Friday, November 03, 2006

On The Down Low

I seem to be coming across more and more cases of "the writer doldrums," sometimes combined with a mysterious yet unidentifiable case of the "blahs" (for lack of a better word), and a downright complexity of moodiness across the blogoshpere….here, here and here.

Is it the weather? The seasonal change, fall giving way to winter? Are we overworked? Burned out? Is the reality of motherhood taking its toll? For those without kids, is the reality of writing, gasp, a book, not just any book, but a deeply personal one, terrifying the Bejesus out of us? Is it real or imagined? But more importantly, is it contagious, because I seem to be battling a touch of it myself these days.

Thank you ladies. Good to know I'm not alone.

I wasn't going to post about this but since it reflects a current mood, I'll add my own echo and observations. Add to that a big ole mug of chicken soup, or beef phó, or soba noodles in dashi. Whatever works. May it bring comfort.

* * *

Bills due. Library books due. Essay due. Life due.

Today was work. Work getting up. Work getting out. Most definitely work doing the work-out. I feel as if I'm hitting a wall. Definitely feels like resistance and those all so familiar streams of writerly self-doubt…an LED display across the Times Square of my inner psyche:

…"What are you doing this for again?"…"Remind me why it's so important?"…"Didn't so and so already cover this?"…"What's so special about your story?"…"How is your voice relevant?"… You know the drill.

I know this is just the sound of my inner critic…thank you for sharing…NEXT!, but I seem to be having a hard time focusing. I seem to be gaining weight, despite all the workouts. I seem to be accumulating writing, but not on my project. I seem to be spinning. I feel lost, as if the thoughts are draining out of my head quicker than sand through a fishing net. Can't seem to stay anchored. Can't seem to catch any fish either. And I'm always tired. Tired.


Perhaps if I wasn't so damn tired, I could combat this fear streak more effectively.

Recently I was doing some research on adrenal fatigue --a rather common occurrence for mothers of young children. Think of it as being in continuous crisis mode…No, don't touch that! No, put that away! Be careful! Don't make a mess! OMG, I'm coming, hold on…! Not to mention serious sleep deprivation, hyper-vigilance and constant noise.

See what I'm saying?

Being a mother of young children puts one under enormous risk for depleted adrenals because we are living in a constant state of crisis aversion, management, diversion, organization, and cleanup with limited rewards and unlimited interruptions. Yet the adrenals are only supposed to kick-in in extreme situations for short periods of time. They are a reserve tank meant to offer a burst of energy via adrenaline, for a life or death situation, for fight or flight response, not to be siphoned from as a way of life. To continually deplete this energy reserve is not ideal, and frankly, it is dangerous to your health. Yet we do it, we continually do it, I most certainly do it, and it becomes a vicious cycle of unending exhaustion and reliance, leading to more of the same.

There is a connection between sleep deprivation, fatigue, overreaction, moodiness, gastro-intestinal issues, weight gain, low immune response, and the spikes in cortisol resulting in other hormonal imbalances the body creates in order to combat every type of emotional, mental, physical and environmental stress.

Look at it like this. Your adrenals are responsible for maintaining your cortisol levels, among other hormones like DHEA, which is the precursor to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone. When they become overtaxed, hormone production can get all disorderly resulting in some of the following symptoms. Ok, play along with me…

fatigue - check
insomnia - check
weight gain - check
depression - check
poor immune function - I'm getting stronger though
moodiness - check
hormonal imbalance - check
decreased sex drive- hate to admit it, but check
skin problems - not so much
autoimmune disorders- that was last year
intolerance to cold - pretty much
reliance on caffeine/stimulants - check, double check
(are cocktails stimulants? I thought they were depressants?)
craving for sugar/carbs - oh absolutely!

Bingo! What do I win?

Why, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances and burnout.

Hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy are to be expected, and again for a few months after breastfeeding ceases, but in my case, post 4 pregnancies in 3 years, a serious case of insomnia and a history of intermittent depression, it's whack. How do I get the balance back?

I'm having a crisis of self-doubt lately. Oh, just snap out of it I tell myself, as my thoughts disperse, focus averts my concentration and points elude me.

Take a nap. Walk in the sunshine. Read a book. Just relax. Go to bed early for once, my husband nudges.

Man, I wish I could. I really do.

But the productivity expectation meter is pegged! Must. Be. Productive. Must. Grow. Business. Must. Grow. Income. What. Will. I. Do? How?


Meanwhile, it's not all bad over here. Sienna is turning into a lovely little whipper-snapper ballerina-fairy-princess with a mind of her own. Bedtime routine no longer a 2-hour ordeal, she helps clear and set the table for dinner now, and with a wee bit of coaching will even do precursory exercises in straightening her room. She puts her dirty clothes in a pile over there, books on their shelves, shoes in the closet, markers in the pail. So it's not all bad. In fact, a lot of the time it is quite delightful actually.

These are the squishy years I'd heard about.

Why, just the other day she made paper crowns for all of us--even the cat--and we played The Royals of Colonia….

"Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing The King, The Queen, and dat, da, dat, da…Princess Sienna of Coloniahhhhh." And the crowd roars.

Princess Sienna was stunning in all her pink tulle finery. We had a procession around the halls of our house. I looked quite glam in my burgundy throw, er, cape. She even brought us fancy shoes to wear, even the King. The King must wear Kingly shoes, not sneakers, Daddy.

"These are King shoes," she said, handing him the black dress shoes from his closet. It was all very serious. It was a lovely respite from the churning my mind's been doing lately. I was lapping it up by the royal saucerfull.

As for writing as well as life, energy can't help but transform. That is its very nature. To expect anything else is, why, naïve, unreasonable, and damn near impossible. There is inspiration, the idea, followed by thought, conception, gestation, et voilå, manifestation. Gestation might include repeated visits to the drawing board, revisions, a sharpening of focus, throwing out what doesn't work…is anything working here…and inspiration might come only after a period of dormancy and self-reflection.

Still, we expect the height of manifestation and productivity to be sustained forever at such a high rate, yet it cannot. Eventually, anything shot straight up into the sky arcs, and reverts downward. It's the pull of gravity. The nature of a wave cannot continually peak without first crashing and rolling back out to sea.

Every person eventually needs to sleep, to restore, perchance to dream again.

I am on the down slope of the wave. I feel it today. I feel it lately as the season turns to crisp, crackly leaves scuttling across the early morning sidewalks. The air is starting to chill. The summer fire that raged in my belly has become glowing embers of memory, as I long to cuddle up with a glass of wine and a good book by the hearth of my soul, tending to those internal fears and insecurities.

So much could be solved with adequate rest.

Snuggle buggle. Safe as a bug in a rug.

My daughter, in my arms, wrapped in love and security, her love fusing with my own... Warm. Safe. Needing rest.

Hold me close while I recharge.

I wish you all peace.

And rest.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Oh, Tanya. BEEN THERE! It's f'ing BRUTAL! The two things that helped pull me out were Paxil and an increased priority on being with people that make me laugh. Can you give yourself permission to be "unproductive", while you get yourself geared up for higher productivity in the future, after you are well-rested, and your child is in all-day kindergarten?

Suzy said...

I'm with Carrie!
AMEN to the medication!!!
And of course for me the therapy to go with it.

Her Bad Mother said...

Been there, am there. The only possible cures (perhaps only palliatives?) - fresh air, sunshine, kissing your child, taking a day off from all obligations other than the beautiful obligations of motherhood and - yes, yes - a steaming bowl of pho.

Jenny Rough said...

Life due. Funny.

Recharging is SO important. I wish you much rest!

Prema said...

Sanity, truth, ahhhh. Like a bath - since I don't take em. True words like a nap, cuz I don't get em. Love to simply hear the truth. Better than wine or sleep or a sleeping baby. Thanks.

Jerri said...

Minus the young children, this is my struggle, too. Adrenal burnout? Check! Trying to grow business? check. Trying to fit time for writing into an already overfull life? Check.

When I've talked about being here, you have not tried to talk me out of my feelings, Instead, you've held faith until I could find it again.

I'll do the same for you.

Your voice is unique, valuable, needed. When you're ready, we will be here waiting and believing.


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