“Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”

– Marcus Aurelius

I am so glad my children are back in school. Is that terrible? Nah. We need that structure to our days as I am not nearly self disciplined enough to have them around all the time. I used to use the excuse that it was because I am “a creative type” but really, I’ve just never quite figured out how to be strict with myself. I’m getting better, but it is always a process.

In my last post I talked about depression and medication, and self discipline is something that I think is tied into that… sort of like everything else in my life.

Two summers ago, I hit rock bottom. I’d been close to there before, but never quite hit. When I realized that’s where I was, completely at the bottom, helplessly staring up at life moving on without me, I knew I had to DO something. But the problem was that I was barely capable of surviving, much less doing more than that. If you’ve never been deeply depressed it’s hard to express what it feels like. It was a painful challenge to just open my eyes every day and face being alive. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. When I would realize I’d regained consciousness each morning, I’d either immediately start crying, or labor to take a breath and stare at the ceiling wishing to go back to sleep, or better, to die.

I let myself be in that place for a couple of days, maybe a week, I sort of lost track of time and reality. But, I knew I couldn’t stay there, literally not leaving my bed to do anything but the vital necessities. I knew I had to move on with my life. I knew I had to be responsible for myself, my kids, our pets, our home, my career, and all of that pretty damn quickly. Thinking about it all at once was too overwhelming. I knew I couldn’t take care of any of that other stuff if I couldn’t take care of myself first.

So, Day One of the No Zero Days plan went into effect. Day One was simple. Take a god damned shower. I allowed myself to put clean pajamas back on and even get back into bed, but I had to get out of bed and shower and wash my hair and face every day. Sounds simple, I know, but it was not. But, after a few days, it was easier. I had done this my whole life, I could keep doing it and add to this list of one daily responsibility.

Day 4 of the plan was put on real clothes. I could still lay back down, even under the covers, but I had to put on real clothes, not pjs. After a few days, that wasn’t so hard any more. By Day 7, my list had grown to include “leave the bedroom”. I had to get up, shower, get dressed, and leave my room. Again, it sounds easy, but even in the comfort of my own little airy fairy lair, I felt exposed and too vulnerable. But, I did it and on Day 10 I added “leave the house” to the list.

During this time, I didn’t see anyone. My kids were with their grandparents and I didn’t answer the phone except for my therapist and my mom. My best friends texted me daily to make sure I was still alive. Sometimes, I would answer if they called, but sometimes I just sent a text saying I would call later.

When I decided to leave the house, I still didn’t want to see anyone I knew. I was still feeling too… ashamed, unworthy, hurt, and scared to face anyone who knew me and what I’d been through or what I’d done.

So, I went to record stores, thrift stores, and junk shops. I’d wander through aisles of people’s used things and think about what lives these items and knick knacks bore witness to. Surely, they had seen worse than me….and better, too. I’d talk to cashiers and other shoppers and pretend I was fine. I could pretend for 30 seconds at first. Then 60, then 90, and eventually, I could pretend I was fine for 5 minutes and for part of that time, I really felt fine. Fake it til you make it. I was doing just that. I wasn’t just having a no zero day, I was having a day filled up with the activities of actively living. I wasn’t just surviving anymore. I even managed to get a new job during this time.

Eventually, I was able to see my friends again without breaking down and being angry. Eventually, my kids came home and I was able to be normal (well, our version of normal) for them. It took time and lots of No Zero Days.