Updated: Oct 23
We almost all know and probably very intricately understand depression and the occasional moody day, but what about the in-between?
For a while now I have experienced this weird phase that’s not really an actual condition that needs a doctor, but is also not just something caused by PMS or some other situational thing.
It can almost be described as a cycle almost, where I will experience life normally for a few months or so, and then go into a phase where I feel a little more conflicted with things that normally don’t bother me.
Now, this was happening when he was in his own cycles of addiction as well, but also continue still up to this present day.
For example, right now I am experiencing what I always wanted in the past: we're married, we moved into our own place in a nicer part of an already nice town, we are doing well both as a couple and a family, and things are going well with our extended families and our recoveries as a whole.
And I (incorrectly) assumed back then that this would mean that I would finally be happy and I would never be upset or wish things were different ever again. You know, the old “If I could just get ______, then everything will be perfect”.
While time went on and I started (and continued) on my recovery, I eventually changed that thought a bit because, come on, that’s unrealistic and not normal, but there was a part of me that still thought I would at least be better than I was at the time.
And to a point, I still think this way.
But to say that I should or shouldn’t be any certain type of way is incredibly misleading and incorrect, not to mention self destructive in a sense.
Having a mindset or belief like that is harmful to my own health and well-being because it is incredibly unrealistic to assume that I would not have any qualms about anything (even if I thought I had passed the phase of working through it) or that I would never be unhappy again, and it causes me to feel guilty and remorseful when I do.
I am in no way shape or form unhappy at the heart of it for where I am now. I don’t regret anything, and I don’t wish things were different. But, what I now realize is happening is that I am just experiencing a kind of growth cycle.
There is something in me that, while happy about what is is also ready for more, and I am experiencing this unease due to my inability to figure out what exactly it is I want, and/or because I feel like I should be navigating this unease better so that essentially I don’t feel the unease at all. But that is not possible.
Just as during his addiction I felt uncomfortable because I needed to grow and start my recovery so that I was able to become a healthier, stronger, and more capable person, so too now do I feel uncomfortable because I need to fine-tune and figure out some new things in this part of my life. Mainly, the next things I want to accomplish (both individually and as a couple/family/etc.) now that we've done the big things I've been wishing for.
And I feel like we all experience this impatience and eagerness at different points in our lives, and like me, you might have the habit of labeling it as “bad” or as something you shouldn’t be feeling.
But, rest assured it is normal, and also a common recovery issue. Just because our partner finally enters recovery (or whatever event happened) doesn’t mean that everything must be perfect and we can only feel grateful or we are doing something wrong. And on the flip side, it's ok to want them to enter recovery as long as you keep the perspective that that won't guarantee anything in the future as far as "perfect" is concerned.
For me, I felt like this last time around I finally felt more realistic about the whole ordeal, and didn’t have too high of hopes for how it would pan out. I did hope of course that things would go well, but it wasn’t the peachy, perfect, idealized assumptions that I had before.
Time went on, and I kept that realistic approach, and things kept going well, but I would still have those normal cyclic experiences of not feeling as though I was moving forward fast enough or efficiently enough, and so would think it had something to do with me doing something wrong.
“I don’t have the normal dramatic situations that come with active use or sobriety-without-either-of-our-recoveries, so why do I feel like this? Everything is going well, more than I imagined even, so why do I keep having these pockets of lowness?”
And it honestly took until right now to figure out what it meant:
Ok, I’m kinda just being silly because it wasn’t nothing, but it’s kind of true. As sayings go, sometimes we try to solve problems by creating more problems.
It’s like a plateau almost. I would achieve so much through my own recovery, with my life, what I was doing in terms of goals, and so on, and I would experience so much excitement, but what I would forget when things settled back into neutral times is that feeling can't stay around forever.
Eventually it has to come down, and while sometimes I can ease by with contentment and hobbies, a lot of the time I see that return to baseline "normalcy" as a negative thing. I think that I must not be doing enough, or that I should be doing more; that resting is bad, and that if I don’t find something to do to occupy my time or create something for the future I’m wasting my time. Chalk it up to just being so used to absolute chaos that it felt weird to finally have some down time.
This then creates a pressure on me to get something done, something, whatever it is, and I judge myself on what I try and occupy myself with. I then pick apart my life and find anything that might be a problem and a cause for my discomfort (because most of the time I wasn’t consciously aware of what was going on in my mind in this regard) and make it an enemy (like his addiction, him personally, another person in my life, a situation, finances, etc.), and a reason to stress out, in an effort to “fix” it. This would, like the quote says, cause more problems, present solutions, and keep the cycle going.
In the past, this would keep up until I would get tired of it and eventually it would pass, or I would then get distracted by his addiction which was a much bigger problem. But this time, since there is no bigger problem to overshadow it, I have had to sit down and explore it with some self work to move forward.
And, interestingly enough, I already have the answers. I just need to do the opposite of what I usually do.
Because there’s nothing wrong.
There’s nothing I have to get done.
There’s nothing wrong with my life, and there’s nothing missing.
There’s nothing I have to "fix".
There’s nothing that is an enemy, nothing that needs to be solved and eradicated and replaced with something better.
And again, it's ok to rest.
Honestly, all I have to do is rest for once, settle into the realization that nothing has to be done right now because nothing is waiting to be done, and if it’s time to start up again and work on something, I need to wait until I feel internally and comfortably led, not pressured by my mind and what I think I need to do.
Just like I couldn’t rationally think about his addiction, I couldn’t do what I thought anyone else or my overactive mind thought I should, and I had to get in touch with my internal guidance to move forward, so too is that the case here. It’s not a rational issue that needs to be sat and worked through, dealt with. It’s a call to rest, and reconnect, and wait until something is exciting enough to move with it.
It’s a time for appreciation for what is, what I have been waiting so long for, and healthy, happy anticipation for what is to come. For pride and admiration at what goals have been crossed off and accomplished, and what goals are to be written down soon. For sitting in the deliciousness of what I have right in front of me, and not getting so swept up in action that I take it for granted or see it as just something on a checklist.
I used to think that once his addiction was “fixed” that everything would be fine, and I could finally be happy. And over time, I learned that that belief wasn’t realistic or healthy or correct, and so began my own recovery to find what I was searching for. And sometimes still, I think that what I found isn’t complete or that I’m still missing something else through some fault of my own.
But, while it’s incorrect thinking in the way I originally thought, it’s true on a different level:
Sometimes what we are missing is just plain and simple rest. Not busy-ing our mind with the creation of issues to occupy our time, but instead, relaxing to sit and acknowledge all that we have accomplished so far, and realize the perfection of what is, and what is surely still to come.
So, if you are feeling like this applies to you, try and forget the busy work and the lists of what you think you should be doing for awhile. It'll all be there when you get back, and you may realize that what you wanted at first wasn't what you actually wanted, or that it just needs to be adjusted a little bit to get to the true heart of it, no matter how simple the topic is.
And of course, always remember that it's a journey, and there is no single destination. Life is always a work in progress, and you can do with it what you will.