So… it turns out those stages of grief are real, and we can’t really bypass them even if we think we have. Even if we think plenty of time has passed. Dammit. Looks like the whole “depression” stage finally caught up with me and has been lingering around me for the last month or so. I am just glad to realize it hasn’t been a mental breakdown like I was beginning to think. What a joy-suckage depression is. Any peace or balance I was feeling, any understanding of a bigger picture or ability to overlook the day-to-day bullshit has been zapped completely by it. I don’t think the cold rainy weather has helped, or the upcoming holidays, or stress at work.
All of this has manifested itself in a lot of daily frustrations and being pretty down on myself. It has made me reactionary, hopeless, and angry. There have been a lot of tears too. A lot of indifference and disconnect. The truth is, I am far enough away from all of the loss and complete 180 my life took over the last few years and it is so overwhelming that the only thing I can do is shut down. And while shutting completely down is not really an option for me, I have, for the first time in my life, been giving myself permission to not have to immediately get this figured out and learn some big lesson from it. I have given myself permission to say out loud that it sucks that all of this happened. And to not have to follow that up with “BUT, I am…grateful for this, or I have learned this, or I understand this…”. No, I am mad and sad that all of this happened. Took me a long time to get here. BUT, (I know I just said I am not saying “but…”) I am also over this grief sucking the joy from my soul, and while I can’t make the process change or go faster, I can at least maybe take care of myself in the meantime.
I opened a daily email blast about two weeks ago, which lead me to an article, which lead me to the source for that article that was a book about maintaining an inner peace beyond all of our everyday stressors. Pretty sure I cried when I read further into this book! (I am not kidding about how on the edge of my wall I have been). The book suggests simple shifts in your thinking that can help. For example, before getting out of bed in the morning, state your intention for the day. Such as, “I am calm. I am helpful today.” To say it in the present tense affirms it. It also sets the tone for you day. I have also found that I can go to those words when a moment arises that might cause me to react negatively. Another exercise is while getting ready for you day, you anticipate moments that are ahead and you “release” them down the drain. There is another suggestion for when your brain is going a million miles and hour, spend a few minutes writing down your stream of thoughts. When you are done, take a few more minutes to go back and read over the thoughts from an observer’s perspective. This act can calm your brain and detach you a bit from any crazy thinking. There is a practice of singing "You Are My Sunshine" to yourself when you are at odds with a loved one. The idea is that it will bring you back to a reality that life is short and you should make the most of moments with your loved one while you can. That realization helps you put small arguments into perspective and let it go much more easily.
I know I am not the only one who has ever dealt with anything like this, and I guess that is why I am sharing it on this blog. Of course I wish I were writing some beautiful take on Christmas and the holidays and all of the joys that they bring. And sure, I have enjoyed time with my closest friends, and I love the lights of my tree, and I can’t wait to spend a long week in MS with some of the most important people in my life. Believe it or not, I have been listening to Christmas songs since December 1 and have been excited for the holidays! But the reality is, no matter if it is a holiday or any regular old day, we are all dealing with things that may not be ideal. Or that we wish we could change, and we can’t just yet. And there are things around every corner, that if we allow them, will take our joy. I don’t know about you, but when you are hanging on to any last thread of joy that you may have in your life, you cling pretty tight and find a way to get it back. I hope these little mantras and exercises actually will help in the long run. I hope that anyone else reading this blog might take something from it too. That "You Are My Sunshine" technique might actually come in handy over the next few weeks as we all cram too many loved ones into a short amount of time.
The title of this blog is taken from a Lucinda Williams song that has been running through my head. "You got no right to take my joy, I want it back. You got no right to take my joy, I want it back. You took my joy, I want it back. You took my joy, I want it back..." I have inadvertently turned this into a bit of a "mantra" if you will. It may not be envisioning worries going down a drain, but it sure does the trick in reminding me I am finally angry enough at the grief and sadness and stress and anything that else that does get in my way each day to keep me from the joy I am deserving of. Whatever works, right?!