ignoring some of the things about myself that I needed to work on. Most of it was so genuine. It feels so good being happy for once. To just feel at peace.
Of course, living in a temperate rainforest, we all are doomed to a dreary winter full of clouds and wet and fog and cold. We get soooo used to the rain that you’ll find a lot of us seeking shade when the hot summer months come along, we don’t know what to do with the sun! As the dark uni-cloud settles over the lower mainland, the very same thing is happening inside a lot of us. Seasonal Affected Disorder settles in and we are tired and low. No idea why we live here…really.
So this fall I’ve started feeling myself spiral down the tube of self-pity. I think my summer feeling happy set me up to at least have some ups with the downs. The up and down thing is difficult but the ups make it survivable. If not too manic, they usually arrive with new-found motivation and productivity. For so many years I was just experiencing the downs and really missing the ups…even if they give way to lower down times.
What’s going on in my head is this loop of shame and worthlessness. Every thought starts off with an “I should” and ends off with a personal shaming for not actually being that way. Over and over and over it’s going…round and round and round and round. The thoughts get worse, the shame deepens, more reasons are found to feel even more worthless. I recognize it when it’s happening, but those thoughts of “I will be worthy when I _____” are so deep-rooted. So so so deep-rooted that it’s hard to ignore them.
Brene Brown wrote about the worthy list in her book. Here’s my list and I think that a lot of people would agree with it.
- I will be worthy when I lose 40 pounds.
- I will be worthy when I figure out a way to get rid of these bags under my eyes.
- I will be worthy when my house is clean.
- I will be worthy when I spend more time with my kids.
- I will be worthy when I have more energy.
- I will be worthy when I get better with handling our finances.
- I will be worthy after I do my hair and put on make up.
- I will be worthy when I have more close friends.
- I will be worthy when my renovations are done.
- I will be worthy when we make it to the next tax bracket.
- etc etc etc etc etc
Some people are driven by these lists, they fulfill their quota every day but end up still feeling empty…because they haven’t realized they’re already worthy. For me, this list is overwhelming. When faced with feeling overwhelmed, my brain and body shut down and I survive in a similar mode your computer does when it goes to sleep. I’m not really living in those times. I’m zoned out, in sleep mode, only functioning to keep myself and my family surviving and healthy. My perfectionist mentality makes me a cluttered, disorganized mess. Hows that for weird?
I’m a type B personality with type A expectations of myself. (which I partially think I have because I grew up in a family with women that are predominantly on the type A side, so I was taught I should be a type A…when that’s just not who I am).
Something about this book has warmed my soul. Perhaps it’s the way she writes, in such a loving manner. Perhaps it’s because she’s not telling you to do anything. She’s describing things and it leads you to your own self discovery. As I was reading I just felt that cycle of shame stop, I felt myself identifying with some of the fantastic traits she wrote about, Oooo I actually have that one down really well…that one too. I’m realizing that I am worthy here and now. There’s great things about being a type B that I hold a lot of value to. That’s great!
Anyway, I’m only a page into chapter 2 and I feel a lot better. I’m more productive. I do feel like a key to being happy IS keeping a clean home and it IS being productive because it’s healthy. But I think being productive and energetic and skinny and wealthy is nothing without feeling that inner sense of value. Two people on the opposite scale end up in the same place. Someone who has all the checks on my “worthy list” has a list of their own.
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worth of love and belonging” – Brene Brown