Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Store Birthday to Me, sort of

The store opened on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 2005. It was a crazy process, and a long one, and it is not ideal for someone with seasonal affective disorder to be starting a major venture at the exact same time of year, to the week, when her biochemistry takes its annual nosedive.*

But that is what I did, not quite intentionally, but the retail season being what it is, the Saturday before Thanksgiving was the absolute last day I could tolerate opening--in the give and take between me and the contractors, therefore, the Saturday before Thanksgiving was the point past which I would not let deadlines be pushed. There were electricians installing track lighting in the morning, but at noon we opened our doors.

The first birthday felt like a huge accomplishment, and for different reasons so did the second. Last year at this time I was astonished that things were obviously improving. I'd gotten myself into a serious hole and it seemed like I was getting out of it. There were setbacks, but that was largely true. This year, there's still more climbing to do to get out of the hole, but we will emerge. Only it's a little harder to see where we're going after that. The economy is hard. Not horrible around here, actually: houses still sell, and most folks around here are relatively recession-insulated. There's no big company that's about to leave town, and in my case, my customers are the kind who see books as a necessity more than a luxury. But we're still feeling it. We were especially feeling it before the election, but even with the election over and people's moods turning around, it's still hard to see the kinds of steep gains in sales that would make me feel better about the store's long-term health.

I just feel mired. I know that a lot of this is about the time of year, as well as the economy. But I am having a hard time getting things done, as always, and a hard time feeling happy about the things I do get done, which is not always true. It's my bad time of year: mid-November to the end of March or early April.

I'm trying to keep it front and center that depression means that things that would give me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of "hey, I got that done!," don't. They just don't. Instead, this time of year each thing I do just seems to clear the way for the next thing to come at me and make me start the getting-things-done process all over again from the beginning. Sometimes I hang onto tasks I could finish easily as a kind of shield, or I leave little pieces of disorganization in place as a way to slow down the production line a little so it's moving at a pace I can handle emotionally, even if practically speaking I could easily be moving a lot faster. I'm capable of being more effective, but I'm not capable of feeling more effective, so I bring down my level of competence to the place where I can handle it.

This morning, I got change from the credit union, and I got the cake for the weekend's celebration. It was two trips when it could have been one, and both of those stops were places I have been on errands in the last two days and I could easily have gotten what I needed then if I'd made a list and been planful, but sloppiness is more where I'm at. I'll go over just to be around some now, and tomorrow, too. But I don't really want to be part of festivities I can't feel.

It's depressing.

*Kind of like what it's doing this week, right on schedule. It's the annual kablooey! of my sense of pleasure and ability to connect to the world. A. and Phantom are both on me to use my lightbox, and I am, and it's helping a lot, but the other major piece of routine that lets me stay on top of my depression instead of going under it is exercise, and there I am not doing well. The bottom has fallen out of my swim schedule because of what I suspect (after prompting from Phantom) is going to turn out to be cough-variant asthma, though I don't have a diagnosis yet. I have a breathing study on Tuesday, in the slot when I would have been swimming, and the name of a pulmonologist to consult. I'll let you know how it goes.


The Goldfish said...

Congratulations on three years in business! And best of luck with the coming months.

Have you tried writing your achievements down at the end of the day? Or having a physical (as opposed to digital) things-to-do list where you cross things out so that you can see how much you've got done?

During times when my health is bad, I'm doing very little anyway and my short term memory is shot, I often feel like I have achieved absolutely nothing in a day or a week. Keeping a little diarised list, even if it's stuff like having a bath or writing an e-mail, helps me feel more connected.

E. said...

That last bit (about not wanting to be part of festivities you can't feel) sounds like depression certainly, but it also sounds like the holidays in general and like this time of year. (There just isn't enough light!) I think you should give yourself credit for going over to the celebration even if you don't feel like it. That's emotional labor that you're doing to be "a good store mom," if I may call it that, and it counts as an achievement, a Thing that you have Accomplished.

S. said...

Oh, E., it would be an accomplishment, except that in fact I waited until the whole workday was done over there and only lent a hand with the closing stuff.

E. said...

Still, even so. I think accomplishments are to be measured by how much emotional energy they take. It's about the process not the product. If it took effort to get there, then the fact that you did so, no matter how late in the day, is an Accomplishment. In other words, even if something you do seems like it "should" have been easy or that you "should" have done it sooner, the point is not what "should" have happened but how it felt inside of you. If it felt like effort, then it was. And the fact that you did it anyways is an Accomplishment.

I say all of this, but I'm terrible about taking my own advice. It's very hard to pull this one off, esp. for those of us who are outcome-oriented. The Goldfish's suggestion is more practical and concrete--very necessary at this time of year when depression hits. Listing things like having a bath can really help (I do a version of this with my work stuff, so that even the little things like "sent email about reimbursement forms" count more; yesterday, when I felt like I got nothing done, looking at that list did help).

I can't wait until the winter solstice has come and gone, and the days start getting longer again.

Magpie said...

Congratulations to your store, and you.

Stay well - as well as you can be. April will be here soon enough.

Jody said...

I'm sorry -- about the depression, and the asthma.

Congratulations on the store, though -- three years! A great accomplishment.

Julia said...

Congratulations! Third anniversary is nothing to sneeze at.

I also want to second E's point about emotional effort. Just yesterday I went to a birthday party that I in the back of my mind didn't feel was going to be good for me. I disconnected from it a bunch of times, forgetting it was on the calendar right down to yesterday morning. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible, and in the end I do feel like even though it was to be a party, and I didn't even have to do anything for it, it was hard to go, and therefore, I should get credit for going. I also would third the physical list idea-- very helpful for realizing all the little things I did manage to fill the day with.

Sorry to ramble. Hope your holidays are better than you expect, and that the health investigation will give you tools to get back to managing your routine and your mood.

liz said...

Many hugs and a huge congratulations on your store's 3rd anniversary.

Tall Kate said...

Congratulations! Three years is really an accomplishment!

This line that you wrote -- "things that would give me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of "hey, I got that done!," don't. They just don't." -- REALLY resonates with me. I hate that feeling. In my case, I think it's because the things I do most of the time are sort of undervalued, generally. You know, care-giving and home-making sorts of stuff.

Didn't mean to hijack at all, btw, I'm just trying to say, you have my sympathy. It's a sucky feeling.

Good luck with the breathing analysis.

susan said...

E. is very smart-and you are very smart: recognizing that you don't want to be part of festivities you can't feel is an Important Insight, and as the depression gets in the way of feeling Accomplishments, then, well, the fact that they don't feel Accomplished isn't really an accurate measure. I think you have tons of Accomplishments here--and I am sorry that the time of year is getting to you. Hopefully your support system (medical and emotional) will help you get through. Hugs.

Naomi Adams said...

Hello everyone, this is S.'s sister, Naomi. Having read all these insightful comments that just accept depression as a given, I am feeling frustrated. I can remember what it's like, and I remember what it was like to have my boyfriend even more depressed and struggling with SAD than I was.

Neither one of us is depressed anymore. The winter rolls around, and, sure, I'd rather see the sun, but I don't feel all that worse for it. And I live in Seattle, one of the darkest, rainiest spots in the country. We both have light boxes that sat in the closet all last winter and aren't coming out this winter either.

There is a very good treatment for depression, and it's not antidepressants or pharmaceuticals. My boyfriend was on it for a year, and I have been on a similar but more low-key program for the past several years. It's a set of naturopathic supplements that you take, not forever, but usually for about a year and then you're done and you're simply not depressed anymore.

What I took was amino acid blend (My Aminoplex) by Crayhon Research, one teaspoon twice a day, mixed with grapefruit juice and taken an hour before a meal. What M, my boyfriend took was more complicated, but you can read about it on my blog.

I know S. doesn't want any commercial links on her site, and I know this sounds like one, but it isn't. S. knows I'm not hawking anything and I don't have anything to gain by getting people to consider this treatment. I just want to tell people about something that's worked for me and for a couple of people very close to me.

I'm not sure this will work for everyone, but I sincerely think it's worth a try.