(CW: brief mention of self harm and suicidal thoughts, extensive and descriptive discussion on what it’s like to have depression and anxiety (please let me know if there are any other specifics I should add…))
What’s it like?
No, seriously. What’s it like to live life without depression? What’s it like to live without battling anxiety in your brain every day, trying its hardest to convince you of untruths?I’ve been pondering this question for a while now and discussing it with other friends who have similar struggles, and we’re really not sure.
When you first meet me, I’m painfully shy and have a difficult time carrying a conversation (especially if I don’t find you particularly interesting…shhhhhh…)
And once I warm up, I’m a passionate flailing-muppet-arm word-vomity mess. Without a filter. I overshare. I’m brutally open and honest to a fault. Some may even call me abrasive or obnoxious.
Especially when you get me going on issues I’m passionate about.
This has been something that has become painfully clear to me over this past year on my path to a deeper sense of self awareness.
And so, here I am, with a whole lot to say about things that directly affect me and the people I care about, trying to figure out how to speak about them and gently educate people who may not be aware of them and/or strongly disagree with them.
There’s a fine line to walk and, over the past election season especially, I have witnessed all sorts of variations of communication and debate.
If you read my most recent post, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with how to balance activism and staying informed about the current state of events in our country with my own mental health.
I struggle with whether or not I’m just using it as a crutch or an excuse. I struggle with guilt in not participating in ways others are.
As the Women’s March approached, I wrestled in my mind with it. While I now live less than 100 miles from Washington D.C., I am nowhere near my amazing, strong feminist friends. And I have pretty crippling anxiety regarding crowds and loud places. So the idea of going to one of these events, let alone by myself, seemed impossible. There were some smaller events locally, but even the idea of going to one of those stressed me out.
And so I stayed home, glued to social media. I was inspired and energized and filled with love and hope, witnessing literally HUNDREDS of my friends attending these events all over the country and even world.
The crippling depression and anxiety that followed a divorce and move across the country to a place where I knew absolutely no one
Becoming more active and trying to eat better
Between May 2014 and March 2015, I had lost (at my most) 50 pounds.
And, although my rapid weight loss has stabilized, I’ve managed to solidly stay down 40 pounds over the past year.
According to the BMI, which many people hold as a whole lot of bullshit because it alone can’t tell me how healthy I am, I should still lose 30 pounds to put me squarely into the “ideal weight” category. When I was that weight while I was in grad school, my professors, coworkers and classmates were concerned about my health, if that says anything.
I was a little disappointed that my medication didn’t keep easily shedding those pounds for me, but I think my body has kind of reached the point of stasis. Ideally, I would like to lose 10-20 more pounds, but I’m pretty proud of my progress and the fact that I have kept it off.
So. Now that my body has decided that I need to do some work to keep it this weight, what have I done?
I’ve seen dozens of think pieces, of Facebook posts from friends and strangers, telling me how I should feel about myself and my outlook on this year. I should feel lucky, I should take a good hard look at myself and realize that it’s all my damn fault that I’m not happy (forget about the fact that we have no control over some very serious shit that can happen like death and poverty and mental illness and abuse and it’s a very victim-blaming way to think about it to tell us we can just snap out of it.)
Personally, I’ll admit that 2015 was the bigger dumpster fire for me. That was when my depression had gotten its worst ever, and shit hit the fan with my marriage. 2016 has been a year of growth and rebuilding my life.
But for this country, 2016 has thrust me into a huge amount of worry. But that’s out of my control in many ways.
So what are my take-aways for 2016? What have I learned? How have I changed?
Since I have an MFA in an aspect of theatre, I’ve read a lot of plays, and I am no stranger to the work of Samuel Beckett.
I first saw a production of Waiting for Godot as a senior in high school while visiting what would become my undergrad theatre department in 2004. I knew nothing about the play, and, while I claimed to be an artsy and intelligent student, I was pretty perplexed by it all.
Waiting for Godot is an existential absurdist play in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are stuck in an eternal loop of limbo in which they are constantly waiting for a character named “Godot” who never comes.