I cried this morning. For almost an hour.
This email is why:
I don't even know where to begin other than thank you, thank you, thank you.
I came across your latest writing on the Huffington post when I googled "How do I talk to my family about my depression". I have spent the last couple of hours pouring over your blog, and various things you have written.
YOU have singlehandedly given me the belief this morning that I am not alone, that's someone in this world has my back, even if it's not in traditional sense and I should work like hell to keep fighting.
I am tempted to tell you my whole story. Let's just say I am a 35 year old, single (divorced for 10 months), mother of a 2 and 3 year old, runner, writer, thinker, corporate world professional (blah). I was diagnosed with depression in my early teens and grew up in a family where my depression, any feelings really, weren't acknowledged, talked about etc... I was/am the black sheep and was really groomed to believe that there was things wrong with me that needed to be "fixed". and I have tried like hell, I have told myself, you are bad, you are wrong, you need to fix yourself. But see, the thing is, I have never been able to be fixed because I am ok just the way I am. Depression is a part of who I am. I am not broken. BUT I need to learn how to manage my way in the world and that is where I struggle.
I persevere, I triumph, I kick ass. I goal set. I reach goals. I impress people. I give the world tangible things to look at and say, Wow, [T.L.] is great. But desperately, it's my way of deflecting from who I truly am. It's my way of asking the world, am I enough, do you want me, do you love me? And guess what, I have never gotten the answer that I want, because (here come's the cliché) the answer lives with me. Inside of me. It's not what the world thinks. It's what I think.
So, my reality is that I am a single warrior in my battle to be me and to manage my depression. I don't have familial support. I don't have local friends - my ex and I moved to a new city together and really kept our circle, well, small. In my reality, it's amazingly easy to isolate. I have had a tough year, with a divorce, a move, the realities of single parenting, a demanding and shitty at times job (that isn't my passion). I have had three suicide attempts (one in high school) and unfortunately the last 2 have been within the last year - this exact time last year, and this past March. I have an amazing therapist (everyone should!) and the last few weeks, for reasons I can't really articulate, I began to spiral, into a dark, but recognizable place. And when I spiral, I spiral fast. I'm ok, then I am not ok. I am kind of ok. I am managing, and then I am throwing in the towel on life. It's not that I want to die. I have so many amazing things to live for. I just want the pain to stop and when the pain starts to infiltrate every aspect of my life - physically, emotionally, I just get exhausted and want to check out. So that is when I usually make an irrational choice that lands me in the hospital being judged by people that really don't give a shit about my mental health.
So this time, this week, I recognized where I was rapidly headed and I called my therapist for a emergency visit and we came up with a plan. I was able to be honest, she knows me and all my realities well enough to know, that what she thought, and I agreed was best, was to take a brief leave of absence from work, and enter an IOP at a local hospital - Intensive Outpatient program. I was lucky enough to get a spot and I start Tuesday. I will get properly medicated (I'm the classic "stops taking medication when feeling better" person) and participate in 6 hours of therapy every day for 7-10 days. I am scared as hell and it has been nothing short of terrifying to step off the train and take action. Give attention where it needs to be given. I am freaking about this. I am in a mess of paperwork for human resources, short term disability etc... all while feeling like a big pile of crap. BUT deep down, I know that I am calling depression ( as you so eloquently put it) " my bitch". I am owning it this time and saying on no, I am not letting you do this to me. I am not thinking that this is the magic ticket, I know I have life long work to do, BUT I also know that I am doing something I have never done before that is positive.
So, here I sit, alone in my apartment. The only people I have seen in the last few days have been my kiddos and their daycare providers. My reality is that I don't have a support system locally - I know I desperately need to build that and it's on my to-do list when I get a big more strong. I wish mental health, depression wasn't so stigmatized, because I tell you, part of me feels like there should be a ticker tape parade up my street right now in my honor saying, "Holy shit, you own this, you are brave and worthy, and amazing". But no, instead, we are taught to feel shame and I am sure there are all sorts of interesting whispers about "[T.L.'s] medical leave" at the office right now. Oh well, my life, saving my life, is far more important than that. Right?
So THANK YOU for putting your amazing writing and thoughts out into the world. I can't tell you how it makes me feel to know that I am not alone and that someone gets it. I am so glad that I came upon your writing. You've got a new reader and fan.
Nice to "meet" you.
T. L. (Portland, ME)
I woke up this morning in a worse place than I was yesterday. And yesterday, I woke up in a worse place than the day before. It's been like that for a few weeks now. Despite keeping my head up and powering through, it seems life wants to test me a new way every day. If it's not having the back windows of my truck smashed out (on Sunday), it's having my Paypal account locked because someone falsely accused me of not shipping their item... and that's where all my book money is. It's been a bit of bad news every day for the past few weeks (hell, let's face it, all of 2013 has been a test for me). And this morning was just a new step on the staircase downward.
One of the [MANY] changes I've had to make in my life is the decision to write full-time. I have made some very hard-to-handle discoveries about myself, and one of them was the fact that my entire professional career has been the cause of my misery. It's a struggle right now to do writing full-time. Income is meager, to say the least. But it's the right call. I'm convinced it's the right call. This email from T. L. confirms it.
I woke up this morning in a dark place, especially about my writing, wondering why the hell I'm doing this and why don't I just give up and go get a job, scared that this book and the next and the next and the next will just fall flat and no one will care, and then I read this email and it made me realize: I have a job. And this is my payday. T. L. gave me my paycheck today.
Today, I was told what I do matters. That means more than money. That means I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life.