I often think of the lives we’ve all built as individuals to be like a tower made of blocks.
Each block is made up of our actions, our thoughts and feelings about our self, our memories, and our abilities, to name a few. Each tower is unique and the product of the time spent living that life!
For me, depression has always felt like that tower becomes totally smashed.
I can’t seem to draw on my memories or abilities the way I used to, and I find myself acting and thinking differently. Reaching the conclusion of a long, drawn out depression has often left me feeling like I am walking through that life building-block battlefield, and beyond the pain I feel about all of the shattered pieces, I tend to feel more confusion than anything else about how I could possibly even take these hacked up pieces and turn them into a beautiful tower like they were before.
As does living life, building my inner tower takes time and I hardly have the energy to jump back into such intense rebuilding right away after experiencing depression. In this period, building my sense of self might be as simple as reminding myself what it is like to get out of bed, or take a shower, or speak to other people. I call this the “clean up” phase, where I feel like a pile of blocks (as opposed to a tower) but I am cleaning up the thick layer of dust that depression has left over everything and slowly working to mend any relationships or obligations I find that have cracked under depression’s weight.
For me, this clean-up phase has always been the trickiest because I am still tired and my sense of self is still foggy. In the event that another round of depression hits me at this point, or another mood episode gets triggered I have a very hard time pushing back. After all, how hard is it to convince someone with little self-worth that they have no self-worth?
This is how things have been the last few years. Depression strikes, I clean up, but before I can make much substantial progress (like being able to make goals about the future, feeling a good amount of self-worth, or being able to tell depression to bugger off) I have had repeated episodes, over and over again.
This loop has caused me to look at my life differently. It has prompted me to keep shaving pieces off of the sides of my blocks, to try to simplify everything around me in order to reach that feeling of mastery over something much sooner than I would otherwise. To keep my relationships as straightforward as possible and build more boundaries to try to protect the little cluster of blocks I’ve been trying to repair.
This morning I noticed it. I am not sure if it was what I have been doing that has been helping, or if I got lucky somehow that I missed a big episode being triggered in the last six months, or if the research I have been doing about values (and what mine are) have sent a small spark of recognition to that tower of life I knew before, but things have changed.
At some point I have entered the rebuilding phase, and I couldn’t even say when it happened. While it isn’t a full tower yet, I know I am here after having one of the most hectic, upsetting weeks ever and something inside me, structurally, was left intact.
Am I afraid? A bit, yes. But I am also happy, and proud of myself for regaining enough strength to start putting the pieces back together. Even though the Sarah of yesteryear would consider this a sign to start grabbing blocks and trying to make them fit, to rush the construction of this tower out of fear of another topple, keeping things as simple as possible has seemed to be an effective strategy for letting this process occur organically.
I have already run through the gauntlet. There are few things depression could do to truly scare me at this point, and I am hoping that when depression comes (and it will again, that is simply the nature of my current existence) that my tower, finished or not, will aid in a different outcome. And if not? At least I know that I am still capable of rebuilding, because after all these years I am happy to find that the blueprints weren’t lost with the tower.