Something bit me. A spider. A tick. An alien. I really don't know - I didn't see it. Something bit me and it made me weak. It brought me to my knees when I felt healthy and strong. It gave me two weeks of pain & illness and it left me with a weakened immune system and a misfiring nervous system. Impressive, hey?
Thankfully, I'm very much on the mend (thanks to a melding of mother nature, eastern and western medicine, and an amazing support system), but this event left me a little shook - and here's why.
For most of my teenage years (re: undiagnosed depression) and the beginning of my transition to motherhood (re: postpartum depression), I used to live in a perpetual victim mindset. Not so much in the sense that I wanted people to pity me - but more that I didn't want or know how to change my circumstances. In the recent year or so, since defeating postpartum depression, rebuilding my health, and reviving my sense of self, I have honestly felt like nothing could bring me back to that kind of mindset again. But hot damn, combine the bug bite symptoms with hospital visits and antibiotics (my body doesn't do well with them - it destroys my gut flora and throws my mental stability on a roller coaster), and those tendencies and thought patterns come back in force! Cellular memory, people. Given the right combination of ingredients, your mind will pull out some buried recipes and start cooking.
So, what do you do when you find yourself in a dark hole that you thought you had learned how to sidestep? Here are a few of my experiential tips.
Recognize Your Pattern
Honestly, one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and those around you is to pay attention to yourself in your most extreme moments. My husband would laugh and tell you all that what I think is extreme behavior in myself is nothing to even mention - like literally one second of raising my voice or giving into an emotional response before apologizing a second later - but to me, it's big because I've gotten really good at self-awareness. The only way to learn your habits, your tendencies, your emotional climate, is to catch yourself in those moments and make mental notes about what set you off, what day of the moon cycle it is, how long you gave into that behavior before adjusting it, etc. If you know yourself, you will notice when you're not being yourself.
Never Go Silent
If you notice you're behaving strange or experiencing thought patterns that don't feel safe or normal for you, no matter how small of a change, talk to people about it. I have an amazing family that checks in with each other often, so we're all in a chronic state of how are you doing? and it's awesome. But not everyone has that or feels comfortable sharing. So build your tribe, find people who can share those moments with you, and talk it out. Even talking can be enough to get you off the wrong track and back to feeling like yourself.
Be Patient and Reimmerge
Be as kind to yourself as you are to those you love. Moments like these are designed to test your strength, your discipline, and your resilience. After a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I recognized what I was doing and asked myself simply, "Is this who you've worked your ass off to be?" And when the answer was no, I gave myself some deadlines and am slowly stepping back into the light. I imagine the next time I trip, I might not even fall down the hole.
There are lessons in even the most random of events. I'm grateful for this moment of stillness to reflect upon it, and I'm inviting you to give yourself the time to do the same.