(of a boat or its passengers) floating without being either moored or steered. "a cargo ship went adrift" synonyms: drifting, unmoored, unanchored "their empty boat was spotted adrift" lost, off course; disoriented, confused, at sea; drifting, rootless, unsettled, directionless, aimless, purposeless, without purpose "adrift in a strange country" (of a person) without purpose or guidance; lost and confused. "he was adrift in a strange country"
The word "adrift" popped into my head a few days ago, and I haven't been able to shake it. It is a word that feels exactly right, right now.
I wanted to write this blog post about feeling adrift, and so I looked it up in the dictionary.
Ok, fine, I Googled it. Same thing.
The dictionary definition of the word "adrift" startled me for it's ability to accurately describe me right now.
Have you ever found yourself in a place in your life where you felt lost and confused?
Drifting... Aimless... Purposeless?
I have. I'm feeling it right now. Which is concerning because, for all intents and purposes, I have a great life. Yet, lately, I have felt as though I've been wrapped in a coat of grey. It feels a little like this:
You go to sleep tired, and you wake up tired.
You don't look forward to things like you once did.
Everything feels overwhelming, frustrating, or just off.
Food tastes like food: Eh. Or, in other moments, food is a comforting BFF.
You feel an attack of the shoulds: I should feel better, I should feel different, I should enjoy this, I should work, sleep, write, read, run, or something, anything else. But I don't.
You know the negative bitch (or a-hole) in your head has hijacked your thoughts and you run yourself into the ground daily, but you let it happen instead of fighting it off or at least telling it to shut up.
You feel like giving up on something, or you already have.
It's a scary place to be. It defies explanation, even if you were to try to explain it. "Er . . . I know I need to count my blessings, and it could be a whole lot worse- and I don't want it to be, believe me - but I just can't shake this sense of 'blah' that takes over my day . . . " as the other person nods sympathetically and says something very helpful, like "Well, I wish you felt better."
Thanks. I'll wish in this hand, and . . . uh, well you know how that saying plays out, right?
For a while I wallowed in it. Pity party for one! I could have ducked out of social obligations: "No, I can't be there at that time, I'll be feeling sorry for myself and guilty about it for at least 30 minutes, possibly more. But ask me in a week, and I'll try to not actively avoid reality then."
The thing is, I could feel it coming for a while, but I ignored it. I was able to cover with excuses. I was just irritated, or I was very busy with washing floors and organizing the junk drawer, or maybe I was just tired?
In the last several weeks, I felt the Adrift hit full force. I had been struggling for months to organize myself to pursue creative things that I hoped would lead me to some financial gain down the road, but suddenly it all felt pointless.
So, I gave up.
For a time, the thought was liberating. I don't have to do that! I don't have to check this email, force myself to finish this broken story, halfheartedly pull out the pencils. I even abandoned this blog for a week as I grappled with my strange situation.
I told myself, triumphantly, you don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing.
I was like a three-year-old who just discovered she could do something by herself without anyone's help, like push a chair to the dessert cupboard, climb up, and eat the whole box of cookies. Satisfying for a while, until you got caught or got sick, or both.
My family was confused. I was always Miss Creativity, and now I actively avoided any and all of it. Luke was baffled. Where was the ambitious girl he was used to? She's reading a book, thank you very much. Or watching this show. Or just . . . sitting here. Existing.
None of this was heading in a good direction. I'm sure you can tell. If I was in a boat, adrift, I would be heading out to choppy, shark infested waters. In the rain.
Or over that waterfall they always seem to find in cartoons and slapstick movies. Sharp rocks at the bottom!
It culminated in a meltdown-slash-panic attack-slash-existential crisis. It all came out at once. I guess it's what had to happen for me to be able to push past the Adrift and see that on the other side, there is still existence, reality, and life.
Fortunately, I did learn some valuable insights from my time spent Adrift. I can't say if there won't be another time spent in the same situation. What I do hope is that it will be recognizable and dealt with sooner now that it happened once. And, since I will tell you some of the insights I learned in a moment, I hope it can help you if you ever feel adrift, now or in the future.
When you find yourself adrift, you can:
- Wallow in it. Feel lost, bored, or purposeless. Wonder why this is happening, and why now, and what if this goes on forever? Realize that this is real and not "all in your head."
- Give up on something. Give up the thing that causes the most pain, frustration, or angst. Or, allow yourself to give up worrying about it for a while. Set a time limit for the giving up or the worrying if that will help you. Notice how you feel and think after you've given up. Relieved? Lost? Calm? Some other feeling?
- Talk. Talk, talk, talk. Hopefully to an understanding person, but if you can't, even a sympathetic dog or a purring cat. Say it out loud: Something's wrong. I don't know how to fix it yet. I don't feel like myself.
- Distract yourself. Watch a comedian (I'm obsessed with Russell Peters at the moment. You're welcome.) Read a good book. Watch movies. Get your favorite magazine or visit your favorite blog. Watch your kids play. Clean, if you have to. I'm hesitant to suggest going online, or looking at social media, because this can actually suck you further adrift, like a riptide you weren't aware was there. If you do this, proceed with caution. Not everyone's life is as perfect as they'd like you to believe.
- Get help. If your adrift feeling crash lands into more dangerous territory, get help from somewhere. A trusted friend or family member, a group, or a professional. Whatever you do, don't feel like you're alone in how you feel. Everyone experiences their own Adrift at some point, but some hide it well, some turn to substances to numb it, and some have better coping mechanisms.
Just know that eventually, you'll discover an oar, and then two. Or somebody will hand you your oars. If you're extremely lucky or determined, you'll possibly find the outboard motor.
Either way, I know you'll make it back to shore a little stronger and a little wiser than before.