I am a diabetic, type 2, which has been more of an inconvenience than a crisis. I take medicine and watch what I eat. Less sugar, of course, and also fewer carbohydrates. But I am sensing a change. My sugar numbers are creeping up. Medicines will need re-evaluating and I will have to stop cheating.
Today I had a bit of an epiphany. My mental and emotional health is rather like my diabetes in that it is something I will need to monitor and probably treat with medication for the rest of my life. That came as a shock. It shouldn’t have, given that I have been hospitalized for depression twice in the last three years, but it did. You see, I feel great when I get out of hospital. I get back to my normal routines and ignore any signs of escalating stress. “I’m better now,” I tell myself, “soon I’ll be able to get off all these damn pills.” Well … no! The truth is in fact much more complicated. I am better now, oh boy am I better now! But my body is still my body; my psyche is still my psyche. For better or worse, richer or poorer (and these medicines are not cheap) I have to continue working on my emotions.
I am vulnerable to sugars and carbohydrates; I am also vulnerable to depression and anxiety. Neither of these truths are going to change. Even if I lose 50 lbs and my sugar numbers become great, the vulnerability and need to monitor will remain … forever. Likewise, even if I have reached an emotional stability through a period of intense trauma work, increased medication, and daily therapy for five weeks, my vulnerability remains, and again it is forever.
Since admitting this to myself I have felt more hopeful not less. I am committing myself to routines of emotional hygiene: journaling daily, repeating my morning and afternoon affirmations like a mantra as I drive to and from work, admitting to my anxiety when I find my body reacting, and even admitting it out loud so other people can respond. Who knew that I could do that and get support and not feel like a failure? It has been a revelation.
So I have returned to work and am getting back into my routine. But it is, like after Hurricane Katrina so many years ago, a “new normal” for me. A normal in which daily emotional hygiene is practiced along with (reasonably) good eating and every now and then a bit of exercise. And a normal in which I engage other people in my life more without pretending to be “fine, thanks” all the time.