I have a blessed life. I have a wonderful and supportive family, a secure job, a great dog, a comfortable home, sweet friends and a terrific husband.
So why, then, in recent months, have I been so frequently overcome by sadness?
This was a question I asked myself day after day after day. I have a life full of joy and full of love. I love my husband, I love my dog, I love my family and I love our friends. And they love me, too. I know that.
I spent a lot of time looking for ways to feel happier, to make the anxiety abate. But inevitably, at least once a week, the “sad” would hit me. And in those dark moments, I’d just wait to finally regain the energy to resume my day, hoping that tomorrow would be better.
In the early spring, I realized just how much these feelings were affecting my husband, who had been endlessly patient with me. For the first time since we were 17, his love didn’t feel like enough to pull me out of this dark place, to make me believe in the promise of tomorrow, and I could see that this hurt him deeply.
So I found a therapist. Within our first meeting, she asked a question that I don’t think I’d ever asked myself: What do you do to show love to yourself?
I was in shock when I realized that nearly everything I did in life was intended to bring happiness or to show love to other people, even people I didn’t even know. And while giving of myself and my time is a noble activity, it was also causing these depressive and anxious episodes that were quickly crippling my life.
So now I ask myself this question a lot: What have I done today to love myself? Sometimes, it’s something very small, like diffusing essential oils that make me feel calm and focused. Sometimes it’s bigger than that, like building a dining room table from scratch, a longtime personal goal of mine.
Much of the time and energy in years past that I spent on others, I now spend on me. Much of the love that I pointed towards others, I now point towards myself. I am worthy of this. I am worthy of my own energy and my own love. I deserve it.
It’s not an easy shift. Just writing those words was challenging and I still push off feelings of guilt when I say no to things or when I set boundaries around my time.
But in the second half of the past year, I’ve begun to climb out of the dark and I have far more good days than bad now. And as I shift and begin to make preparations for a new year and I think about the kind of year I want it to be, I know I want it to be one where I feel stronger, calmer, more in control and above all, more loved.
And the first person to show that love has got to be me.
Rachel Campbell has been involved in the Temple Beth El community for the last four years, including serving as co-chair of The Porch and recently, joining the Board of Directors. She and her husband David are spending the month of Elul circumnavigating the globe on the trip of a lifetime.