Do the Next Best Thing

I remember when I was teaching English Literature and Writing online and students would email me, somewhere around week five of the eight week course, completely overwhelmed.

They were behind.
They felt out of their element.
They were paralyzed.

As best as I could, via email (that wonderful, sterile communication medium), I tried to breathe life back into them.

You can do this.
One step at a time.
Do the next best thing
.

Lately, even though I have simplified my life to bare bones minimums, I feel overwhelmed too.

I wrote a post last Thursday about how I was doing better, and when I wrote it, that was true. But my good days are often followed by bad days and I had a few very bad days after that post. I’m learning that “getting better” doesn’t happen the minute (or the week, or month) that I decide to start counseling or take medication.

I am exhausted. My brain feels paralyzed.

Just this morning, as I stepped out of the shower, my hand hovered on the cabinet door nob.

Deodorant?
No…put on your robe.
Robe first? Or lotion?
Lotion.
No, robe.
Deodorant.

 It’s maddening, this fog, the indecision, the exhaustion: The Depression.

But I have to keep my head up. I have to keep moving forward. I have to keep choosing the next best thing.

Sometimes I wonder what that means, especially when the housework and the kids are all screaming at me. What is most pressing? What does “best” mean? How do I choose when indecision and uncertainty and exhaustion are smothering my brain?

I’m used to tackling the whole world. I like being super mom, super wife, and super friend.

But I am trying to heal right now so I have to choose simple over super. Right now, instead of saying, “What do I want to accomplish today?” I am saying, “What is the next best thing I can do right now?”

Sometimes that means getting dressed.
Drinking water.
Eating a snack.
Playing trains.
Snuggling on the couch with my two year old.
Doing yoga.
Loading the dishwasher.
Taking a nap.
Switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer.
Breathing in, breathing out.

It’s maddening, infuriating, really, to want to do All The Things when I just can’t right now.
I’m trying not to get angry with this process because healing takes time, but it’s hard.

I may feel paralyzed and overwhelmed right now, but I’m refusing to be stuck. I’m taking small, halting, baby steps at a time.

I’m doing the Next Best Thing.

I’m moving forward. It just at a different pace than I’m used to.

Are you feeling paralyzed right now?
Are you overwhelmed?
What is your Next Best Thing?
What is one step you can take to today to keep moving forward?

4 Comments

  1. I have to run. The more stressed I get the more I have to run. It clears my head. Running for me has little to do with fitness and everything to do with my own mental health.

  2. Sheila

    You are amazing, full stop. It is HARD to acknowledge the darkness that snaps at your heels every minute you battle depression, and it is even harder to turn and face it head-on, like you’re doing now.
    You mention how hard it is not to be super mom right now, but I’m going to gently disagree with you on that–you ARE super mom, because you are being courageous enough to choose the hard path of healing. It looks different than how you have defined it before, but it is no less valuable–perhaps it is even more so.
    One of the horrible things about depression is the lies that it tells us. “I’m not a good enough mom” is a vicious lie that hurts so much because it’s such an easy target. If I could have coffee with you right now, I’d beg you not to believe that lie, or any other lie that depression will tell you. And honestly, depression may tell you more lies before it tells you fewer, but no matter what, please please please don’t believe them. It may even help to have a trusted friend or two that you can reach out to when depression starts lying, so they can remind you of what the truth really is.
    You are fighting a good fight, and you are giving your sons a beautiful legacy of courage in the middle of the most oppressive darkness. <3

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