Because I am trying to graduate this school year and because I have several experiments to finish before that can happen, I have been spending most of my waking minutes in lab. The good news is, I’m getting lots done. The bad news is, I have no idea what day it is. I actually had to put a calendar on the wall and cross off the days as they pass in order to keep it all straight. And, still, I get confused. I didn’t go into work on Thanksgiving and since I often work fewer hours on Sundays, I had the impression it was Sunday and that Friday was Monday and so on. I’m left with feeling like today should be Wednesday and therefore the week is half over.
Thanksgiving was the first day in several months that I had been in town and did not spend any time whatsoever in lab. Since I do go out of town for four day weekends quite a bit (to visit my husband), I’ve been trying to make up the time by working weekends when I am in town. For this to work well, I really need a housekeeper. Housework is just not getting done. I took advantage of my free day on Thanksgiving to do laundry. The dishes have been piling up (no dishwasher in my apt.) and the dust bunnies are getting ferocious. Just the other day I had to grab a chair to fend off a dust bunny that attacked me as I passed the bookshelf. Don’t even talk to me about cooking. I’m so tired when I get home from lab I just don’t have the energy to cook something (and anyway, all the dishes are dirty).*
In the past, this sort of schedule would have led me down the short path to depression. But somehow, I seem to be managing fine. Granted, I’d really rather not have to walk past a tower of dirty plates and I’m completely embarrassed to have anyone come over, but overall, I’m doing well. I’m actually, honestly baffled at my complete non-reaction to the massive workload, dumpy apartment, and experiments going haywire.
Have you ever been in a fender-bender kind of accident or an almost-accident? The kind where you slam into someone’s back bumper and there’s no damage to the car (or you) or you have to veer off onto the shoulder because of something unexpected happening in front of you? You know how, in those situations, in the immediate aftermath of whatever it was you think, “Wait! Am I okay? Yes, I’m okay. Is everyone else okay? Yes, they are okay.” And you’re relieved and maybe a little amazed that “it” (whatever it was) was not a Big Thing and nobody was hurt? Because you know incidents like that can sometimes be Not Okay and lead to things like exchanging insurance information or having to call the police, or even a trip to the hospital. So you are amazed and grateful that everything is Okay.
Well, that’s sort of how I feel about my whole life these days. Some event happens, like I have no clean underwear because I haven’t been home for enough consecutive hours to do laundry in two weeks or my experiment gives me unexpected results leading me to question my entire model, and these are things that in the past could really have thrown me for a loop. I’d slow down at work, maybe not go in on weekends because I just couldn’t bring myself to go in, or I’d get depressed and call my husband and cry and say that I hate it here and I don’t want to stay and life is So Unfair. But these days I am able to shrug these things off. And every time, I am amazed that I am Okay. And I do a little self-check, “Am I really okay? Yes. Do I feel okay? Yes. Am I just repressing some not-okayness? No, I really don’t think so. Am I not accepting reality—am I really on the edge of spiraling down a dark, dark tunnel to depression? No. Really. I feel fine.” There’s a certain amount of disbelief involved. And elation. There probably aren’t that many people in the world who are thrilled to be fine. I want to shout it to the world.
“HEY EVERYBODY! I’M FINE! THAT’S RIGHT! I AM SO NOT DEPRESSED! I’M FINE! LOOK AT ME! FINE!!”
And here’s the thing—I have no idea what brought on this fine-ness. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything differently. I’m just… me.
Granted, I’ve done a lot of work over the years to deal with my depression. I’ve gone to individual therapy and group therapy. I take medications. I use a bright light box in the winter for the seasonal affective disorder. I create social support networks for myself. I read about mood disorders. I see my psychiatrist regularly so that I can have an outside expert opinion on whether or not I’m really fine. I do a lot to maintain my mental health. So it’s not like I’ve been sitting around on my ass and suddenly everything is wonderful. But, only recently has everything come together so well that I honestly feel like a completely normal person. And maybe being normal doesn’t sound very exciting to most people. But for me, it’s a Big Step Up from where I used to be.
Normal. Me. Who’d’ve thunk it?
*Just so you know, I’m keeping up with cleaning the bathroom because, well, ew. A big help has been that scrubbing bubbles shower cleaner thing where you press a button and it sprays cleaner all over your shower. It’s awesome! No mold or mildew, not even on the shower curtain liner or in the cracks and crannies, and I have yet to actually use elbow grease to scrub the tub.