Friday, May 7, 2010

Finding A Way Back Out...Again and Again.

I've been inspired by the bravery of several souls on twitter to share this.  I too, have been called an 'oversharer', but I know that if I don't talk I will self-destruct.  Another thought I've had is that maybe, just maybe, if I actually let it all out-I can let it go.  Another inspiration to write this is the suicide of my cousin a few weeks ago. I hadn't seen her in more than 20 years. My heart broke when I heard because I wish I could have helped in some way and I knew that her children's lives would be devastated forever.

There's one thing that I don't see people write about often and it's that depression/anxiety can be comforting in a very very twisted kind of way.  Going to those dark places is familiar. Beating yourself up again and again is something that you know how to do and do it well.  Familiarity breeds comfort, so it's no wonder that I, like others find myself coming back to this place again and again.  It's not that we WANT to, by any means.

I'm not sure when my depression/anxiety started, but I'm guessing around middle school when I was teased so badly that I would stay up all night in dreaded anticipation of the kick-me signs, spit balls and taunting that would inevitably form my day.  High school was a bit different, because I had found an athletic ability which did include me somewhat in the 'cool' circles. But not really.  I was the 'uncool cheerleader', the track captain that no one really spoke to. 

I'm pretty sure I survived going to a very big university only because I had the crutch of my hometown boyfriend to rely on. I knew no one and walking into my first class that was roughly the size of my entire high school was beyond daunting.  When we broke up my junior year, I fell apart.  I made some extremely unwise choices in men and it took me a long time to realize that I was doing absolutely anything that I could not to feel.  I was manic, I was crazed, what I didn't realize is that I was actually depressed.  Did I mention that I think it's genetic? Yup.  But my family doesn't deal with this the way that I do, so I will respect their feelings and not go down that road.

Anxiety found its way onto my athletic endeavors as well.  I was the back (the person that catches people in cheerleading) who would turn away because I was scared.  This does not endear you to your fellow teammates, believe me.  In college I would actually freeze. Dry mouth and all.  I was so scared of what would happen if I actually did well that I quite literally froze.  I never lived up to what I could have accomplished and it's something that still pains me to this day. My failure.  How much better I could have been if I hadn't gotten in my own way. It's still painful for me to go to visit my alma mater (I've been back once) because it reminds me of all the ways that I failed.  I know I'm not strong enough yet or well enough yet to go back and see all the good things that came out of it. 

Post college probably brought depression to the forefront.  My security blanket, school, which I had for so long was gone forever. Everything I thought I was-the student, the athlete was gone now. I didn't know who I was or anything about myself. My boyfriend didn't recognize who I was becoming and my roommate and best friend couldn't bear to be around me because I was so self-absorbed.  Looking back on it now, I realized that he was quite the shitty boyfriend who didn't care that I was crumbling. He told me to just 'get over it'. To this day I hold some anger/resentment that he didn't lift a finger to help me. I'm trying to let go of this as I was in such denial that I allowed him to treat me that way.  I swore, any man who couldn't handle this part of me would never be allowed into my life.  It's taken several mistakes to finally get that part right.

Ah, food.  How many times have you heard someone (or even I've said it) that person needs to eat something/not eat.  It's not about the food. It never is. For me it's always been about burying my feelings (in the case of binge eating) when I just didn't want to face reality.  I remember going from McDonald's to Burger King to a CVS all in a row and chowing down at each and every spot.  I felt disgusted with myself, but I didn't have to, at that moment face reality or my loneliness. Anorexia?  Been there too. For me this was about control.  I meant well at first, I wanted to lose a few pounds for friend's wedding. Then came the attention. So I kept going.  I would count calories and see how long I could hold out without food. This made working in New York City and having no friends nearby something that I didn't have to think about.      

Money.  Depression and anxiety manifest themselves in so many ways.  I bought things I didn't need and 'kept up' with friends that made much more money that I did.  I'm now 31 and just paying off debt I am sure that I accumulated when I was 20.  Spending-it's denial, it's another way to not feel the reality of your life.  You can't afford it right now and you have to sacrifice.  I didn't want to think about that, I didn't want to feel it.  I didn't want to deal with the mistakes that I had made before. Finally, NOW.I am dealing with it. Reality is one hell of a vicious bitch when you ignore her for too long.  She'll drag you down and make you pay 100x what you would have if you had just faced facts right then.

Of course, depression has reared it's ugly head for me in some of the more 'traditional' ways too.  I've wanted to curl up in a ball in a corner or just sleep for hours on end. I've wanted to hide myself from the world because I didn't feel like I was pretty enough, smart enough or just good enough to interact with anyone.  Why would anyone bother with me?  Medication is great, but it's not the solution.  It's an aid, and yes, that might sound like an obvious statement.  But it doesn't make stress and pain go away; it just puts it back on your shoulders instead of pressing down on your head. 

Today, I am still struggling, the battles with depression still come and hit much harder when my life is out of balance.  Recently, it's been cycling that has been my most visible form.  The anxiety I feel when I go downhill on a bike is incredible. I am so certain I am horrible and have no place on a bike.  I punish myself and beat myself up and berate myself to no end. I'm also making some big life changes over the next few months which will be positive, but by no means not scary.  I've been in an industry for 8 years that I never really wanted to be in in the first place. Now, I am making a choice.  Some people say it's brave to follow my dream, but that's not a description I feel I deserve.  I wonder every day if I'm making the right decision and if I'm going to fall on my face. The demons call to me and make me want to buy things that I don't need and to not take the medicine that helps me because, well, I know how to do depressed.  I know just how that low place feels, looks and tastes.  This new possible reality of happiness is a much stranger and scarier place than you might think. 

I've lied to myself for years but I won't lie anymore.  Depression, yes, it's a part of who I am, it could be there forever, I don't know.  What I do know is that the fight, the battle, every day and even every hour on some days it worth it.  It's everywhere, I have to fight it all the time.  Some days are easier than others.  I've also come to accept that some people will never 'get' it. They just won't and that's ok. Some people WILL get it, some people will understand.

Have you ever seen the poster on the subways (for depression) that says "If a friend had cancer, would you tell them to just 'get over it'?  That's how it is for a lot of folks.  But the support, even from strangers, means something, it helps in ways you wouldn't imagine. It's not always a kind word or a hug though, some times it's a good old-fashioned kick in the ass to get you going.

I guess I wrote this to tell folks that depression and anxiety manifests itself in many different ways.  Recognizing it yourself is a HUGE step.  Don't lie to yourself.  Get help in whatever way you need. Talk if you need to, but don't just talk to reinforce your negative circle.  Talk to move forward, talk to heal.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this part of yourself. I am in awe of your accomplishments as an athlete and a person, and even more so in light of this. You rock, woman!

  2. This gives me the chills. i seriously think i have felt nearly all the feelings you described, at least once. i was on medication for depression as well, and yes, it was good, but it was not the person that i wanted to be. i didn't want to have to explain to my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, why i had an insane mood swing that day. or why i wanted to sleep all day. it could have gotten worse had i not sought help. journaling can be amazing. a great network is equally amazing. YOU are amazing! always remember, there is ALWAYS a good time for a comeback :)