I Get Sad Sometimes
I get sad sometimes. I always have. I remember, as a kid, being called “moody” or “sensitive” and some of this was likely the normal workings of my adolescent heart and head. But there were other times I can remember feeling unhappy without a reason. Surrounded by friends and family that loved me, I had everything thing a happy kid would need. But the sadness didn’t care and as I got older, it appeared more and more frequently and it was less age appropriate to be moody. But thankfully as a child I was permitted, as we all are, to go through “phases” and my poor mom and beleaguered siblings were treated to years of somber music, bangs in my eyes, black clothing and depressing poetry conveniently left on the kitchen table. But by all accounts they survived and I will always be incredibly thankful that my mother, even when she may not have understood what I was going through, continued to hug me tight, accept the tears and talk/listen for hours.
But what I didn’t know then (and wouldn’t know for years after numerous unpleasant episodes and a full collapse) was that my sadness was unfortunately linked to a tendency to worry and fret. Immersed now in the joy of middle age, most of these episodes blend together or are lost entirely to my memory. But I can remember as a 3rd grader sitting on the curb in front of Lincoln Elementary, sobbing because the length of the left leg of my jeans was longer than that of my right. Bare in mind that to the naked eye (or likely even to a measuring tape) this difference was imperceptible, but to my hyper-focused brain it was tragic and upsetting. The walk from our front door to the school was half a block and so I hadn’t made it far before this worry and obsession with symmetry had brought me down. I eventually picked myself up and made it to class, but this was only the first of an increasing number of similar incidents that would begin to pile up through the years and finally topple over when I was in my 30s. And here’s the thing. It was “ok” to be sad. Children get sad, teenagers get sad and as adults, to some extent we are permitted to experience sadness for valid reasons. But this worry that would increasingly begin to impact my daily life was not only impossible to describe, but also too embarrassing to share and so I learned to suffer it alone.
In high school strong smells became a distraction that sometimes required an entire change of clothes. A single zit could cause me to check the mirror excessively throughout the day, as if the more I glared in anger, the quicker it would go away. The need for symmetry became haunting and any attempt to grow any form of facial hair usually led to failure within weeks, as I was unable to create perfectly straight lines on the angles of my crooked face. In college, I began to lock doors with a purpose. Three times. Every time. After key fobs were invented, it’s been necessary to hear three distinct beeps before I’m confident that my car is sufficiently locked. And when the tattoos began? The inherent tendency for lines under the skin to be understandably “uneven” could prompt HOURS of obsessed examination. It was exhausting, unsettling, upsetting and inconvenient. And through all of this mental entertainment, I continued to get sad, one causing the other or simply just joining in.
At times my head became filled with internal noise, only to have the volume turned up by the external world. Being around large groups of people became more difficult and I became less social as I got older, preferring to spend time with one or two close friends or by myself. But even alone in the woods, at a movie or reading a book, I could find myself dizzied by thoughts and anxious in my need to make sure that life’s to-do list was complete. I couldn’t completely relax until all of the items were checked off and things were back in order, even when that meant completely unpacking, cleaning and re-stowing my gear after two weeks away on the trail. Understandably this was an irritation for my wife. But these behaviors, while potentially frustrating to others, were generally seen as my (endearing?) quirks and the frequent, frantic agony was something I learned to keep hidden on the inside. Until I couldn’t.
I use to have a temper and maybe still do, but for many years the noise I wrestled with would win and the worry and anxiety (often a miserable surge in my muscles) came out in a way I couldn’t control. An inability to deal with a task until the end of the day or even for a few hours, could put me in a foul mood as my brain was unable to set it to the side. My need for unnecessary symmetry continued to hassle me, often leading to objects being tossed against the wall or another well-intentioned beard, shaved into the sink while I let the profanity fly. Repetitive sounds that I couldn’t locate or silence, could drive me crazy. Both my first word processor and a twin cassette deck were punched or pounded until they no longer worked, because they were making a slightly irritating, but harmless sound I couldn’t prevent.
My mom gave me a nice stereo for Christmas, my senior year of high school. It wasn’t top of the line, but it was as much as she could afford and set me on my path as a master mix-tape maker. But one night as I was listening to fall asleep, one of the cassette decks was making a small click-click-click, as the wheels went around. I tapped it with my finger a few times and stopped it a few others to remove the tape and clean off the heads. But the sound persisted. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t relax. My head was screaming and before I could stop myself, I sat up in bed and put my fist through the left deck. Three times. The sound stopped. I never told my mother, but drowning in guilt, I snuck the stereo out of the house and my friend Bill drove me downtown to a local electronics store where I paid to have it fixed. It was the first time I would have to lie to people to explain a broken machine or a hole in the wall, but not the last. This “temper” that I never had growing up, followed me into adulthood and made me believe that I was an angry person, which led to more sadness and kept me far away from understanding what was really wrong.
After college I moved to Lake Placid, NY to teach at a small boarding school in the Adirondack Mountains and then to Annapolis MD, where I spent the next 12 years teaching Humanities. The temper followed me and along came the depression, frequently becoming more pronounced and increasingly more irritating. But I continued to find new ways to cope, generally through frantic exercise or throwing myself into my job. In the summer of 2002, months before my daughter Finley was born, I decided I would thru-hike the Long Trail on my own. I briefly considered asking people to join me for some or all of the trip, but knew that a companion would require sustained conversation, talking, sharing, spending hours together and even worse, having to hike at someone else’s pace. So I went solo. In theory this was a good idea and I successfully completed the trail in a speedy 21 days. But a week in, I discovered that spending that much time in my own head sucked and was lonely as hell. So when I stepped off the trail and boarded a bus for Boston, I was ready to be around people again. Or at least nearby.
Back home, our social life was somewhat limited to the gatherings that I was able or willing to put together myself. The ones I could “control”. The idea of going to a party or out to dinner with other teachers, created a powerful anxiety that more than once had me turn back to my car before I made it to the front door. I even slipped out the back of the Upper Lodge at a much anticipated Timberlake reunion (the summer camp where I had spent half my life) after only an hour, jogged secretly to my car and drove quickly home.
This required a lot of excuses, half-truths and outright lies to cover for what I was embarrassed and unwilling to explain. It’s easy to tell someone you’re feeling “sick to your stomach” or that you’ve suffered a grotesque leg injury while climbing the neighbor’s fence. But I couldn’t imagine saying to a friend, “Sorry I couldn’t make it to your Super Bowl party Paul, I was scared to come in your house and look people in the eye.” On the few occasions when I attempted to share a little of how I was feeling, I would get a look of either pity or bewilderment, neither of which felt good. “Sorry Elizabeth, I didn’t mean to blow off your birthday, but I was so sad I wanted to crawl under my couch and cry.”
On the off chance I did join in with other people, I tended to seek out a pet or small child and occupy myself by entertaining them. I found that children and animals didn’t judge and don’t expect your full ocular attention. I went to concerts alone, movies alone and ran trails alone. I bought a fixed gear bike and imagined I was a renegade bike messenger alone. I was comfortable at home and oddly in front of a room full of students, but the thought of spending time with other adults or making small talk, made me unpleasantly anxious. Muscle tensing anxious. Pace about the room anxious. So I learned to plan gatherings around my own moods and a timetable I could manage. I got more comfortable telling people it was time to leave my house and was a master at leaving other people’s houses. If I couldn’t avoid talking to you as we passed in the hallway, there was a good chance it would be brief and I would walk away while you were still telling me about your weekend. I don’t doubt that some people thought I was rude, awkward or odd. But for me it was necessary.
Because to engage for too long, risked a growing noise in my head and the eventual twitches and jumpy limbs. My head was always alive with sound and thought, so to allow someone else into that space could be (and is still sometimes) very difficult. Imagine talking on the phone, while at the same time watching a movie and someone is trying to tell you about the ravioli they had for dinner. It was hard to concentrate, very difficult to remember details and my temper would flare in response to feeling “interrupted”. And friends expect attention. They want to be remembered, called and questioned about their lives. They want to meet for coffee, go on a hike and spend quality time together. But that requires focus, and it requires space and my head didn’t have a lot of either. So from a very social kid growing up, I found myself spending more and more time alone. I now have a good deal of understanding and respect for this part of who I am, but at the time I couldn’t help feeling that there was something terribly wrong with me. I also imagine there were people that felt the same.
But man could I focus. Hyper-focus. Obsessively focus. When it came to planning curriculum or teaching my classes, the world around me could have been burning and I would be completely oblivious in the moment. As a young, inexperienced teacher there was so much I didn’t know, but the success I had and the amazing things I did in my classroom I credit to my brain’s “ability” to being constantly turned on. I planned lessons in the shower, while I was driving, in the middle of conversations, underwater and even when I was teaching another class. My head was always creating, which meant I was disconnected from the people around me and often unable to simply stop. It was exhausting and when I let it go on for too long without rest or silence, the depression would hit me like a wave. Sometimes in the few seconds after the students left the room, I would stand momentarily stunned, a knot in my stomach and a sadness creeping up my back. I would occasionally just sit at my desk until my next class, when I was somehow able to rev myself back up and do it all over again…and I assumed, no one was the wiser. I did this for 10 years.
And then I couldn’t. It wasn’t a sudden change, but between a multiplying mix of nagging habits, deeper bouts of sadness and a brain that just wouldn’t shut up, I started to crash. I didn’t hit ground immediately, but my head was making it more and more difficult to get through the day. I had a hard time sitting still to read and would find myself bouncing back on sentences I had already read or finishing a chapter and having a broken memory of what had happened. My ability to multitask went into overdrive and it was a struggle to focus on one thing at a time without feeling overwhelmed. I couldn’t fall asleep, so I would read past midnight and then wake up for work exhausted. I started stacking more and more books (in a established order) next to the bed, which then created pressure to keep up that added to the stress. To-do lists were everywhere and the fear of forgetting something important, ever present, even though I wasn’t generally forgetful. My leg bounced frantically in faculty meetings and my interest in creating curriculum started to wane. Having to teach class was a distraction and an intrusion on the ever-increasingly volume of my thoughts.
Because I couldn’t shut off my brain, being around other people was harder and I started to disconnect more and distance myself from social situations entirely. I can’t speak for her, but I don’t imagine it was easy for my wife at the time. I was frequently distracted, sometimes silent and she was forced to adapt to my inflexible, habitual routines. And I was always “tired”. I knew sleepy and I knew the exhaustion I felt after a spending six days on an island with 45 middle school students. I’d covered 27 miles on the Appalachian Trail in one day and during this time was actually at the peak of my road running/racing “career”, posting my fastest times and even winning one 5K outright. So I knew tired. But I was starting to learn what it meant to feel “tired” and it became my go-to response when I was asked, “How are you doing?”
Again what I’ve learned over the years is that there are different rules for mental illness and we treat it differently as a society than we do physical illness or injury. It is generally acceptable to decline an invitation because of a bad ankle sprain suffered playing softball. People are more comfortable hearing about your Type-2 Diabetes and there is sympathy and support when suffering from a serious illness or even the Flu. But the struggle with depression or anxiety, for as absolutely physically and mentally destructive as they can be, is something we hide. And I get it. If you have a cold, I’ll suggest Vitamin-C and if you’re bleeding profusely, it may gross me out, but I know what to do. But after 45 years, I’m still learning to understand what I deal with, so having to explain to you the real reason I don’t want to go see Gladiator or why I’m “acting so weird”, is generally too much of an effort and with the exception of those closest to me, none of your business.
I find that people really don’t want to know anyway and sharing makes them uncomfortable. I have heard the following at least once before and I will promise you they have not helped: “But you look fine”, “What does that even mean?”, “Have you seen a doctor?”, “Why don’t you try medication?”, “We are an overly medicated society, you shouldn’t have to take meds”, “Have you tried meditation?”, “My brother has depression”, “Yeah I get it, I’m totally OCD”, “What could you possibly be sad about?” So while the temptation has occasionally been to tell people to “fuck off”, it is much easier just to say, “I’m tired”. It works. Or at least ends the conversation, which is ultimately my goal. People can relate and they are sympathetic because they haven’t had their coffee yet and “know where you’re coming from”. They will suggest more sleep, sunshine and less sugar. So I learned to lie, to misdirect and to avoid people all together. The more I told people that I was “ok”, the more they either believed or trusted that I was telling them the truth. But I wasn’t ok and I was slowly hiding away from the same people that might have known how to help.
I wasn’t sleeping well and my thoughts raced almost non-stop. I tried every herbal and mineral remedy I could get at Whole Foods and even attempted to meditate. I have no doubt that some people find relief with meditation, but I did not. Meditating for me felt like trying to concentrate while being electrocuted. So I ran more. I went to the gym five days a week. I rode my bike back and forth to school, charging through downtown Annapolis and swerving between the traffic. I went to see a doctor and was referred to three different psychologists. One dug deeper and deeper, attempting to find a trauma that didn’t exist. One lit too much Nag Champa, spoke to me like a child and had me do mindfulness exercises that were a huge waste of my time. The third spent a lot of time looking at me but not asking many questions. So I went back to the doctor. I was desperate; I wanted to feel “normal”. I told him that I just wanted “my head to stop”. He stepped out of the room and came back with a bag of pills. They were samples of Celexa, a common SSRI (antidepressant). “Try these and I’ll see you in two weeks.” Medication? No chance. I didn’t need medicine, I just needed to relax or maybe take more B-vitamins. I knew I was stronger than that and could deal with this on my own. When I got home I put them on my dresser and by the next morning had dumped them in the trash. I was completely discouraged, controlled almost entirely by intrusive thoughts and starting to suffer more and more from longer stretches of a much deeper sadness. But I kept running, kept working, kept fighting to keep my head out of the hole and kept taking my vitamins.
Then I discovered red wine. I’d always been a beer drinker, with the occasional, manly daiquiri or margarita, so wine was more of a fancy indulgence paired with my one Gap dress shirt. But after seeing the movie Sideways, I decided that was the way to go. I loved stopping by the wine store on my way home from work, talking with the owners and learning about floral notes, soil and climate. I kept a journal of my favorites with detailed notes and after a few months was pretty knowledgeable and somewhat of a snob. Not surprisingly it became my new “hobby”. Drinking half a bottle of red wine on a weeknight was ok, because wine is classy and I discovered that after a couple of glasses, my brain shut-up and my body relaxed. I could breathe and I could read. It seemed like a win/win. It was early December 2004, my daughter was two years old and I was barely into my 30’s. By the late spring, I was justifying a bottle of wine a night and soon started on straight Tequila and by that point I was a complete wreck. I was suffering so much and the drinking, while temporarily a fix, only made things worse. It was affecting my family and my teaching. I kept running and working out, but I looked like shit. There is one picture from that time, of me teaching my 8th Project Adventure class. I look heavy, yellow and sick. I still have the scars. I had gotten to the point where the alcohol wasn’t about enjoyment; it was about sedating the anxiety and medicating the pain. It couldn’t last and then one afternoon all the walls came down.
I had actually quit drinking. I can do that. As quickly as I can immerse myself, I can let it go. But damage was done and I didn’t have my nightly sedative, so my stress levels were rocketing and I felt like I was in the dark all the time. Everything seemed to be a trigger and my moods were manic and my temper high. I could be racing around frantically one minute and the next curled up in the couch with my head in my heads. The anxiety could get so bad that I could end up in the bed shaking until I fell asleep. I could get so sad that my body ached, so anxious and my head so loud, that I couldn’t concentrate enough to get through the day in one piece. And I just broke.
I know that I was teaching a 7th grade Civics and I remember sitting down. I was told later that in the middle of class I just stopped and sat at my desk. One student said she thought that I was crying, but I don’t remember. Someone went to the office and said that I needed help and one of the secretaries came and brought me to sit near her desk. I don’t remember these things, but I remember that eventually a mother of one of my students arrived and told me to get in her car. She drove me across town to a complex of office buildings past the Blockbuster Video. She brought me into a doctor’s waiting room and I do remember looking around and realizing I was in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. And I remember that I wasn’t the only one. There was a young teenage girl sitting with her mother and peeling the skin off the back of her fingers. There was one man whispering to himself and occasionally knocking the back of his head against the wall. There were others and I knew that I was one of them. I had gone crazy. Joan sat with me until the doctor was able to see me, then gave me a hug and left.
He was a tall black man. Bland sweater and thick, framed glasses. I think that I might have been disappointed that there wasn’t a couch for me to sprawl on. He asked me questions and I answered them. I shook and I cried a lot. He listened and asked more questions. He wasn’t probing and wasn’t trying to lead me. I felt small and I felt like a failure. I wanted to understand why I was feeling this way and I wanted to know why I couldn’t settle my brain. I pointed out the things in my life that were difficult, assuming that he’d latch on to one and that would explain everything. But it wasn’t the job, it wasn’t the tattoo, it wasn’t the stack of books, it was me. He explained that I’d spent my whole life (maybe even beginning with those asymmetrical jeans in 3rd grade) creating coping mechanisms in response to things that made me anxious and that they had been piling up and piling up. And I just couldn’t keep them stacked up anymore.
“You have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and suffer from Clinical Depression.” I imagine that hearing that diagnosis at a different point in my life I would have dismissed it entirely and moved on. But in that moment I felt rescued. I wanted help so badly and to be able to point it out and give it a name, meant that I wasn’t fighting blind anymore. I started sobbing. I was scared, I felt utterly alone and helpless but there was also a relief. I at least knew where I could start. It was a chemical thing, it was out of my control. I had fought back the best I could with the resources that I had, but it would never have been enough. We set follow-up appointments and he wrote me two prescriptions: Paxil and Ativan. The Paxil would be the key to getting better and the Ativan would help me get through the terrible anxiety until the Paxil could balance in my system. He said the next two weeks would be difficult. I remember shaking his hand. He had big hands. I filled my prescriptions on my way home, but to this day I have no idea HOW I got home. And he was right; the next two weeks were awful.
The Ativan helped, cutting the sharp edge from the terrible spin of the anxiety and after a day off, got me together enough that I could get back to work. But running a narcotic through your blood three times a day put me in a daze, at times feeling drugged enough that I’m pretty sure I slurred my words a bit. There may have also been some drooling. My energy levels were sapped and I felt stupid. I don’t know what I would have done without those little white pills. But being a controlled substance, I had to go cold turkey on the Ativan after two weeks or I risked dependence. So as the 14th day approached, I was terrified of what would happen when the plug got pulled. But once the drug was out of my system, the relative calm was still there. I remember feeling “even”. I wasn’t crying and not that I’ve ever been much of a laugher, but there wasn’t any of that either. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I wasn’t feeling ANYTHING. I needed a break from all of the feeling, but thankfully this “deadening” was ultimately short lived.
So now I had therapy and I had medication and needed to start putting myself back together. I felt like a disaster and I was embarrassed that things had been so public. But at the start I was really upfront about what I was going through. The upside to people seeing me crash was that they were sympathetic and they reached out to help. People “knew someone” or had “an uncle growing up” who dealt with depression and “knew how hard it could be”. This of course is bullshit, but it took some time before I had to resist the urge to spit on people when they said that. But it didn’t take long before the looks of pity made me feel lower and the expectation that I should be “getting better” made me angry. So after about a month or so, it was easier (again) to tell people I was “just tired”.
I know I began to feel better, but don’t know how long it took. It wasn’t immediate and it did take some time for the side effects to disappear, leaving me spacey during the day, with wildly, vivid dreams at night and a metallic taste in my mouth for a few weeks. But soon I noticed that the constant noise was less present and I was able to push smaller intrusive thoughts away when they started to dig in. But I didn’t know normal. I didn’t know how to gauge “better”. Even now when I get hit with a wave of depression, my awareness of the severity and impact isn’t clear until after I’ve gotten out the other side. Sometimes it can be waking up feeling lighter and alert. Sometimes it feels like heavy, invisible fog pulls away and the place I’ve been doesn’t seem real. I began to have bad days and better days. Then “ok” days and good days. And one day that I’ll remember forever.
I had spent the year working as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. I would lead groups of students and even give up time on the weekend. I’ve never been particularly skilled with my hands and was never taught even basic carpentry. I’ve also struggled all of my life retaining information and directions when they’re given orally. Teachers assumed I wasn’t paying attention and employers would often have to repeat things more than once. Understandably, when there was a division of labor, it was easier to give me the simplest, most labor intensive and mentally limited tasks. I wanted to do more than dig holes or haul supplies, but I became more embarrassed to ask for clarification and was convinced people just thought I was an idiot or too easily distracted to handle anything more complex. I TRIED to pay attention and take in the details, but would forget things almost immediately. But this one day, they were short Red Hats (crew leaders) and because I had been volunteering on the site for weeks, asked if I could take a small group of first time volunteers and frame out a bedroom. The team leader nervously laid out the instructions and introduced me to my crew. And I took in every detail. My head felt completely clear. I told the others to grab nail bibs and hammers while I quickly walked off the job site and behind a building. Then I started to sob.
I had felt trapped for so long in my head, tripped up by the chaos of all the constant thoughts. I had been called “slow” and had been criticized for an unwillingness to pay attention. Suddenly, I felt the calm and an unfamiliar quiet and I just didn’t know how to react. People sometimes ask if I’m “happy”. To be honest I often don’t know how to answer that question. More commonly, then and now, the question is “are you ok?”. That’s another tough one to answer, and that day on the HFH site, I would have probably answered, “I don’t know.” But I also knew that the medication was working and that I had a chance. A month later I was given my red hat. I hated red. But I sure as hell wore that hat.
It’s been almost 13 years since I stood behind that building crying. There have been several significant changes in my life and a whole lot of unremarkable and mostly forgettable things that have happened inside my head. I’ve changed some, but I’ve never gotten “better”. After moving to Vermont I switched to Celexa (another SSRI) to hopefully relieve the few side effects I was dealing with on Paxil and until recently it was my go to pill. I keep Ativan around if I need it, but it spends more of its time on the shelf. I struggled for many years with the idea that I needed the medication to be normal and modified the dosage on my own or stopped taking the pills more than once believing I was fixed.
The first few weeks I’d feel great and I’d pat myself on the back for knowing what was best. But every time, without exception, the anxiety would come roaring back and I was forced to admit defeat and start the meds all over again. I didn’t want to take pills forever. The idea that I was dependent on chemicals to live my life was sickening and I felt that I just needed some more time to fix whatever was broken. I even made a few more attempts at talk-therapy and even found a psychologist named Bunny who refused to feed me any bullshit and gave me a few helpful tools. But my depression and anxiety have never gone away and I’ve accepted at this point that they never will. I’ve (mostly) learned not to see this as a defeat and give myself a pass on not being able to find a “cure”. I’ve (mostly) come to a place of being ok with not being ok. Having a diagnosis has given me a place to stand and fight from and I’ve found others who deal with some of their own darkness, which helps to remind me I’m not alone. I write when I can and even discovered the podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression, which unexpectedly has given me more hope, clarity and insight into my own head than I’ve felt in years. I do what I can to push back against the walls when they move in; watching what I eat, trying to get enough sleep and keeping my body moving.
But there are days when I still hurt. Mornings when I face anxiety that seems intent on making me want to crawl out of my own skin and scream or sadness that is so thick I don’t want to move. I wish I could make that fucking pain go away for good, but I know the best I can often do is to ride it out. Most of the time I manage and occasionally it kicks my ass. Because that’s the deal with depression, it’s something you carry every day, like a weight vest only the universe can adjust. You wake up in the morning with at least a 1 pound lump of iron in the little Velcro pocket over your heart, or maybe you’re stuck carrying around the full 40 lb load. There’s no way to know. And anxiety? It’s like waking up on fire, while maybe being chased by a bear.
In the middle of writing this, I hit a couple days where everything just came down at once. In November, I started feeling my depression appearing more regularly. I was carrying the heaviness of the first two months of the school year, piled on top of the general weight of life and went to see the doctor with the concern that maybe the Celexa (my med of a decade) wasn’t as effective anymore. After some discussion, I made the decision to try a new medication (Zoloft) and set off on a wondrous eight week adventure of chemical readjustment.
Jump forward to January, a switch to Lexapro and the most horrendous few days in recent memory hit me like a truck. I didn’t want to quit, but after struggling with the ups and downs of a serotonin merry-go-round for far too long, I wanted off. I was spacey, my memory was blur and it felt like the depression and anxiety were competing to see which could break me first. After work I would run into the woods, my shoes in metal spikes, hoping to outrun the storm. But even there, I felt my chest collapsing and felt a suffocating combination of fear and grief. I would stop, try to breathe and resist the urge to sit against a tree and sleep. Then I’d start running again, hoping to beat them both. But they won together. I was completely beaten and could barely do more than watch the entire season of Ozark and drink coffee. I didn’t want to talk, to exercise, read or move. I was angry at everything and the volume in my head was so cranked up, that I just felt stupid. And the sadness was agonizing. It was physical and it was deep.
Then I made it out. I always do, even when in the moment it feels hopeless and endless. Even if I know I’ll be back again. That’s one of the worst parts of dealing with depression and anxiety; time can become a monster and it can slow way down. If you sprain your ankle, you can Google a fairly accurate recovery time and a set of super handy exercises to get you on your way. When you get a cold and your highly enthusiastic friend suggests a herbal remedy and assures you that you’ll get through it in 10 days, you can wrap your head around that time frame. But when you’re really suffering from depression or anxiety and a doctor says that the new medication she has prescribed will take four weeks to be effective, it might as well be a fucking lifetime. Even getting through a single day can feel impossible. But I get through and I keep moving forward.
It’s been 45 years and 13 with some grasp of what’s going on inside my brain. I’ve learned to start seeing myself as more than just a bag of broken pieces and not feeling bad about who I am or what I need. And I am incredibly fortunate to have people in my life that will hold me together when I’m coming apart, love me when I’m not lovable, stay close even when I seem far away and see more light when all I can see is the dark. People that are patient, unselfish and understanding (even when I know it can be hard to understand). People who don’t take it personally and who know that a hand on my shoulder or a hug to let me know it’ll “be ok”, is maybe all that I need in the moment.
But I still get sad sometimes.