Today has mostly been a zero on the mood scale. I woke up with a strong feeling of, “I don’t want to be here any more” and I’ve been struggling to shake it.
This feeling can get so overwhelming that I just want to give up – crawl back into bed and sleep and hope that it passes soon.
In my early 20s, I had everything… a beautiful girlfriend, a nice home, good friends, a job I (mostly) enjoyed and enough money to do (almost) whatever I liked.
But I also experienced extreme lows, just like today.
I remember sitting in a pub’s beer garden with my best friend on a beautiful sunny day, cold beer in hand. By most people’s estimation, my life looked pretty perfect… but eventually I worked up the courage to tell my friend, “I don’t want to live any more.”
He didn’t know what to say… I can’t blame him.
Around the same time, I told my mentor at work the same thing.
“That makes me want to slap you hard across the face,” he replied, angrily.
Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t my mentor any more after that.
I get it – many people think, “What have you got to be depressed about? You have so many good things in your life!”
But for some people with depression, including me, the illness isn’t anything to do with my life circumstances. Instead, it’s mostly some weird combination of brain chemistry and underlying psychological processes that I don’t fully understand or have control over.
One morning I can wake up and feel on top of the world – super happy, sociable and productive. The next morning, I wake up and cannot face getting out of bed. I have the same life circumstances on both days, the only thing that’s different is some weird shit inside my head.
I’m attending a 12 Steps fellowship… well, I’ve been wavering a lot recently. But I’m going to keep going with it.
I’ve realised… my problems with drugs and sugar addiction… they aren’t my most fundamental issues.
My addictions are simply coping strategies for a deeper problem – an unwillingness or inability to deal with life on life’s terms.
I’m now realising how much of my life has been structured around trying to control and change how I feel.
When I feel crap, I have an overwhelming urge to immediately “fix” how I feel. Sometimes it’s with drugs, sometimes sugar, sometimes playing videogames or other distractions.
When I feel great, I often get an overwhelming urge to “max out” those good feelings. I want to push them and extend feeling good to an extreme – I want to feel good for as long as possible and feel as good as humanly possible (even risking my health). And I often used to turned to drugs to achieve that.
People often become addicts because they can’t cope with how they are feeling… so they resort to their addiction to mask and change the way they feel. But it’s only ever temporary. And often, after the high is over, the addict’s life is worse than when they started.
Earlier, I phoned my 12 Steps sponsor and we spoke about how low I’ve been feeling today. He reminded me that this is really common for addicts in early recovery, like me.
What the 12 Steps can give me… is a life worth living… A life where I don’t need to keep changing or fixing the way I feel. A life where I can tolerate the full spectrum of human emotion and experience.
Life on life’s terms…
Even on days that are a zero, like today.
[Caveat: I’m not saying that 12 Steps is the only way to give yourself a life worth living. There are other ways which probably work very well for other people. But in my 40+ years on Earth, the 12 Steps seems like the best system, for me personally.]