Autobiography · Mental Health

Grit

"Gravel 2" © Stig Morten Waage, 2008. CC BY-NC 2.0.
Gravel 2” © Stig Morten Waage, 2008. CC BY-NC 2.0.

I track my footsteps, my water, my food. I have running plans and diet rules and a sleep schedule. Medications to take every morning and night. A handful of vitamins for after breakfast. My whole life is a self-imposed tightrope walk.

Often I try to tell myself that I don’t have a choice in any of this. That I simply have to do everything I do for my health, my mental wellbeing, my sanity. But lately I’ve been reminding myself that every day is a decision. There are rocks beneath me, yes. But laying down on gravel is never beyond the scope of possibility. Deciding to be resilient, deciding to fight back was not the only option I had. That’s the thing I have to remember.

But it’s hard to continue. When every day involves just a little more fight. Just a little bit more commitment. When I want nothing more than to turn off the alarm and stay in bed. It just comes down to a matter of grit. Of deciding to rally the energy and get going, even when I don’t think I can do it. Because there are going to be days when I can’t.

There are going to be days when the depression closes in too tight. When I will have no choice but to cancel the plans and draw the blinds. There will be days I will have to dissolve into the bed sheets. So I must seize any day that is not one of those days. I must close down tight around it and do everything I possibly can. I must continue to remind myself that I am not so fortunate as to have all my days be capable ones.

Even now, when the medication seems to be working and the days are dark, but not desperate, I have to remember that it’s not always going to be like this. Not dwell with the weight of the hopeless days standing over my shoulder, but remember how easy it is to slip back down that hole. Yes, it often comes without warning, but sometimes there are things I can do to avoid it.

Sometimes I can fight it off just a little longer. Sometimes I can say, “No,” and get up and put my running shoes on. Sometimes I can climb into my raincoat and take a walk. Sometimes I can go hug someone I love or take a nap. Sometimes I can fight just a little harder.

And sometimes I can’t. Sometimes there is nothing I can do. Relapses can happen for no reason in particular. Suddenly I just can’t seem to keep my feet under me anymore. And that’s something I have to learn to be okay with, too. I have to remember what I learned last time. Go back and read old journal entries. Think about how much better acquainted I became with myself through that darkness. When there was nothing in the world but me and my own brain sparing.

When I felt completely disconnected from everything outside my own head, what did I learn?

18 thoughts on “Grit

  1. Even the journey of 10,000 leagues begins with a single step. Also, even the journey of one step less than 10,000 leagues begins with a single step. Continuing on that theme, even the journey of two steps less than 10,000 leagues begins with a single step.

    Just keep taking steps forward. Sometimes small. Sometimes large. Sometimes many in a row. Sometimes just the single step. A new journey begins again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good thing is, you’ve got grit in spadefuls. Even in the times when you can’t get out of bed, because you DO keep going. The goalposts just change and you’re mindful of that (I assume).

    You’re doing well 🙂

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    1. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were, though? Hahaha. But really. It’s so hard to remember that when we’re having out “can’t” moments that it doesn’t mean we’ll be having just them for the rest of our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I agree, they’re awful when we’re feeling them. I just wanted to remind you that a “can’t” day doesn’t mean you’ve gone backwards. I’m sure you know that, but I know how easy it is to forget that when one is in the thick of it. You’re allowed to have these days. ❤

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  3. Life is gritty, messy, and hard, but I’ve noticed in your writing that you have a precious ability to see both the grinding struggle and simultaneous beauty. Every day that you don’t lay down among the gravel is strengthening you for the next challenge. Every step that you take is building your muscles for the next step.

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  4. Dear Ruby,
    having just started my new membership I instinctively fell on your story (life-story, not literature).
    40 years I have been living with my bipolarity. 6 years ago I ended it – without ataractics.
    Whether a young person like you can profit from my new life philosophy – I am not sure.
    But we could try.
    Cordially Jan, a new fellow.

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      1. I work as an organist in the chapel of the mental hospital where I was a patient three times between 2001 and 2009. So – besides studying psychological literature, naturally – I met and meet patients with the same symptoms. Listening to the “logorrhoea” of a manic person
        in time I came to compare.
        And found a pattern: The main aim in life is BEING IMPORTANT.
        To meet this self-inducted (really??look at your childhood!) claim the engine is going full speed, extremely high blood pressure pumps oxygen into a never relaxing brain, you fly in myriads of ideas, you don´t sleep, you don´t eat. And after some weeks, months you are totally exhausted.
        What then is depression? Nothing else but our psycho-physical safety brake to rescue and recover.
        But alas! Now you have the remembrances how brave, how smart, how superior you were in recent times – and now? Nearly unable only to leave the bed in the morning. Your memory seems to have faded, you feel ugly and dread contacts. You know all this.
        But what feels like deadly dullness – it is the necessary cure!

        Depression follows mania. So we must try to avoid mania.
        How? There are some lessons WE must understand, believe true and then practice as
        our new mental diet.

        First step: WHAT THE HELL DRIVES ME TO ALWAYS TRY TO BE SOMEONE EXTRAORDINARILY SUCCESSFUL?

        No one has the right to command me to achieve the exceptional – no God, no mother, not myself.
        Can you smell the relief this thought gives? YOU MAY, BUT YOU NEED NOT!

        Cordially, Jan
        (step 2 follows)

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