Hyper Awareness as a Superpower or Albatross?


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I’m sitting at home on a Tuesday night, wearing my comfy gray sweatpants and eating some pre-Halloween candy. I’m pretending like Boof reffing a football game is the reason I didn’t go to yoga, even though I cancelled the childcare I had lined up. I’ve wanted to stay in, play legos with Potamus, and watch all the shows that have been sitting on my DVR. With November rapidly approaching I am feeling this prickly feeling inside, which I’m trying to ignore. Part of living with depression and anxiety is treading the very fine line of hyper-awareness and making a mountain out of a molehill.

My anxious mind starts to spin, asking the questions “why am I not going to yoga? Am I depressed? Do I want to sleep more because I’m depressed? Am I angry at work because I’m depressed? It’s only October and I’m not doing things I normally do, am I going to fall into a deep dark depression and become a crazy person who can’t take care of her child and ends up being committed into a hospital, and thus losing my job, and getting a divorce, and living in a box in pioneer square shooting heroin?”

You can see, the spiraling anxious thoughts actually contribute to depression, though this hyper awareness has saved my life before. It’s prompted me to notice when my exhaustion has become depression without falling into the deep hole I used to get into as a teenager. It has prompted me to go on medication less than 24 hours after having homicidal/suicidal thoughts postpartum. It has helped me make the decision to every year go on antidepressants in November and self-wean in the spring. Hyper awareness has been a super power that I have harnessed.

And yet, here I am, snuggled in my house wearing sweats and having no motivation to brave the rainstorm outside. I’m not apathetic, I’m quiet. I’m not depressed, I’m introspective. My hyper awareness is rearing it’s head because in the past these have been warning signs. That fine line between being overly tired from working/parenting and the tiredness from biological brain chemistry tricking me into wanting to sleep for days and days. I wake up every day excited to go to work, despite the dramas that happen by noon. I might leave every day frustrated and in a mood to co-ruminate with coworkers, but every morning I look forward to going back. I feel spontaneous, cancelling childcare and taking a trip to Target to indulge in the new Tay Swift CD and a bucket of legos for Potamus. Rather than isolation, I’m craving connection, but in a quiet autumn way.

I’m sleeping so fucking fantastically that I want to stay sleeping. Not because depression has taken over, but because for three years I haven’t gotten more than two-three hours in a row. Thanks to Potamus wanting to sleep in his own bed (for SEVEN HOURS last night!) and the marijuana that keeps my body from revolting from restful sleep (by having to pee all the time or having midnight anxiety thoughts), I am getting 8+ hours a night. It feels so glorious that it’s no wonder I want to repeat it again and again and again every night because who knows how many night sleeps I’ve lost (and who knows when I might lose them again!). It all makes me wonder, is this how normal people feel when the Fall comes around? The desire to stay inside, eat chilli and drink cider, and gossip with friends around the fire.

I want the sensitivity to my ‘symptoms’ to be used for good, and not as an albatross around my neck. I don’t want to rush headlong into depression because I’ve misread the signs along the way. I don’t want to treat myself as depressed when I’m not. And yet I don’t want to let myself get away with depressed thoughts/behavior that might come up, because I know how to take care of myself. It’s such a fine line of redefining and deciphering what is ‘normal’ behavior and what is a problem. Living with mental illness is such a delicate dance.

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