Today is glorious. It’s not a special occasion. There is nothing BIG happening….or really, anything, happening today. But it’s the first day in a long while I have felt like myself. I enjoyed my yoga practice this morning even though all the lights were on and there was a little boy all up in my grill making airplane noises. I made it to the farmer’s market and natural food store, then came home and put on soup and settled down with My Love to watch college ball opening day. Fall is in the air, but the sun is still breaking through the clouds and it’s in the low 70s. A simple, beautiful, cozy life.
The past month has been a dark one for me. For no particular reason, I started to feel the threat of depression peeking around corners at me. I have known this feeling my whole life, but was a teenager before I had a word to call it. D E P R E S S I O N.
I worked extra hard at being happy with the chaos of my life, and being social and bubbly, loving and attentive to my boyfriend, patient and present for my son. But there was always a heavy, black Cloud behind me…I could sense it, but couldn’t hide from it. The more I ran and pushed myself, the faster it sped up. I zigged, The Cloud zagged. If I stopped for a moment to ponder the sad feelings starting to settle in my heart, The Cloud caught me and sat right over my head. I was strong enough to break through, shake it off for awhile and keep on. Until I got smacked with terrible news and The Cloud won. (I will write of that news another time. I need to collect my thoughts.)
I became engulfed in the heavy, dark, hopeless cover of the Depression Cloud. The anxiety that I had fought back into submission roared back into life, causing me to gasp for breath all day long. I felt like my sternum would crack from my heart slamming into it all the time. I slept every chance I got. It was a struggle to get out of bed in the morning, so my yoga practice suffered. The few sequences I could manage hurt my body so badly I ended in tears and frustration. I thought “great, another thing I fail at.” I fell asleep on the couch after dinner (and a bottle of wine) almost every night, wasting valuable time with my family. Even though I was sleeping more, it felt like I hadn’t slept in weeks. I got rip-roaring drunk more during the week than is good for me, especially when my job is so mentally demanding (and knowing my family history). I went through the motions of my day, but couldn’t remember or enjoy anything. Food didn’t taste at all, or tasted off, so I barely ate. I cried anytime I was alone, and brought back that old, useful skill of crying without ruining my mascara. I could lose my mind for a few minutes in the bathroom and walk out without anybody even knowing about my breakdown. It wasn’t just the news that was breaking me, it was the fears surrounding my own child. Even if it’s just one thing that triggers a depressive patch, all your old insecurities and tragedies come rushing back at you until you’re buried under years of pain and stress and loneliness. And as an empath, I take on everybody else’s pain too. I was literally carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and it was breaking me.
As it always happens to me, stress manifests itself physically and I got sick. Every single joint in my body ached like I was 100 years old, and my skin was raw to the touch. I couldn’t even push up my sleeves or wash my hands without an electric jolt. The softest clothes brought me to tears, just because they were touching me. I felt feverish, broken. There was an old cheesy commercial for depression medication in the 90s that had the tagline “Depression Hurts.” It’s true. Truer beyond true. There was no reason I should be feeling like this, except for that fact that I was in a dark depression spell. The Cloud was so dark and heavy and came at me so fast, I was scared I was losing myself. I have worked so hard to contain my crazy without medication and was actually pretty successful with it. This sudden onset of darkness petrified me, and made me angry. I am not willing to give up everything to sit in The Cloud. I have to much going for me. So in the darkness, I forced myself to find some light. The sweetness of a friend. The heat of the sun. A delicious coffee. I started the #100daysofhappiness challenge on Instagram. Anything to prove to me that it would be okay. That I could come out on top again if I kept fighting.
Yesterday was better, although I was edgy and cranky at work. I shook it off and was awake and talkative when C came home. My near constant anxiety of the past several weeks peaked last night to the point my chest physically hurt. I curled up on the couch and forced deep, cleansing breaths until I contained my panic. Then I changed my sheets, pulled out my down comforter from the closet and went to bed.
This morning I woke up and sensed that things were different. I drank super strong, black coffee slowly and then rolled out my yoga mat. I did a 30 minute restorative session and walked away smiling, instead of curled up in a tearful ball on my mat like I had last time. I knew then that I was coming back. I was fighting The Cloud, and winning. I’m not 100% back yet. That will take some time. My anxiety is still sitting in my throat, causing me to be snippy and reclusive. I’m still bone tired, craving sleep constantly. But I’m here. My head is above The Cloud, and that’s a start. I’m remembering things I like, and I’m staying away from alcohol for awhile. I need clarity to keep fighting this damned Cloud. It’s a fight that will never go away, but I know I can win for awhile. I know this because I’ve done it before. And I’ll do it again. I’m no quitter.
One of my very favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton over at Momastery, writes candidly about depression and anxiety. She explains coming out of The Cloud beautifully. She says:
“So now I’m in the returning part, which has its own challenges. I feel so grateful. But I also feel fresh—new—baby-like, vulnerable, exposed, skinless. Like a soft shell crab that has outgrown its previous shell but hasn’t quite found a new one to wear yet.
For me, these depression times are exactly like an eraser. They come and stay and when they leave they take everything with them. The only way I can describe it is that I feel totally new—like I’ve forgotten all the wisdom I learned before. Like I’m starting over.”