Ruminate & Ramble: Shields Down
My therapist told me that a friend of hers once said that every time she moves to a new city, she gives herself two years to become grounded. It’s permission to feel aloft, a little bit out of control, lonely, with a promise there will be an end. Could someone have told me this two years ago?
We left California as if our house was burning down. Despite months of preparation, it was still a rapid fire two weeks of preschool graduation, a POD that got broken into and picked up too early, a pricey and futile Jeep repair, giving away or selling most of our things, cleaning a rental kitchen at midnight while landlords anxiously await the keys. But once the choice was made to leave, we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Our life in California was all rush and hustle. It was too expensive, too crowded, too competitive and getting worse by the day. The Bay Area is beyond beautiful, but it is hard. In the end, we had to accept that we straight up didn’t like the pace. It wasn’t good for our individual psyches let alone our family unit. I just couldn’t picture my daughter’s childhood that way. We would have survived it, not lived it.
As you can imagine, landing in Minneapolis after all of that was initially breathtaking, a huge exhale. It is lush, it is quiet and it is calm. Was it too quiet? Too calm? We moved in the summer knowing literally 3 people. All guys, friends of Mike’s. I knew no one. And being a natural Type INFJ-T, I was totally okay with that. I just wanted to BE for awhile anyway, to unpack slowly, not make any plans and to give my daughter a free-range summer.
During that whole summer, I met one person. One day as Thora and I round a corner on our walk home from the park, she cuts off a mom and her stroller. I ask Thora to come back to apologize and the mom says “Thora? I’ve heard of you!” And this is where that great neighborhood-thing comes into play. This mom lived one block away, her daughter was also starting Kindergarten and we quickly found our girls would be in the same class! It was a relief I didn’t even realize I needed. And if you are a bit introverted like myself, and you happen to meet anyone new in a new town, Molly is who you want to meet.
We exchanged info and she quickly put some things on my calendar. She invited me into the neighborhood Bunco Group, which is a bunch of moms in a few block radius who meet monthly and obviously, never play Bunco. Once the school directory was live, she organized a class meet-up at the park. There I met another mom that I felt I could connect too. Molly was just the extrovert I needed.
But the thing is, it takes me a long time to warm up to people. As in, repeated exposures to build true friendships. I cap out at 3 or 4, that’s when I feel full. When I look back on my life, I see a pattern of having this tight, core group of friends. I like genuine conversation and to connect with people one-on-one. Small talk drains me. I can not work a room.
Of course building these types of friendships, at this point in life, is a challenge. We are all busy grown-ups with jobs, families and obligations. And despite Molly’s great efforts to bring me into the fold, new anxieties started to develop and I felt myself withdraw. I began having panic attacks at the mere mention of a social gathering, and I bailed on a few with weak excuses. I kept my head down at school pick-up, avoiding the faces. The fact that I wasn’t finding work, or a house to flip (why did I think that would be easy?) created new self-doubt and I spent days spinning my wheels with the lack of direction. I couldn’t even clear my head enough for a to-do list. The entire school year was foggy and by the next summer I was straight up lost.
I remember days when I would just shut down. My body exhausted, tears without reason would well in my eyes. Mike would take Thora on an outing so I could just what? wallow I guess. I never got anything done. I would start something, reach a brief momentum, then fall back down. This blog is a great example of that.
But somewhere deep down, I felt this was different than the usual mood swing or normal adjustment to a new life. That maybe this was depression and I should get help. And even after that realization, it took me two more months to make the call. But I did. And I am so damn proud of myself.
I started seeing a therapist at the end of the summer in 2017. I walked into her office trembling and fragile. She listened while I dumped all of it on her. I walked out with a headache and a feeling of hope. She diagnosed me with PDD, Persistent Depressive Disorder and it makes so much sense. I have never been suicidal, a danger to myself or others, erratic. I was sad. And had been for a really long time, since way before the move. I think Minneapolis, and it’s new pace, made way for these feelings to come out. I no longer had that rush and hustle to distract me from me. And I realized my job, first and foremost, was to deal with this head on. Once I do that, THEN I can make and tackle a to-do list.
Which is where I am now and my god, it feels so much better. I see my therapist every few weeks. We built her into our budget for the year. I take a regimen of supplements and vitamins and I practice mindfulness. I go to yoga now. Even though I have to force myself to put on the clothes, walk out the door and drive the car, like a virtual puppet-master, I go. I go because I know when class is over, I will feel amazing. This is a gift I give myself.
I have been able to open myself to receive these new friendships. The ones I now realize, I need. Dinners out with fellow moms, that Bunco group, even women who will go to yoga with me. I have a new client! They aren’t local, but even having that type of interaction with others gets me out of my head. And the project gives me a sense of accomplishment. I’ve started blogging again and have every intention of seeing this through. I also have an active plan in place to finance a flip, one of these days. I am okay if that day isn’t today.
Last fall, my daughter was having a hard time adjusting to first grade and was unleashing on me every night. It was taking everything I had to be calm, patient and strong for her. A fellow mom came up to me and said, “you look like you’re having a hard week. Want to meet up for a drink?” I don’t know if she will ever know how kind that gesture was. My past self would have said, “oh that’s ok! I’m fine” because I wouldn’t have thought myself worthy of her time. But this time, I accepted the help. We went out and we talked and cried and I went home feeling so much better.
Here I am, coming up on that two-year deadline. I have put down my shield, letting in the light and taking care of me. My head is up to smile at others. I have a to-do list, goals and finally, a community that supports me. For that I am ever grateful.