When I was young, I used to go hunting with my Dad. We’d walk and walk through the woods on my Uncle Roy’s property. Hills, valleys, streams, downed trees, and a thick carpet of leaves and pine straw. Walking uphill was always hard. You know when you’re walking uphill because gravity is pulling you down. You can always tell uphill.

But, downhill is another matter. If the slope is gradual enough, and your perspective limited enough by forest, you couldn’t tell you were headed downhill until you got to the bottom and found yourself surrounded by uphill slope.
I live life somewhere on the slope, between the hilltop of who I want to be and the valley of self-destructive depression. Hey, it is what it is, right?

Sometimes, I live on the top of the hill, but let’s face it, it’s exhausting to be that happy all the time. So, I spend most of my time on the slope, in a happy medium, usually pretty close to the top without being disgustingly cheerful.

And, sometimes, I head downslope. I lived years mostly downslope. Far from who I wanted to be. Unhappy. And, now I can say I’ve lived years mostly upslope. But, I still (and will likely always) have to be careful of downslope.

So, I’ve placed roadsigns along the way. Reminders to turn around, head back up. Make some change. STOP! You’re headed down the wrong path. Go back. Don’t go here.

Here there be dragons.

One sign is Anger. Frequently, when I’m on the slopes, anger masks a different issue. I have to look at my anger and figure out whether I’m angry about what’s really wrong, or if I’m angry about something totally different and fixating that anger onto something that’s easier to deal with.

Another sign is paranoia. There’s an old saying that “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” In my case, it’s generally “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there’s anyone out to get you.”

Another sign, and the one that stopped me in my tracks this morning was solitude. The exact thought was “Why won’t they all just leave me alone?” That’s the strongest roadsign of all, and the best indicator that I’m about to step onto slippery slope that it’s hard to climb back up from. History has shown me that if I’m asking why they won’t all just leave me alone, I’m likely about to do something to make it happen. Expedient, but not productive; not what I want.

So, I’m forced to look around and see all the things that I’ve blinded myself to. The links that pull last month and last week and this week together. The gradually decreasing level of happiness. The gradually increasing level of depression. The defeated attitude. The unwillingness to communicate. The inability to focus. All baby steps that add up to a long and winding walk.

And, there’s a prevailing sense that every stone in the road is a crisis, waiting to leap up and knock me down. Constantly being on alert, waiting for a problem to raise its head, like a snake, so I can stomp it into submission again. Creating crisis out of the possibility of crisis. The inability to adjust to the ending of a long period of crisis. Finding something to replace that because it’s become a way of life. And, I don’t know how to adjust.

But, the first step to solving a problem is defining the problem. And, like almost every problem, it’s rooted in fear. Fear that now that my project at work is over, I won’t be able to find a place where I fit in. Fear that I am now redundant because I don’t remember how to do the job I had a year ago. Fear that no one will trust me again because it’s been my job for a year to find problems with their work, and pointing it out so it could be fixed.

And, solving the problem instead of hiding it under chocolate. M&M’s are great problem maskers. If my day went to hell in a handbasket by three p.m., I could eat enough candy to pump me up for the rest of the day…but then I’d get home and crash and be despondent. Separate from the family.

Fear is a devil of a snake to do battle with.

Wish me luck. I know that just thinking this and writing this and getting it out there is over half of the problem solved. Because secrecy breeds more fear and that grows and grows until it can push me right down the hill to the bottom.

Next step, tell my boss. Tell him I’m afraid I don’t fit anymore. He’ll help. And, then there will be two of us making sure I don’t become redundant. Two heads is better than one. And, even if my worst fear comes true and he doesn't help, at least I'll know that.

But, it's not likely. That's the problem with secret fears. If it's a secret, nobody can tell you not to be afraid. And, nobody knows to help.



Kath said...

Depression is a tough road. I, too, have roadsigns to help along the way. I wish you well in your journey.

Seraphinalina said...

You have expressed a lot of what I have felt this fall. Our root issues aren't the same, but wow, you phrased the same feelings and process of getting there better than I have. I think it will help me explain how I have felt to my husband better.

Thank you for writing it out. I know writing is cathartic in it's own right, but know that it will also help others to read it.

Shevvy said...

I know how hard it is to go and work on a project and then try and fit back in - what if there is no job left there. What if I don't want it.
Its one of the big problems with projects, you get a chance to stretch yourself more and learn new skills but you usually get a lot more pressure, crappy hours and the uncertainty of what happens when its over.
Talk it out with your boss - it the best option. Good luck.

Coloradolady said...

I am right there with you on that slope. It is a tough place to be. This fall has been hard on me and I have no reason why. I guess I need to work on the reasons. Make myself face them. Too bad life does not come with a manual to refer too when it gets tough....or at least challenging. Keeping you in my thoughts always! You are not alone!

lw said...

When I have times like this, I force my way back onto the path up the same way you're doing it-- with logic, and deliberation. It's a good idea to talk to your boss, my guess is that he/she sees you as being resourceful and flexible. One thing I do that works (over time, it takes a few weeks) is to make myself write down five things I'm grateful for each day. Pretty soon, it turns you around to looking at things with a better attitude, even if all you've got is, "I'm still breathing" and "No one is shooting at me."

Vesuviusmama said...

You are such a brave and wise man, Lane. (stop laughing! To me, you are!). I've mentioned it before, but I admire your introspection - you are so deep and unafraid to really look at yourself with a critical eye. I'm sorry to hear you've been heading downhill, but I'm glad to hear that you'll be going to chat with the boss. Take care, you!

Megan said...

Lane - thank you for writing this and for being prepared to 'expose' yourself in this way. I can relate to much of what you've said and I found it very moving to read it. The fears that I have seem trivial to other people, but I can get myself in quite a state over them. I draw strength from appreciating that many many many of need to manage our own 'dragons' and downhill slopes.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

You've given me some things to think about. I guess it's time that I quit blaming my down mood on the problems in the world and start thinking about how to get my arse in gear and get things done. Thanks for sharing, and I hope that it's all uphill for you.

Becky said...

I truly, truly thank you for the therapy session I have been needing for awhile now. I am going to try to learn from it and stop being paralyzed from doing so many things I want to do. I truly, truly am blessed to have you in my life. Love you! Becky

Anonymous said...

We don't know each other. Came across your blog through a link and another link.

Struck by your openness and depth of the post.

I wish you all the best in the period to come. And fear: it's just that - I have a severe case of vertigo so I know a little bit about it (was even a bit feared by talking about tops and slopes - no, kidding now).

Good luck!

Unknown said...

Talking it out is good therapy. I have always wished I were a poet. They seem to be admired for being able to spill their guts. Since I have no talent in that area maybe I should have a blog. You do it so well. Best of luck with the slopes.