When I landed in Seattle after coming home from vacation, I quite literally burst into tears and cried. I could not control myself. I could not calm myself down. What I know now is that I was absolutely exhausted, not from travel, but from spending every minute of every day for months just trying to keep it together. To get better. To feel more like myself.
I was determined to power through it. I come from a long line of people who eschew the assistance of others so that we may make everything as difficult as possible; that we may be proud of all this hard work we did when we could have asked for help and spent 12 minutes instead of 12 years doing whatever. This is just an example, it’s not real, so just use your imagination there because mind’s busy trying not to be crazy.
I was pretty convinced that therapy was enough to get me through what was just a really difficult time. My marriage was breaking up and most of my friendships fell apart and what I was going through was just a long difficult journey. I was sure with toiling away in therapy and time I’d make it through and come back to myself. Everyone told me that’s how it worked – time. Give it time, things will be okay.
Well, here I am a year later and there have been moments where things have been okay, even some where things have been amazing. Moments where I could see some of my old self again and I was certain I was making my way out of the darkness. But that is a funny thing about life…those moments where you think you’ve made it and just as you turn around you’re mauled by a bear or shot in the face. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train about to hit you. Suddenly I wasn’t okay. Suddenly I was, actually, really unwell. But I was pretty good at hiding it. One thing that spending much of your young adult life in the closet makes you good at is hiding things from most people, sometimes even yourself.
Unfortunately, hiding doesn’t make it go away and it certainly doesn’t make it easier. Pretending I’m okay when I’m not has only made it worse. The truth is that, for several months now, I’ve been slowly falling apart. This isn’t just your average sadness. It isn’t the unhappiness of my life’s current circumstances. It’s bigger than that.
I spend a lot of days worrying that I will never feel good again and the days I actually DO feel good worrying they won’t last. I constantly feel like a failure. I spend almost every night crying myself to sleep. I fake my way through most family functions, dates with friends, staff meetings and banal conversations. Half the time I can’t concentrate on what anyone is saying to me. After work or social outings I go home and cry, because keeping it together is absolutely exhausting and it gets harder and harder every singe day. I pick up a book, a newspaper, a menu, a document and I read it and I read it and then I reread it and I probably can’t tell you what I just read five times over. I probably can’t repeat most of that story you just told me, not because I don’t care but because my brain is so overloaded it can’t keep anything in it. I can’t even tell you what I did yesterday. I can’t focus. I get easily distracted. Last night Janie had to read a single sentence to me four times before I understood a single word of it. I get easily overwhelmed. I panic in crowds. I try and fail and try and fail at so many things, which is a part of life I know, but for most people it isn’t the tiniest of chores like remembering to pick up the mail or doing something someone just asked you to not two minutes ago. To accomplish much of anything I need to stop, close my eyes and think – WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING RIGHT NOW? I will forget everything if I don’t write it down. My desk at work is littered with post-it notes and lists. I schedule reminders on my phone so I don’t forget to go to an appointment or call someone or mail something or drink water. THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life or watching a shitty movie. I feel like I’m missing out on everything and I so often just think to myself – why can’t you just change back? Why can’t you just get better already? Why can’t you just be fucking normal for once before you drive everyone away?
Yes. I feel sorry for myself but more often than not I feel sorry for my family and friends. On my best days I feel sorry for disappointing them, for ruining happy occasions with unstoppable tears, for being incapable of being fully present, for not being able to scream in delight because my nephew was born or because Janie just got a new job or because my best friend just peeled into the hotel parking lot after a five hour drive in the middle of the night. On my worst days I feel like they’d all be better off without me and I wonder what it would feel like not to exist at all anymore. I’m not making plans, but that’s probably where this was going and I’m not willing to let it go that far. I never knew I could get to this place. I never imagined I’d know what this kind of pain felt like. But here I am and it is indescribable and yet, also, it feels like nothing at all. Empty. Hollowed out. Like a black fucking hole in my chest. THIS IS NOT ME.
I cry all the time.
All the time.
I cry in the shower. I cry at work. I cry in the car. I cry at home. I cry most any time I am alone. I’m crying right now. On my vacation, those couple of weeks I was convinced I needed to rest and relax and it would make everything better, I cried every day. I cried at the airport, the hotel, the aquarium, the zoo, museums, botanical garden, a cemetery, the car, Leah’s house, the park, the tattoo shop, the psychic, several restaurants, a couple more airports, the airplane and the entire car ride home. Most of the time I don’t even know why – it just comes and I fight so hard to stop it because this is not fucking normal.
I’m embarrassed. I feel defeated. I feel lost. I feel immeasurably sad, frustrated, angry, tired and lonely.
But I also feel proud of myself for looking at where I am and realizing that this isn’t okay anymore. For realizing that what I am doing, while all the right things, isn’t enough. So I went to my doctor, she asked me all sorts of questions and came back with a diagnosis: a severe case of major depression for which I will be treated with anti-depressants over the next 9-12 months. I so did not want to be here, in this place, depending on medications to make me feel better. That’s what I thought when this first happened. I thought I should be stronger. I thought I should be good enough. I had told a friend of mine recently that almost everyone I know is on medications for something and it made me wonder – should I be, too? And she said no…and I agreed. Because doctors these days so readily prescribe medications without offering any other therapy as an option. It’s just: Take these pills and I’ll see you later. I didn’t want that. But then I realized that I didn’t have that. I have worked so fucking hard in therapy. I have grown, I have changed, taken responsibility, I have accepted certain ugly truths about myself as well as learned to see the beauty that’s in there, too. I’m not looking for a band-aid, I’m looking for help because I’m sick and I don’t want to be anymore.
And when I feel like a failure for not being able to do this myself, I only have to look at the people around me who are in similar situations. People I look up to, admire and adore. I don’t ever feel disappointed in them, I don’t ever feel like they’re taking the easy way out, I don’t ever feel anything but grateful that medications make it possible for them to manage their own illnesses and live their lives and be the gorgeous people I love so much – so why should I feel that way about myself?
This isn’t me and yet it is and somewhere in there is a lesson I need to learn about accepting that I can’t always be everything I want to. Sometimes I get sick and I need help, whether it’s a physical ailment or my brain running on empty. Somewhere out there in the ether is the me I’m searching for, the one I want back, the one who knows joy, who laughs easily and at everything, is easily pleased and happy more often than not and who fucking loves being alive. Somewhere out there is the piece of me who is not so wrapped up in herself that she actually has the capacity to care about other people and the state of the world around her. I used to marvel at life – at plants and trees and animals and people. MY GOD, how I loved the magic of people and how we connect and live and love. I had a sparkle in my eyes, I had life and I knew what love was not because I was in it, but because I was it. I believed in the goodness of life, I trusted it, I believed things were always going to be okay – I had an optimism and a lust for knowledge. I wanted to know things. I could read books and take in information. I wanted to know everything about everyone. I want that person back. I WANT HER BACK. That’s why I’m here…that’s why I’m fighting…that is why I am asking for help. Because I’m worth fighting for and I don’t want to be whatever it is I have turned into. I don’t want to be this way anymore. I want my life back and I’m going to fight, kicking and screaming, until I find it.