When Anxiety and Depression Make You Feel Stuck Outside of Your Own Life

A reality of grief and depression is that you often feel stuck outside of your life.

Last week, I had a few days where I felt like I was watching my life and not living it. I took deep breaths, trying to ground myself, feeling like I was floating away with nothing to pull me back to reality. Preschool drop off. Deep breaths. Errands. Deep breaths. Nap time, lunch, preschool pick up and a play date. Deep breaths.

Sometimes the deep breaths work and I start settling back into myself. I feel less lost and more in control. Instead of being swept away into the void of depression, my soul is planted firmly. Life doesn’t get easier and the negative emotions don’t magically disappear, but feeling sturdy reminds me I can be brave; it only takes one step at a time to get anywhere.

But last week, even deep breaths and reruns of “The Golden Girls” left me feeling like I’d float away.

There’s nothing more demoralizing than feeling less and less like you belong in your own life.

It’s in those dark and lonely places when we have the opportunity to be the most brave. We don’t have to give in to the darkness. We don’t have to live on the outside of our lives. One ever so tiny step at a time, we pull ourselves back to reality. We may not see reality from here and we may not remember what reality feels like, but we keep taking steps.

Even though you may feel stuck on the outside of your life, your not. It’s still your life even if you feel like you’re not really living it.

It’s still your life, so hold on to it tightly.

In the dark place, I start to feel like life is always going to feel that way. It doesn’t have to.

A few months ago, I read Kathleen Norris’s book “The Quotidian Mysteries.” It opened my eyes to see that hiding in the boring, mundane life tasks I’ve always viewed as a distraction from the more significant things, are sacred, restful moments.

I’d rather do just about anything than wash dishes. It’s a necessary household task, but I often wonder why bother – it’s time wasted when I could be doing or accomplishing something that doesn’t need to be redone after the next meal. But as I contemplated “The Quotidian Mysteries,” I realized as I wash the dishes, I have a moment of quiet. My home is never truly quiet, but the constant whirring in my mind slows to a hum when I wash dishes. The constant input from other people is paused, even if just for a few minutes.

And even my depression and anxiety quiet down. The quiet, sometimes monotonous tasks focus my mind on the present. There’s no dread of what might come. No fear of panic attacks or PTSD triggers from the past. There is only the now. The warm water. The soap suds. The pile in the sink getting smaller by the minute.

Even if all I get done is a few dishes, it’s something. I got out of bed and I accomplished something.

I bake at least once a week because it’s another moment when my mind goes quiet (you’d think I’d find things that don’t include dishes in the clean up). As the butter and sugar get whipped together, I feel my shoulders start to relax and my breathing slows. Creating something, just for the joy of the creation, is settling and grounding.

The more I build these quiet moments into my life, the less often I feel like I’m floating away. When I am intentional about adding these slower, “wasted” moments, I feel like I’m really living. I’ve even started looking forward to these pauses in the day: every time the pile of dishes gets smaller or laundry gets put away or whatever other annoying, boring task is completed, I’m reminded that I’m living, unmistakably, on the very deepest inside of my life.

Follow this journey here.

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Getty image via Marjan_Apostolovic

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