Over the last few months I’ve been reacquainted with my old friend, depression. It’s been so long since I’ve seen her that at first I didn’t recognize what was happening to me. I stood in front of a group of writers just a few weeks ago and introduced my best friend who was there to teach a workshop on plot structure. “She saved my life,” I told them. “Dragged me out of one of the darkest depressions I’ve ever experienced…” That was years ago. So far behind me that I barely remembered the hopelessness of it. Little did I know at the time, I was about to be hit with a category five, in fact it had already started and I failed to see the signs.
What is depression anyway?
Well, for me it’s a numb hopelessness. A dread. An emotional and spiritual exhaustion which leads you to believe that there is no beginning and there will be no end. You can’t quite remember a time when you didn’t feel this heavy. Depression eliminates the possibility of a future; you don’t want it, you don’t need it. In fact you crave for nothingness because anything is better than the damp fog you’re walking around in.
I talk about it. It’s been a slow process of learning how to ask for help but even in the middle of it all I realize that my life is important and my presence in my family’s life is important. So, I tell people how I feel and gather as much light and wisdom as I can.
“Mindfulness. Here and now. Stop thinking and immerse yourself in the present…” That’s the advice my friend Christine Brae gave me. Good advice since my depression is often triggered by a perceived failure which sits like a sentinel in the forefront of my mind. It chases away all logical, optimistic and healthy thoughts. When you believe you’re failing at something that’s what happens. You don’t remember all of the success and triumphs, you most certainly don’t know how to focus on the good that has come.You see only the failures…the hurts. Okay, I could do that. A clumsy attempt to stop thinking about my weaknesses as a human and an artist resulted in an almost emotional constipation. I just tried not to think at all. I focused instead on what I could do today, right now. The mother I could be today, the words I could craft today, the life I could live today. That helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.
“For the past five years your life has been a tornado. The winds are only slowing down now, but there’s the aftermath of wreckage you’re forced to deal with…” That’s the truth Colleen Hoover gave me. I felt justified by that one. Yeah, I’ve had a hell of a five year period. I don’t even know how much hurt and turmoil could be crammed into five years, but it was. Everything changed, then changed again, then changed once more. And I’ve barely found my footing while still holding bandages to seeping wounds. I’m stumbling through emotional wreckage while trying to navigate a new and healthy life. I feel like I have PTSD and I know for a fact I don’t deal with hurt I just move past it. If you don’t acknowledge it it’s not there right? Right. Though I think that sometimes your body forces you to acknowledge it. I think I’m being forced to deal with things I’ve refused to look at for years. That includes the death of my father.
“You need to slow down. You take on too much…” That was the advice given to me by my assistant and friend, Serena Knautz. It’s true. I choose to be an indie author because of the control it affords me. But, there is steep price to pay when you own your own business and manage your own career. I am every job. I have to do each one with the precision and perfection; a recipe that will drive a sane person mad. I am the mind behind the marketing, the covers, the ideas, the advertising, the social media presence and the art of words. I am also a full time mother—the one who has to bake shit, and fill out forms, and participate in fund raisers. The one who scrubs the grass stains off of the knees of pants, and who loads and unloads the dishwasher. The cook, and the lunch packer, and the toilet scrubber, and the dog walker. I am the sheet changer, and the homework helper, and the moral teacher. I don’t allow myself to slack in any area because I am a perfectionist in the home. Except I do slack because one person cannot do everything. And when things slip through my grasp and I feel as if I’ve lost control, I suffer. Serena is right. I have to start choosing my battles so that I have the chance to win them instead of feeling the weight of constant loss.
So there it is. Advice for the present, knowledge about the source, advice for the future. If you want to conquer depression these are things I have found help me. Friends are important, their perspective has been important, their comfort and understanding has been necessary. I have friends who pray for me, who check on me each day, who show up to be near me so I don’t feels so isolated and alone. I have a husband whose brow may be permanently creased from the worry, and who feeds, and rubs, and holds me when I forget who I am. He’s been an anchor though I’ve hardly seen him in the last few months. I need to see him more because he reminds me of hope. I have a mom who comes over and rubs my back for hours.
I’m not out of the woods. You can never quite predict when this sort of thing will end. And I have some things I need to work on, clearly. As I said in my last post about Ryder I’ve pulled back a great deal on social media and on my phone. I worry about you guys, those of you who don’t have the support system I do. Those of you who don’t have someone reminding you that your life is important, and that this too shall pass. So here I am. I want to tell you that you’re not broken and this is not permanent. Your life holds great value. The chances of each one of us being born are slim (1 in 400,000,000,00**). You are a miracle. Take your one life and do something with it. Something big, and bold, and beautiful. It’s never too late.