(Image from CMHA)
Or really, 919 books. I had already finished 82.
It’s called the Boxall’s List of Books to Read Before you Die–a goal I had set a year or so ago, planning on spending years..decades finishing those 1001 books.
But suddenly, those
1001 919 books were all that were keeping me alive.
You set a lot of strange markers when you have depression. Sometimes it is minutes:
- At 9:05, I will go to the bathroom.
- OK, missed 9:05, let’s try for 9:10.
- Nope. 9:20 it is.
Other times, hours–getting out of bed at 7…8…9… Days will go by without a shower the same way, or running an errand, work, getting out of bed at all. And then eventually, the only deals left to make are the forever kind.
Those are harder, scarier. Your brain has a survival instinct inside telling you that you have an obligation to live. But WHY? What reason is there?
And so, as you lay in your dark, stale bedroom that you haven’t moved from in days, you start to make lists. What is important enough to keep you here?
- Husband/Family–This is the obvious one, right? Of course it would be first. Unfortunately, it’s also the hardest, and the first to go. Trying to stay for them was as painful as the thought of what leaving would do to them. It was an impossible paradox that my brain just could not handle.
- Friends/Social Life–Had we been back home, this one might have been easier to hold on to, but we were in a new city where I knew next to no one. I tried for awhile to join meetup groups, but that became too exhausting.
- Exercise/Activity–Yoga kept me going longer than almost everything else. It was where I had the most external support, and it helped a great deal as my anxiety became more manic. But eventually, I started skipping classes because even the 5 minute drive was just too far.
- Boxall’s 1001–And so it came to this. My measly goal of reading all 1001 books on the list. For whatever reason, this is what I grasped onto. When sitting mindlessly at my desk, I began a new excel sheet just to keep my brain focused on something (my anxiety, in its manic state, was creating lists left and right…while my depression was sucking the rest of the energy out). Reading was hard, but I tried to get through a few of the list books. It was an obligation that kept me going.
Somewhere in that darkness I knew that 1001 books would outlast The Monster. I didn’t want to die. I was so scared of dying. But The Monster had other ideas, and I had only one weapon left.
Today begins Mental Illness Awareness Week, so I wanted to start our Mindful Monday journey with this very real topic: How do we find our weapon?
For me, it sort of came upon me like the Sword of Griffindor, appearing just when I needed it. My counselor told me that my sense of obligation causes me quite a lot of anxiety–but it’s also what I was grasping onto so tightly–I couldn’t stand to let anyone down, not even myself. The Boxall list was just the obligation my brain held in the foreground.
Most of us have something like that to hold on to, we just don’t always know what it is. I’ve known people to think of their pets or their children, bill payment, their audience, a project. Sometimes it’s a person, sometimes it’s an idea, sometimes it’s a tangible object. But there’s always something that we can use to place as a handhold on our mountain, our Sword of Griffindor, or our goal.
Also, that “thing” can always change. Next time, if there is a next time…and there probably will be a next time, unfortunately…I may have a completely different objective. I’ve come a long way in healing from this last cycle, and I have learned a lot. Maybe I’ll know how to lean on my family better next time.
Finding our weapon can be so hard when The Monster is bearing down on us. The Monster strips away our defenses piece by piece. If you can hang on to at least one thing, even if it is the weirdest, most obscure thing–use it. Use it any way you have to, for as long as you need to. That Monster can’t hang on forever.