Since Thursday I’ve been slowly making my way back up from the bottom. It started when I finally realized that sometimes it’s okay to leave your guilt behind and just take care of yourself. In the same way that your cold won’t go away if you keep going in to work and don’t get the rest you need, you can’t come up out of an emotional funk by continuing to hammer away at the issues that caused it in the first place. So I got up, grabbed my camera, and left the house.
First stop, comfort food. I picked up some mozzarella sticks and a passion fruit bubble tea and ate them in my car. I rolled the windows down for some fresh air and listened to the radio. It wasn’t solving anything but it felt good.
Next stop, Safeway. For months I’ve wanted to make a series of tiny Color-Aid collages depicting packed supermarket shelves, and I thought taking some photos would be a good first step. Low stakes, and no possibility for failure. The photos themselves weren’t meant for display, just as studies for possible subjects. I managed to take about 120 pictures before a manager finally kicked me out. Without having even looked at the photos, I felt like I’d accomplished something.
When I got home and downloaded my pictures, I found two or three that I really loved. Then I felt even better. Good enough to write some thank you cards to relatives — a high priority task I didn’t think I’d be able to tackle.
I had started my day trying to write down what I ultimately wanted out of life. Then I figured I’d brainstorm a plan from there. It was a total and immediate failure. In hindsight it was a terrible idea to start with something so huge and existential when I’d just had a nervous breakdown, but it seemed at the time like the only way to “redeem” myself. In the end, I learned yet another valuable lesson. When something becomes so stressful that it makes you sick in the head (or in the body), you need to remove yourself from it completely in order to recover. Only then can you regain the strength you need to actually deal with the situation.