Trigger warning: mental illness, depression
Recovery is a strange thing. It doesn’t really seem to matter what it is you’re recovering from – an illness, injury, or loss – the process is more or less the same. I suppose the five stages of grief would apply in a lot of cases, possibly even mine. Anyone who has dealt with the five stages knows that the stages aren’t linear, they aren’t predictable, and you spend a lot of time repeating them. Eventually you come out on the other side, some other side, be it a good one or a bad one, and you learn to live a changed life.
In 2005, I was diagnosed with chronic depression. It was neither surprising nor pleasant to hear. Depression is something that has lurked around my life for a very long time. I have several definitive moments in my life that are filed under I Will Never Forget This Moment:
1. The hell of 8th grade – something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy
2. The day I was walking to work in college and realized I was depressed
3. The past three months (give or take)
Having dealt with depression for so long has made it a grim sort of companion for me. It is always nearby and it has, for a majority of my life, ebbed and flowed quite gently. Some drops were more difficult than others but they always ended and I could get back to some sort of even keel.
Then the even keel disappeared. Any semblance of balance and rationality left with it. Then my concentration exited the building. All of it, anything I had inside, was then replaced by a very dark fog. I began having panic attacks. I stopped cleaning. Stopped cooking. Stopped caring. I pushed through the week just to get to the weekend, and then I spent the weekend crying on the couch, wrapped in my blankets, and wondering how I’d get through another week.
I stopped sleeping. I went to bed very late, woke up very early. I became obsessive. I listened to the same song for hours on end, all day and all night, for a week. It began affecting every corner of my life. Every single corner.
There was a breaking point, as there almost always is with stuff like this. I am fortunate to be surrounded by supportive and kind people who understand, who help when they can. And then I decided, after another Saturday spent terrified and panicked and fragile on my couch, that I couldn’t do it anymore.
I needed help.
There are many, many layers to this story. Many chapters I could write, many things I could tell you about all of these journeys and experiences, but that’s not my intention for this blog or this blog post. (And seriously, it’s just way too…what’s the word? Depressing.)
The short version: my doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant and it’s working. I noticed a change within two days. I started humming one morning when I got to work. I was putting my things away and what? Why am I humming? Like, I don’t even want to stop! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.
It was followed by quite possibly the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had in my life (and THIS, my friends, is finally the point of this blog post). I didn’t hate writing anymore. In fact, I was kind of infatuated with it. Well, not so much the IT of writing but the IDEA of writing, and that’s huge. The tummy tickle happiness and freedom that I used to feel when I thought about writing came back. I don’t know when it left. I don’t know when I turned that corner. I do know that it was like someone had severed one of my limbs. My identity has been, for the longest time, tied up in writing.
I know, it’s weird that I’m that way. The audience who gets to see anything I write is handpicked and even then, you kind of have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. And then there’s that whole I rarely even write anymore, I’ve never had anything published, and I have very little desire to even TRY to get something published thing. Everyone has her process, amirite?
Ah, yes. Writing. Writing! I’ve missed it over the past however many years it has been missing from my life. The void is not completely filled in yet and there is still so much more I need to do in terms of myself and my writing (and a million other things), but there is a spark of hope. A tiny blip of light, like a single firefly in a giant field.
It’s the first step of Recovery. That’s what I’ve taken to calling the gentle breaking in of my atrophied writing muscles: Recovery. It started on Sunday with something horrible and elementary and a moment of sheer frustration where I wanted to throw my laptop out the window, but I took a deep breath, reminded myself that a lot of crappy gunk is going to come out first and that later, down the road a bit, better and cleaner things will appear.
So baby steps into Recovery. It all starts here.