Almost a year ago now, I wrote this:
The best way I can describe it to you is to compare it to last winter. It snowed all the time. Except of course it wasn't all the time. Nothing is all the time, is it? But it felt that way. And I felt certain that it would never end. Of course I knew that it would eventually stop snowing. I knew that spring would come. But in the midst of all of that snow, I did not believe it was going to stop. Could not fathom it.
I know that the time will come when I will feel good again. I know this, but I don't believe it.
I was talking on the phone to a good friend of mine the other night. She is stuck in a perpetual winter of her own. Talking to her about that made me realize that, while I had written here about the depression, I hadn't ever written about getting better. I'm sure if you've been around you've realized that it's happened. If nothing else, things have gotten progressively less mopey.
I told my friend about having bought myself tickets to see Ingrid Michaelson in Austin in September, sort of an early birthday present to myself. I've also decided that my thirty-second birthday seems occasion enough to finally skydive. I've wanted to for years and have said that once I had health insurance, I'd do it. Now I do. It's a dream of mine that's within my reach, so I'm going for it.
(Mom: Of course I don't mean it! I would never do anything so dangerous and if I did, would certainly not tell you about it beforehand.)
My friend said that it sounded like things had really turned around for me. She was right. Last year, I wanted nothing more than to sleep through my birthday so I could pretend it didn't exist. (Melissa: What should I get you for your birthday? Me: Drunk.) Of course, I'm not excited about getting older this year either, but this year I have the capacity to make the best of it.
Yes, getting a job was a big part of it. I am finally free of job hunt stress and the endless stream of rejections. I can pay my bills and if I get sick, I can go to a doctor. I don't think it's possible to understand how wonderful those two things are until they haven't been true for you. And I get to do something that matters and allows me to use my skills, experience, and brain. That helped a lot with the way I had been feeling.
But that wasn't all. I read this book and did as many of the exercises as I could talk myself into. I did some counseling, which was tremendously helpful. I had felt like a burden on my friends and family, but I still had things I needed to talk through. Having someone whose role it was to listen and ask questions freed me from the guilt of laying all of it on the people in my life.
This part may sound odd to a lot of you, but I honestly feel like things started to turn around for me on election night. It was the first thing that had made me feel hopeful in a long time. It was, to borrow from Peter Pan, my happy thought. And it enabled me to go to DC for inauguration, where one day I was startled by the thought, "I'm happy." It was a revelation. I shared this with a friend of mine there who, rather than call me a nutcase, said that taking a belly dancing class was what had started her own ascent from the muck. You just never know what might constitute a turning point.
In January, I wrote this:
...if I were making an actual resolution, it would be along the lines of resolving to make things happen for myself in 2009, as opposed to what felt like a 2008 of letting things happen to me.
This is what I've tried to do. I've forced myself to be more social. I've opened up the novel I wrote almost three years ago and started the work of making it into something that might be salable. I've addressed the ADD. I bought some new clothes and got a good haircut. (Listen, they don't all have to be great big things.) I gave myself the birthday gifts of things I really want to do, things that for me are cause for celebration themselves.
And I gave myself permission to be happy. Which might sound like some touchy feely psychobabble, but it was honestly something that I had to do. It felt somehow wrong to feel happy, even to move in the direction of happiness at the time, and I had to reassure myself that it was ok. Allowing myself to feel good didn't have to constitute stagnating. I can want more, but still enjoy the good things about where and what I am now, if I let myself.
No, everything in my life isn't perfect. I don't expect it ever will be, but these days I can handle the imperfection. I'm not drowning in it anymore.
I am confident that this friend of mine will feel good again, too. She has recently taken a positive step toward what will be a better and much more fulfilling chapter of her life. I hope it starts soon.
Spring is coming, friend. I know because I've seen it. It's ok if you can't believe it now. I will believe it for you.
[Disclaimer: I want to be perfectly clear here that I'm not comparing the relatively mild and short-lived depression I went through to anybody else's, nor claiming that what worked for me is the answer for anybody else. Causes and severity differ greatly, as do people. Obviously, differing types and levels of treatment are appropriate accordingly.]