The difference between an itch and an allergy is about one hundred bucks.
It is an old truism that people who struggle with addiction must “hit bottom” before they can truly choose to make the hard choice to be “sober.” For people who are part of the “Anonymous” community (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.) this is considered part of the process. I don’t know if they’ve truly hit bottom but at some point, something in them decides that they’ve had enough. For each and every person who makes that choice, it’s a significant moment when they decide “This far and no further.”
Although I’ve never heard of a Pessimists Anonymous organization, it occurs to me that perhaps the reason we start to do better is that we get tired of feeling like crap. After several hours, days, weeks, or months, we get sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. We get tired of our own problems and decide that anything would be better than endlessly circling on our own misery.
And that’s the first step to starting to feel better – deciding that we want to feel better.
Self-Evident is an Oxymoron
It may seem self-evident but if that were so, we’d be able to know to just make that choice. In an article published on the This I Believe Revealed website, Jennifer Reis writes of coming back from the depths of despair in “Resilience”:
Then one day, I sat in my car and wept: a cry so deep, so intense that I wondered if the tears would ever stop. From that same deep, once desolate place, I made a choice: to learn from the experience, to grow and live my life in the most positive way I could.
Reis doesn’t deny the pain or difficulty or unfairness of what has happened to her. She simply chooses to use it to fuel her growth towards a better life. She is deciding that she can stay miserable from here ’til the day she dies, or she can choose to “grow and live my life in the most positive way.”
Before she can feel better, she must decide that she wants to feel better – that in some sense there are things under her control that allow her to affect her future. She goes from victim to potential victor.
It Ain’t Easy, Baby
Making the decision is only the first step. There are lots more actions that need to be taken and just making the decision doesn’t mean that life is going to help you along. Sometimes, something as simple as allergies can make you feel like a victim.
With all the rain we’ve been having lately, this has been a miserable allergy season – beautiful to look at but miserable to live through. For example, today as I left for lunch, I felt emotionally crummy. As I was getting my lunch together I became aware that:
- I couldn’t breathe.
- My stomach hurt. (Too much Starbucks)
- My head hurt.
- I was slightly dizzy/disoriented.
No wonder I’d been struggling to get it together. My concentration had been not so good. I felt sleepy when I’d gotten enough sleep to wake up without the alarm. Suddenly it hit me – my allergies were attacking me, but my energy level was so compromised that I couldn’t get up the energy to get the antihistamine and ibuprofen which would make me feel better. Eventually, I did get them and take them, but it took way more effort than taking a couple of pills should require.
Coincidentally, today Ellie sent me a link to an article that seemed to be another statement of the obvious. The title of the article was Allergies Can Increase the Risk of Depression and that’s about all it said in the article. My response, “No s***, Sherlock!” They just validated what I’ve been saying for years: when I feel the worst physically, I also feel worst emotionally. Over time I’ve learned to try to focus on managing the symptoms and ignore the depression until my head clears, but I don’t always remember. (Bad allergies can make you forgetful.)
The point is that even though we may decide that we’re “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!” (Network – 1976), sometimes we have to prove it to ourselves by putting one foot in front of the other until we believe that we can choose to live our lives in the most positive way possible. We must develop strategies for dealing with the gray days. We must recommit every day. And when things don’t go so well, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again – one day at a time.