|Artist: Jeremy Lipking|
I realize now that no one would've judged me. In fact, in the last six months, I've had an amazing outpouring of support from you guys and my fellow bloggers. I don't think it would've been possible for me to return like this, if it hadn't been for those emails and messages. To all those who wrote to check in, say thanks and/or express concern over my health, I'm truly grateful. I'm sorry I haven't written back, but please know that your kind words have helped me get through this. Now, I've decided to come clean or as Ernest Hemingway put it, I'm going to "write hard and clear about what hurts".
Last fall, I became depressed. I can remember it clearly because it was the first week of October and I'd just finished a month of blogging that I'd been really proud of. I didn't feel well, I knew that, and I knew what was wrong and yet, I pretended it wasn't happening. I thought I could will it away. I believed that if I could push through and insist it wasn't going on, everything would be alright again. I had gone more than a year without a major depressive episode and I had been so relieved to be in remission that I couldn't admit that my symptoms were returning. It sounds counterintuitive now, but at the time, I had dug myself into such deep denial that I allowed my symptoms to worsen for months.
Piece by piece, my depression robbed me of everything I loved. I had so little energy that showering became a task of Herculean proportions. I couldn't concentrate so writing was out of the question. I wasn't interested in spending time with my friends, my family or Zack. I stared dead eyed at the tv for weeks at a time, an ugly husk of who I'd been only months before. I refused to leave the house, I wasn't working. As ashamed as I am to admit this, my boyfriend was doing it all. Zack worked day and night to support us, he made our meals, did the chores, and ran errands while I sat -- but mostly laid -- on the couch, waiting for...I don't know what, a miracle? Oblivion? Death? By the time I finally went to the doctor's, it was February.
After weeks of tinkering with my medication and hauling myself to therapy, I began to feel like myself again. I was optimistic, I could hold a conversation, and I wanted to get myself back in the game. But then, I encountered a phase of recovery no one warned me about. My life had been reduced to it's skeleton and I felt painfully overwhelmed by how much I hadn't done. I had hundreds of unchecked emails, piles of product to review, and I'd fallen out of touch with all my friends. I wanted to rebuild, but there was so much to work on, I didn't know where to start. Depression is such a stigmatized condition that I didn't want to explain what had really happened. I was so embarrassed to admit what I believed was my own culpability -- I'd denied my illness for so long -- that I couldn't bring myself to face the parts of my life that had slipped away.
Simultaneously, I was vaguely traumatized by what had happened. I'd been in remission, I'd built a life for myself, and out of nowhere, the thing I was most terrified of had returned. If this could happen randomly, then it could happen again any time. Like, tomorrow. Or, the next day or the day after that. Depression had wrecked my life but even as I began to heal, I felt that the disorder was waiting for me around the next corner. I couldn't shake the fear so I froze. I didn't know where to start reconstructing my life so I didn't. I took the possum's way out, I played dead. Just as denying my depression hadn't "worked" all winter, rendering myself immobile for fear I'd lose everything again wasn't helpful in the long term.
Depression is the best thief in the world because even when you think it's robbed you blind, it finds something else to steal. I learned that little gem in late April when Zack sat me down in our kitchen and explained that he didn't love me anymore. I can't really blame him. He didn't sign up to be my nursemaid and he was paying the bills for two people when he was only 26 and on a musician's salary. He'd been amazing while I was sick: he'd ferried me to my appointments, insured that I didn't need to worry about anything but getting better and talked me down from the edge whenever I was convinced that my life was pointless. I was enormously grateful and I know I couldn't have gotten better without him, but the ordeal had been too much. Justifiably so and yet, as he explained to me that he'd been thinking about this for weeks, I felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room and the apocalypse I'd been waiting for had finally begun.
When I think about the last two months, I tend to see a giant mushroom cloud. Zack and I had picked out baby names, we'd discussed wedding venues, and the relationship I thought was meant to be was gone. I'd love to say that I was cool about all this or it had been a mutual break up, but that would be an epic lie. I've been undeniably uncool. Let me give you an example:
An hour after he broke up with me, I decided to go shopping at the local bookstore because duh, isn't that what everyone does the day they're dumped?! I'd rushed out of the apartment in a pair of jeans and a long sleeved tee like a hot mess. My hair was dirty, I'd picked at my acne, and I'd been sobbing for a solid 60 minutes so suffice it to say, I didn't want to run into anyone I know. In an act of supremely inept subterfuge, I threw a scarf over my head and headed into the shop like a deranged Jason Bourne. I'd chosen my books, paid for them, and decided to peruse the sale section they kept on a table outside when a middle aged woman approached me. She was smiling, sweet looking and seemed polite as she prefaced her question with a soft spoken, "I don't mean to offend you and you don't have to answer if you don't want to". I froze, instantly understanding what was coming next and realizing I was totally unequipped to deal with it. She leaned in, "As a young Muslim woman, why do you choose to wear the hajib?". I looked at her, looked at the parking lot sprawled in front of us and I couldn't summon the will to correct her. In a dazed state, I began to say things like, "Although faith is very personal and private, I'm not ashamed to appear in public and express what I believe in". Yes, that's right, folks. Mere hours after my boyfriend of four and a half years had dumped me, I was impersonating a Muslim.
I've been sitting in the public library while I write this, feeling the sun set behind my back. Truthfully, I haven't figured anything out. I might stay with my sister in Burlington, Vermont or fly out to my cousin's in Austin. I miss Zack acutely each day. I've thought of going back to school to be a librarian or a graphic designer. I've realized that I have to write to be happy and that I've missed you guys tremendously. I don't know what I'm doing, but right now, with the sun and the library and the locals moseying around, I think it's going to be okay. And that's good enough for me.
So, what do you say? Shall I get this old gal up and running again? Are you still interested in what this neurotic, newly single, highly medicated & thoroughly broke girl has to say about lingerie?