Changing (Mental) Seasons

My writing lately has been deep, scattered, searching…I feel lost in my worry and unable to really vocalize it. This page has carried my voice and has inspired conversations with women I would not otherwise have known were feeling something similar. I am very grateful for this. Today I need to break this pattern though, this habit of seeing my day to day as something to survive. It’s hard, the cold of a Minnesota February presses in. The dark of a Northern sky long and lonely. The seasonal depression is a real thing I think.

Today it is supposed to rise above freezing, the sun is anticipated to shine and I am planning to be outdoors. All of the Summer sun I had stored up is gone now, there is only the longing for Spring. Because the weather will be pleasant I am setting a goal to behave similarly. I feel like for the past couple of weeks I’ve been hard on my kids. We have been stuck together in the house a lot more and my anxiety has made the trips out less frequent. I feel like all of the little annoyances need a break and I pray we find it in our backyard. While I will not get my hopes up too high, I feel even twenty minutes in the sunshine on the deck will change my attitude, and so I have committed to at least that.

Over the past week or so I have come to realize something in a new way; I do not take care of myself very well. This occurs to me because of how well my husband takes care of me. Two Sundays ago he took the kids to run half of the errands while I went by myself to do the rest, this may seem like a small thing, but when you are in a constant state of mothering it is a great thing to only carry your bag in the store. This past weekend I took most of a day to go shopping for myself-with implicit instructions to spend the cash only on me. I was able to try things on and take my time, it was so lovely. We also had a Valentines date, going out together without the kids for a couple of hours. This was made especially wonderful because the only thing I had to do was get dressed and choose a restaurant.

I don’t know where you’re at, but for me these seemingly small things were a big deal. The time given to and taken for me, feeling that the way in which my heart was crying out was being heard, it is clear that this man knows how to take care of me. I can see in looking back that I do not do so well for myself. I always feel guilty asking for the time away from my people, it feels selfish and almost mean to want time away from them. I often feel lazy if I use nap time to sit and read for an hour. I used the word “dread” yesterday while messaging with a friend, and until I typed it I hadn’t really realized that it was indeed true.

I had wrapped up school work with my kids, a decidedly light day for us, my kitchen was clean, and laundry was being swapped out (look at me justifying even now). My kids were swinging and playing in the basement. What I wanted to do was sit down with my kindle and read my book, but when I thought about actually doing that I had an overwhelming sense of dread. I tried to be present and conscious and understand the why behind the feeling, but I could not. There was no reason to feel guilty, to feel like I must do something else or be considered less than…but I did, all the same. I did, eventually sit with my book, but I fought the feeling of selfishness the entire time. I think the feeling is at least partly related to my anxiety. I wonder how much of it is tied to lack of fresh air and sunshine? I know that I feel better in the warmer months.

All of these things added together show me that I am no good at caring for myself. I can’t grant myself an hour of quiet or an afternoon out without mentally bashing myself, but my husband sees the need and urges me to do these things. I am very thankful to have him to remind me that taking care of myself is important. It’s also a good reminder that we need to take care of each other, all of us. Acting on what we see and hear from our friends or the people we interact with regularly, it’s a good reminder to me to get back to my “yeses”. I know that in caring for others I am better able to care for myself in the long run. It’s strange I suppose, how by giving more of myself I feel more fulfilled. It is true though.

As I am wrapped up in my stress, my anxiety, my worry about myself I forget that others are hurting even more than I am. If I can drag myself out into the world, could I be a benefit to someone instead of just feeling the guilt and shame that hiding in my house brings? I know that there must be a balance, I can’t give away all of my time, I must care for myself as well. There is enough time for both. I have to take it a little slower in the cold months, I can’t force myself or I will end up more anxious than I started out. So I will work in this day and leave tomorrow to worry about itself.

Today should be easier, at least I pray that it is. Early Spring is a season I love, and while I know that this day is not the Spring I hope for-not yet- it is a whisper of what will come. I’m off to put this change of attitude into action now; I will care for myself with less guilt and I will deliberately care for others too, beginning with my family and circling out from there. Today could be a change of season for me; Spring could come into my heart if not into my yard. Optimistically the weather is warming where you sit this morning. Hopefully, if you’re struggling, today begins the change you need. If it doesn’t come? Give yourself some grace. I know that I’ll be in need of some, my expectations still trip me up.

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