Often times people ask, “How do you do it all?” The truth is that I don’t. Something goes to the wayside anytime I prioritize a project or experience. It’s the mirage of balance. The truth is, walking takes balance, and yet the point of balance is constantly shifting as we move forward and take each step. The same is true for our balance in life. All the roles are not static. Different emphasis is needed at different times. And so, it is not all done simultaneously but rather in shifting amounts of importance. But I digress.
I was diagnosed with depression in high school. I did counseling and medication for several years. Counseling was very effective for me and I was able to manage depression with strategies I had learned, supportive family, and my faith. I went off medication over a decade ago. In the years since then I have had two pregnancies. Hormonal shifts and emotional highs and lows are par for the course. Summers tend to be my most difficult time emotionally. Staying home with my children instead of working 5 days of week is a drastic change in my purpose, which always triggers some of my depressive tendencies. I am grateful for the time with my children, aim to make the summer the best experience for our family as possible, but it takes work. It takes awareness of when I’m triggered and determine when I need to rest or work out, or need a safe space to vent, process with a professional, or journal. As I heard recently on a podcast, “Purpose is the opposite of depression,” which resonates with me.
My twins are about to start kindergarten and I also have a third grader. We are in the final weeks of summer and I am acutely aware of all things left to do before I am back at work full-time as a 2nd grade teacher. Each day I prioritize whether we will do memory-making type activities, clean/organize the house, prep a school idea/classroom for the year, or sleep/rest. I really start to feel the crunch of each of these things in August. One particular day last week I felt crushed by “overwhelm.” All I wanted to do was sleep. The lists were made, the choices were available to me, the weather cooperated for all of it, but I couldn’t execute anything. I made lunch for my kids, taking incredible determination, and then felt like mush.
Later that night I shared with someone that I had a rough day. They were sympathetic and then said, “August always feels that way for me too. It’s feels like a long Sunday.” While it oversimplifies it a bit, it made sense. Sundays are usually off and can be a day of fun or rest, but you always have the impending start of work early the next morning. August is that transition. Summer is not yet gone, and in fact, we have a whole month of it left, but we are constantly reminded by fall sports registrations and school supply ads that school is just around the corner.
Often times I welcome the back-to-school season. I am eager to meet my new students and their families. My purpose is more clearly defined each day with observable action toward the objectives defined. It is fun to copy and cute new name tags, laminate the schedule, and have a fresh beginning to pursue. However, I am also saying goodbye to my time with my three children, not having the working mom guilt of being away, or unable to prioritize them without inner conflict for my students. I know that having depression does not make me unique in these feelings as many teachers have these feelings, but depression can complicate these feelings. The intensity, the lies, the overwhelm…it is crushing. But having a name or space for it is powerful. Acknowledging that August is hard for many, regardless of career can be encouraging.
One of my most effective strategies for this season of life has been Affirmations. Years ago it felt strange and was not all that effective. So if you shrug and don’t care for this strategy, I get it. But now, as a mom and teacher, positive feedback is not always readily available. It’s easier to see and name the failures. Now I need to provide those words of affirmation for myself. And honestly, the female body to birth, feed, and nurture life is worthy of affirmation!
August, you ruffle my feathers. You aren’t easy. Depression has not defined me thus far. And even though depression teams up with August, I’m still stronger. My will, faith, and determination will manage and dance with it. I can’t warp speed August, but I can gather my family and friends around me. I can enjoy the gorgeous weather we are having. I can pray and write. I can have PJ days with my kids, and squeeze in play dates and family visits for a few more weeks. Each moment will not be happy, but happy is fleeting. I pursue purpose, and deep-seeded joy that comes from faith in a loving God. In this season of purpose transition, I’ll lean on God.