Again, haha, I'm here wishing I hadn't taken so long to write. Reminding myself there's no point in guilt. There are many little insights I've had over the last few months, though, that I haven't put up here yet that I would like to; perhaps I'll write a series of shorter posts here in the near future and share some of those thoughts.
Tonight, though, I'm going to write about what's going on right now. I've had a particularly hard month--having to work out some hard (good, important, but hard) stuff in personal relationships, finding out I didn't get into either of my top 2 choice grad programs, deciding the one I did get into was just not a good fit, having to accept the (terrifying, dread-inducing) reality that I need to go back on the job market full force to find a job to tide me over for the next year. My best friend is moving away for some time, and if I don't find a job soon I may need to move too. And other things, some of which are perhaps best not detailed in a public forum. It's like I was knocked down, then given a sucker punch to the gut, and then pummeled repeatedly after that.
Oh boy, I don't mean to sound melodramatic. But it's been genuinely one of the hardest periods I've ever gone through, and I've been through some pretty hard things.
I think the moment that hit me hardest was opening the letter from the last school I was waiting to hear back from and seeing the word "waitlist". If I hadn't already been dealing with other hard things, perhaps I would have reacted differently, but the cumulative effect was devastating. For the first couple of weeks after that, I gave myself a break from working (for the first time since 4th grade, I took a test without studying! haha, it was an adventure) and really just abandoned myself to feeling whatever I had to feel. This is the first time I've ever really understood what they mean when they say grief comes in waves. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Like I wasn't standing on solid ground anymore--like my world was falling apart.
I have been, and remain, determined not to let this drag me back into depression. Or, at least, determined to do all I know how to to keep myself from sliding back into depression--I am honestly less certain of my ability to do that than I was at first, but we'll see how it goes.
As I understand it, one of the primary causes of my depression was my years of learning how to repress my feelings. Of growing numbness, turning into an oppressive grey emptiness. So I've been determined to not push away the difficult feelings all of this has brought up.
So when the waves come, I've let them hit. At first, I was just in survival mode. Let the pain come, be gentle with myself, don't do anything that hurts more than I hurt already...very very slow and gentle. This was the first two weeks, and I'm proud of how I handled them. I did let the pain come, when it came. (One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten was about not holding onto grief. You don't have to try to hold onto your pain, hold onto your grief. It's still there, and when it's ready it will come, and when it's giving you a break, take the break. It won't disappear on you.) And when the pain went, I let it go. I actually had some really good hours, even days--one thing that helped was that a friend from out of town was visiting, and I got to see everything that I love about the Bay fresh through her eyes. My extremes of emotion were such that I felt like I was going a little crazy--but I've read that that is common when you go through something really difficult, so I let myself be a little crazy without dredging up too much guilt.
After two weeks, I made myself start working again. I've started applying to jobs again (as well as working on another grad school application). Right before I started this, I had a very fortuitious conversation with a friend who is dealing with immense amounts of grief (WAY beyond the scale of my suffering, but then, what's the point of comparing? That's one thing Buddhism teaches that I really love--every human being experiences the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows. Every human being deserves compassion. In any case, this friend's ability to survive what he's survived is inspiring, and we support each other in our paths of healing.) He recently was laid off and, like me, has had a chance to finally let himself fall apart. And he, like me, is now in the process of slowly putting himself back together. He talked about setting just one goal a day for himself--such as, today, I will fill out this insurance paperwork. Before talking to him, I had been planning on rushing headlong into the job search, even though it felt immensely overwhelming to me; but learning from his example I was able to give myself permission to set much more moderate, and thus actually achievable goals for myself. I have, to my astonishment, actually been meeting my daily goals for the most part, and slowly ratcheting them up, but never beyond a point where they feel overwhelming. This is still an experiment in the making, but I hope that with this kindness to myself I will be able to actually build my capacity and sense of self-efficacy rather than falling into my old patterns of guilt and overwhelm.
Ah, yes, the topic of this post was patience. That, tonight, is what I feel so much difficulty around. I've let myself feel so much in this past month--sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, guilt, fear, dread, grief--but there's still so much more yet to feel. What I'm discovering is that my thoughts move way faster than my emotions. My thoughts move very quickly. I've thought out all my plans; thought out all the ways I have to change my expectations for the next year and even for life in general (this all has hit at some pretty deep levels); thought how to keep surviving the next day and the next. My thoughts have picked up the pieces and put them in place again. I've got my feet underneath me again. And I think I keep expecting my emotions to have followed suit.
But emotions move slower than thoughts. Even with my plans, my solutions, my bracing words for finding the courage to face what lies ahead--I still hurt. A lot.
I've been hurting a lot for a while now. I'm starting to lose patience. I'm becoming less willing to sit with the pain. I'm tired of facing it over and over and over again. The grief is less sharp, or at least sharp less often, but it seems to have taken ahold in a way that scares me that I may end up in depression again.
If I do though, it won't be the same depression as before. I know so much more than I did before, have so many more tools and different beliefs and new skills and support. i.e. I may backtrack, but not all the way back to the beginning of the road.
And I'm trying to find the strength to keep letting this grief roll through me. In the words of one of the teachers at a meditation class I attended today, I am trying to learn how to "be willing to be present with what doesn't seem to be moving." Someday, it will move.
And as hard as it is, every time I find the strength and patience to be open with yet another wave of grief, I am keeping myself open to being fully alive. I love life, so it is worth it.