This weekend, especially Sunday night, "Pumpkin time" reared it's smoking dragon head. I got all up in my thoughts, questioning the motivations of people close to me, my future goals and my ability to handle challenges. Where are my friends? How come no one's texted me today? Does Randall really *actually* love me? My family's a mess. I'm never going to figure out what I want to do in the future, on and on ad nauseum. As a surprise to no one, this questioning diminished my ability to handle day to day life. There's not much room for laundry or cooking dinners when you're wrapped up in refining your perfect "What is my PLACE & MEANING in this UNIVERSE??!" moan. Mild depression? Extra wild PMS? Too much sugar? Venus all retrograded to hell? It's probably a combination of them all (maybe not that last one). This is part of who I am, and every 3-4 months I have a couple days where things are just ... hard. I don't want to put a value judgement on the fact that these slumps happens. Very rarely is it truly debilitating. Generally, it means that I don't go out to see friends in the afternoon or evenings, eat a little too much, and then get weepy and anxious between 11:00pm and 1:00am. I try to value these times as a reminder from my body and heart to be gentle with myself. I think that these quarterly (or monthly) vulnerability times are important for us to express. Sometimes we just gotta let it out! Unfortunately, our vulnerable times get denigrated like crazy in our culture (read: Patriarchy). Particularly for women. As Anne Figert (Dept Chair of Sociology at Loyola Chicago), says:
"I looked to my PMS archive to see how women and PMS fit together and tried to find some common themes. These themes are at the same time shocking and funny or not shocking and not funny. What did I find? A wide variety of images of women as subject to their raging hormones, engaging in 'abnormal' behaviors, and jokes that portray women as 'bitchy,' 'mean,' and 'illogical." Figert, Anne E. Women and the Ownership of PMS: The Structuring of a Psychiatric Disorder. New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 1996
You can easily replace PMS with 'depression' or 'mood swings' and get the same results. It's behaviors and attitudes that we've all been trained to look down on. Weakness, low motivation, overeating, crying. Every time, I have to fight back against this ingrained attitude. I'm not 'less than' because I'm feeling shitty today. This is me, right now, and it doesn't mean I'm defective.
But friends, sometimes 'The Slump' does take over. In early 2014 (my recent lowest point), I had pictured that there were two Katie's: Star Katie - who was bright, bold, and cheery and always threw her arms up in the air (ala star shape) - and Lumpy Katie - a roly poly sad girl who didn't get motivated. Side Note: pretty sure Pixar needs to be paying me royalties.
I was so afraid of when Lumpy Katie would 'take over'. Star Katie was who everyone wanted to be around! Hell, I sure *liked* Star Katie better. Lumpy Katie was vulnerable and slow. Star Katie had ENERGY and IDEAS. The further I divided the two, the more upset I became when Lumpy Katie predominated. Star Katie became a reproach. But you've been her before! Be her now! What's wrong with you?? Predictably, this wasn't a good approach to feeling better and breaking 'The Slump". I needed to bring the two back together. It wasn't two separate identities, it was all just ... me. Slowly and surely, I chipped away at the distinction. How? By loving Lumpy Katie. I pictured her, all sad and flabby, and sent her love. I imagined hugging her, bringing her things, smiling and holding her gently. Valuing her vulnerable input. Result? Happier and shorter slumps! Which again, Pixar, you can send those checks whenever you'd like.
This is something that I am still working on today. I catch myself remembering Lumpy Katie, and have to remind myself to love her. Basic self care helps, a lot. Here's a really good checklist. Showering, hair brushing, sitting outside? All wonderful. But, hands down, the best strategy I have found is a spreadsheet I adapted from Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. In the book, he calls the document a "Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thought". I talked about my first time using the approach here. Since then, I've updated the spreadsheet and used it whenever I started to feel 'off'. It reminds me to be gentle to Lumpy and respond to the reproaches with honest yet kind truths.
Now, to you guys. I know more than a few of you have your own "Slump" times. So, I would really like to share the edited worksheet with you! If it's helped me this much, I hope it will do the same for you. If you'd like to get your own blank copy please click the button below!
Have a great day friends!