I’m coming out of a slump.
It’s been over three months of slump this time around—waking up every day feeling a shade of blue that darkens as the day progresses. The outside world rarely knows I’m slumping because a) I’m good at faking happy b) I know slumps are temporary so I don’t share them lest I lengthen them c) I see the big picture and I know I have no “real” reason to complain about my life.
That’s also the problem, though. I know I have no reason to be in a slump but I can’t get myself out of it. Slumps frustrate me and I end up in this loop where an argument rages in my head all day…
Me: Sigh. I am sad.
Me: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
Me: A thing is making me feel sad and listless.
Me: YOU ARE SAD? YOU? HOW DO YOU THINK THE PEOPLE IN REFUGEE CAMPS FEEL, HUH? HOW ABOUT ALL THE STARVING OR SICK PEOPLE? WHAT HAVE *YOU* GOT TO BE SAD ABOUT?
Me: You’re right. Now I feel bad about being sad.
Me: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
This time around, the slump was triggered by a combination of winter, financial woes, missing self-imposed deadlines for the book, hormones (yay), and my beat up body that decided to spaz out on me and not let me run or go to the gym. Every time I thought I was coming out of the slump, something dragged me back in. Icing on the slump? The birth control pills I was taking to tame the peri-menopausal hormone beast were making me gain weight. Not only could I not run or go to the gym, I was putting on pounds just by thinking of food. (Not a lot of pounds but it doesn’t take many for me to feel glum).
I ditched the pills, published the book, and finally dragged my butt back to the gym, believing that at last—at last!—my woes were over.
Then I got the news about my sister’s leukemia.
First Class ticket back to Slump Town.
It wasn’t until Prez and I were driving back to Nelson, after almost two weeks of city traffic and hospital visits and family drama, that I knew The Great Slump of 2014/15 had finally passed. The mere knowledge that I would not have to battle Vancouver drivers for two hours per day was enough to make the world seem suddenly full of light and hope.
Every time I find myself in a slump, a funk, or whatever you want to call it, I wonder how the hell I got there and how I’m going to get myself out. I become consumed with the idea that I MUST get myself out of the slump. Like I’m some kind of superhero and the world depends on me being in tippity-top shape or something?
This time was a little different.
At one of my lowest points, my good friend Laura invited Prez and I along for a soak at Ainsworth Hot Springs. (Truly, I do not think I could endure an entire winter without at least one hot springs soak). Prez can stand about fifteen minutes of hot water before he wilts, which left Laura and I plenty of time to chat and prune. I decided to confide my slumpiness and share some of the reasons behind it with my friend. Among other tales of self pity, I shared my frustration at my complete lack of desire to maintain even basic health and nutrition. I don’t keep junk food in my house, in order to remove temptation completely, but lately I had been popping over to Safeway on my short lunch breaks and buying crap to snack on.
“I don’t eat cookies,” I whined to Laura. “I don’t crave cookies. I am not a cookie person. I can always force myself into the gym, even when I’m feeling low. But these days all I want to do is sit on the couch, watch TV and eat cookies! I HATE IT!”
And she said the most amazing thing to me.
Oh, you want to know what she said?
“Why don’t you just let yourself be where you are and feel what you’re feeling? Why don’t you just eat the cookie?”
I thought about it all the way home.
Why can’t I let myself be sad? Why can’t I admit that there are worse things in life than gaining a few pounds and being unproductive now and then? Maybe the slump would pass more quickly if I stopped fighting it?
So…I gave in. I didn’t turn into a complete couch potato (books don’t publish themselves), but when those moments hit, and the cookie called, I answered without self-flagellation. I let myself eat the cookie.
And now the slump has passed, the sun is out, the book is out, the bank account…could be better but I’ve actually had some paying gigs of late, my hormones are stable for the moment, I’m back at the gym and running, I’ve already ditched a few el-bees, and I’m renewed enough to be there wholeheartedly for my sister when she needs me. The world, shockingly, did not come to an end because of my slump.
I don’t think this slump induced self-loathing is my burden alone, though. I think there are a lot of messages out there that reinforce the notion that if we don’t want it all, do it all, and have it all, while looking and feeling perfect, then there is something wrong with us. It’s too easy to look around, either in the real world, or at the media, or on social media, and believe that everyone else has it figured out and we’re stupid, sucky failures. And the older you get, the easier it is to fall into that trap because tick-tock, tick-tock. Shouldn’t you be further ahead by now?
I’m no help either. I’m just as likely to give the “You shouldn’t be sad! Lots of people have it worse than you!” speech to friends who confess their slumps to me. Friends, you know who you are. Sorry!
What I need to say, what we all need to say, is “Just eat the damn cookie!” Let yourself be sad. Unless you’re suffering from clinical depression, it’s going to pass in a few weeks or months regardless of what you do, so don’t keep banging your head against the same brick wall. Whatever your cookie is, eat it. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, make you feel wrong for doing so.
The sun will come out again.
The pounds will come off again.
You will be happy again.
But until then it’s okay to be sad and…
Eat the damn cookie.