Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seven Deadly Sins - Sloth and Gluttony

I promised to write on each and every deadly sin, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel, and I'm down to the last two: sloth and gluttony. I joked with a friend recently that when nachos were in front of me, gluttony was certainly my most deadly sin. But in all seriousness, these are probably two of the sins I experience least in their traditional forms. As I started thinking a bit deeper, though,  I realized that in fact, my cyclothymia may actually be a unique sort of sloth and an even more unique sort of gluttony cycling on rapid repeat. Let me explain.

I googled sloth. My options from the drop down menu, for the record, were "sloth animal", "sloth sin" and "sloth goonies". While I was quite tempted to choose the goonies option, I'm pretty sure it wasn't going to get me the information I was looking for. Sloth is defined as:

spiritual or emotional apathy, neglecting what God has spoken, and being physically and emotionally inactive.

Let me tell you, this "sloth" (leaving God out of it once again, for reasons previously explained), sounds not like a sin at all, but instead, a lot like my depressive cycles. When I'm depressed, I can't muster emotion, and every movement takes massive effort. It would be less scary if I felt hurt or sad or even angry. Instead, I just don't care. I force myself to go through the motions because I have to. I know, deep down somewhere, that it will pass and I'll be glad I did. Glad I didn't just give up on everything, including myself. But in the middle of it, I am numb. 

Gluttony, nachos aside, I can honestly say I've probably never experienced in its true form. I have a bad stomach condition (somewhere under the umbrella of "severe IBS/pre-crohns/should be getting regular checkups) and there have been times where even drinking water has caused me pain. While I've been better the last few years, gluttony, as related to food, is not in my veins... or stomach, as it were. But there are times, many times, when I feel gluttonous for life. Indeed, my personality is often a bit larger than life (to the annoyance of some around me) and I have an appetite for living that even I have trouble keeping up with. I want to feel every second of life, to create and experience as much as I possibly can. I have goals and dreams that feel so wonderfully boundless and yet almost in my grasp. I attack life the way I attack that plate of nachos, and if you've ever seen me eat nachos, you know that's serious business. I have to be this way. I have no choice. I have to take in every every single opportunity to make up for the time I was in the numb cocoon of depression, not able to feel or truly live, but merely exist. After a depressive episode, it feels like a new lease on life and I inhale it all. Until I can't. All this energy, all of this living, all of this feeling takes its toll. It can't be sustained, and the depressive cycle seeps back in. I become sloth-like once again. 

These cycles pervade my life. Sometimes numerous times a week. Sometimes within the same day. But these aren't sins. My "sloth" isn't made of laziness, and my "gluttony" isn't made of desire to devour more than my share and starve others. They are my body and brain's reaction to something going on down deep in my nerve cells and my sodium receptors and undoubtedly some other parts that I don't have the medical background to explain fully. These aren't cycles that I enjoy, and certainly not that I choose. 

As I round up my seven deadly sins, my point on gluttony and sloth, as it has been with every other, is this: sometimes, our "sins" are not what they seem. What may look like laziness, or sloth, to someone on the outside, may be depression, or anxiety, or masked panic or fear. What may seem like overindulgence  may be mania or hypomania. What may seem like too much pride or greed or envy may be someone who's battled self esteem issues their whole life and is just trying to feel a tug of confidence, who just wants to go through life without battling themselves and their brain or body every day. I've enjoyed examining these "deadly sins". I can see why in a vacuum, these sins could be considered deadly, and certainly, they have their moments. But it's also been fun to flip them around, It's been interesting to discover how, taken in a more modern context, and applied to the topic of mental health, they can have very different meanings and, sometimes, not appear to be sins at all. 

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