• SStenta-James, LMFT

I’m having a difficult time being alive right now.

Updated: Dec 7, 2018

I’m having a difficult time being alive right now. As someone who struggles with episodic depression, this is not entirely new to me, though each time I feel myself slipping in, it feels unique and as if the experience will never end.


My body knows the drill on cellular level. I understand this because I’m crying this morning before I’ve even had a chance to check in with myself cognitively and assign correlation to a circumstance or style of thinking.


I do know myself well enough by now, though, to recognize these episodes are usually triggered by loss, or the anticipation of such. As I make these connections, I start to see it everywhere, these triggers and my habitual response to them:


The tears that flow upon hearing the voice-over that starts with “Our pets age more rapidly than we do…” while on hold with the veterinarian’s office; the aftermath of a failed foster dog who, if I’m being completely honest, I launched head first into trying to rehabilitate after hitting a brick wall trying to help my mother sort out her own depression; my overwhelming emotional response to a beautiful movie with themes of aging, vulnerability, and connection (Sean Baker’s 2012 Starlet, which I highly recommend) which then leads to questions about my own aging and death, and to thoughts of the recent death by suicide of a significant mentor and friend; my unexpected response to the change of something innocuous and even positive as moving into a new office; the sadness that accompanies the management and persistent underlying awareness of parents who are aging and unwell.


There are big chunks of time in which I can navigate the heaviness of all of this nearly flawlessly and without issue. But there are times that I can’t seem to do that, and this is one of those times.


I’ve always been a navel-gazer, and fortunately, I’ve managed to turn this natural skill into something that helps me in my work with others. So I am using this time to try and figure out what is possibly helpful as I face these big existential life truths: all relationships end, we are all just moments, and death is always waiting. I cannot save myself or anyone else from these truths, but I want to be able to help myself and my clients navigate the immensity of them.


So what I’m thinking this morning is, perhaps something to help shore ourselves up during these moments when we are all too keenly aware that everything we love and feel attached to will be wrestled from our grasp, is to work on connecting with things that soothe us that are more difficult to lose: comfort we might find in books, movies, and ideas; the camaraderie of community or the solace of religion; the peace we might find in working towards bettering the world around us; the purpose we might find in creating. I am open to more ideas if you have them.


Walking Lucy this morning, I saw a big fat worm, translucent and longer than I have ever seen in my life, lingering in a puddle left by the rain. I wondered off and on during our walk if worms belong in water or if perhaps he was struggling to stay alive. After dropping Lucy back at the house, I went back and pulled him out of the water, placing him on the adjacent mud. Without hesitation, he started sliding back into the puddle. Sometimes my thinking is wrong. Sometimes my focus is too bleak. Sometimes my efforts to make things better fail. And sometimes I need to teach myself more effectively how to let it all be.

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