This post has been a couple of months in the making. My notebook is filled with several false starts and lots of insubstantial scribblings. I seem to go back and forth between two extremes – a). wanting to pour everything out in great detail and b). wanting to pretend that nothing has gone amiss. Catharsis or Cleopatra (Queen of Denial, that is)… with very little room for anything in between. I’m going to try again, one last time, to write this post and if I fail, I’m leaving it as is and moving on to something else.
I had been dealing with an increasingly toxic situation in my work life, one that was causing a good deal of anxiety, depression, and anger (and bitterness and outrage and distrust and lots of other potentially destructive feelings). Earlier this year, I hit a wall quite suddenly and went into a complete shutdown. I was marginally functional but not feeling anything at all. I didn’t care that the work situation was deteriorating by the minute. I stopped emotionally responding to everything, both good and bad. I also stopped doing all but the minimal requirements for survival. For the first time in my entire life, I forgot to eat (my view on food is decidedly hobbit-ish) and to sleep. With depression, there has always been a feeling that I’m staring down into a dark chasm. This was different. There was no chasm, no supporting precipice on which to stand; there was simply emptiness and more emptiness. Finally, in the emptiness, there was a tiny spark of fear that things might continue like this indefinitely and a sense of self-preservation kicked in. Things aren’t back to normal yet, but they are moving in that direction.
Once I moved past the “OMGs, how did I sink to this terrible place?” feelings that came when I started moving back toward normalcy, I realized that emptiness wasn’t such a terrible place to be. In this case, it was a necessary and positive thing. The emotional disconnection allowed me to make the choice to remove myself from the toxic situation and to approach a new opportunity with humor and trust. I’m sure there’s a pithy quote from some wise sage out there that says this better than I can, but here goes my best attempt at summarizing my point… there are times when what fills us is not to our benefit and must be drained away in order that something better can take its place. Sometimes, emptiness is a necessary first step to filling our lives with what we want.