Every year of my life has had its heights and depths in its own ways, and I am also one whose emotional landscape has always been rather extreme. But last year was certainly one for the books precisely because I became more cognizant than ever that I had no real reason to be depressed, and yet here I was.
At the start of last year, I had just begun a new job, after being stuck in limbo at my previous place of employment. This new job was (and still is) everything I could ever want -- it kicks my ass on the regular by forcing me to grow professionally, technically, and as a person. I was stressed out and learning a lot, but on a deeper level, I was happy as a clam when it came to work.
I also fell in love pretty hard with martial arts a couple years ago and did a lot of it last year, although this past year I pulled back a little bit so as not to repeat previous points of spousal friction over my absence most weeknights. What started out as curiosity over whether I could extrapolate physical combat to a technological one (the answer being yes, to a point) in turn stoked a mad lust for perpetual motion. It's that same passion that had driven me in the past to dance, garden, run, boulder, swim, etc.. I love the feeling of being completely physically spent and progressively building up a new normal. In short, I enjoyed last year.
And yet there was this familiar sadness -- this loneliness that I simply couldn't shake off, no matter how much I tried to distract myself with work or play. Having lived my whole life with the extreme ebb and flow of grief, I had learned over the years to anchor myself to things I knew to be true: that things are not as bad as they seem, that sadness will pass and there will be joy, and that all I had to do was to hang on and survive until this wave passed over me. Perhaps God was in there somewhere.
The most heartbreaking discovery of last year was none of this was enough anymore. As much as my logical mind could stare unblinkingly into the face of my abyss and defiantly resist, the fact was that I was emotionally running on fumes and it was getting increasingly harder to hang on.
There comes a point where you no longer care if there's a light at the end of the tunnel or not. You're just sick of the tunnel. -- Renata Suzuki
That was exactly where I found myself. So I threw in the towel, and with the guidance and support of a few people who loved me, I started medicating. Something people never mentioned to me about depression is that medication is much cheaper and safer than smoking or drinking myself down from the ledge, and far less stressful than the need to constantly distract myself.
I've heard it described that medication allows you to logically detach yourself from strong emotions and respond more holistically to the issue at hand. I suppose this has been true for me, but my experience has been that I finally felt strong enough to walk out of prison (albeit, a prison that is always right there waiting if I let myself lapse). The thing is, I used to love to draw, create, cook, play, make music, laugh, and connect with people without worrying about the strength of that connection... and these were all things that were out of my reach for a really long time. I was trapped by my noonday demon.Then little by little, life started to happen. It started with a laugh, and then there was music, and cooking. But when I finally found myself willing and able to engage with friends without feeling my usual anxiety, I could only be ever grateful to have more of myself back again.
Because this last year was the year that, flying in the fucking face of all that the church had taught me about depression, I came to learn from my own life that sometimes depression is not fueled by circumstances (although it can certainly be activated by them) but by that mysterious connection between biological processes and emotional response.
I would not say that I am oh just super high on life (trust me, I know what that feels like -- I still have the extreme emotional landscape built into me), but I have more color now in a formerly sepia life, and I am still learning to protect those gains.
Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason. -- Andrew Solomon
If you're curious about the title of my blog post, it comes from a very good book by Andrew Solomon called The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.