Wow, what a few weeks this has been.
I wish I could say that it had been smooth sailing since getting my butt back to therapy and trying to manage the return of depression and anxiety with medication, exercise and the unreal support of my core friends here. It has not been, though.
It has been an extraordinarily hard few weeks. This is not to say there haven’t been a lot of laughs mixed in with the harsh reality of all this, because as I have said, at the core I am a happy person. I have laughed a lot with friends during this time, sometimes even as I was crying.
First and foremost, I cannot decipher which symptoms are from anxiety still and which are, just my nervous system desperately trying to normalize. When I began back on medication the improvement was felt so quickly, I was very optimistic this would be short lived. But now, several weeks later, the improvement that felt huge then, is simply not enough yet. The last few days I am still noticing my hand tremors and my body jumping out of my sleep. My entire body still feels raw and I am physically uncomfortable, cold and unable to get comfortable in my own skin. I don’t know why some days are worse than others.
I know the recent break up in my life is only compounding what was already a very hard time. I was feeling depressed and overwhelmed by all the medical stuff prior to that. The sudden and ill-timed break up, has only made it harder to rise up out of this place mentally. So much of what I feel is physical, though, and there is a very gray line as to what is depression and what is from my medical condition at this point. That, alone, is making me crazy. I simply want to feel better or for that matter, at least temporarily, feel less.
So, Saturday was a day of great extremes and ultimately, some beautiful moments of incredible honest exchanges within myself and with friends. From all things come growth and I have never shied away from looking inward, asking horribly tough questions and trying to learn and grow from what was staring down the barrel at me.
I began the day with coffee and Skype with my soul sister, Sara, who is living in Mexico at the moment. We were catching up, discussing the internal need to write and the moments of fear when hitting publish. I mentioned to her that an acquaintance, by odd circumstance, had read my blog on several occasions and had reached out to offer help to get my story to a bigger audience. Flattered, scared and on some level excited, if it meant more people that struggle with depression and anxiety might feel less alone in that battle. Well, until I mentioned, what she already knew, I write when I am in, or have recently gone through, some great pain. Also, I am not a writer and I am not a trained professional giving advice. As Sara said, you are a writer because you write and you’re just telling your story.
Then we turned the discussion to what was the icing on the cake for my really having a hard time, which was being dumped, seemingly out of nowhere, a week before my birthday and scheduled visit to see the man I loved. Ouch! On top of the specific timing that night, on the heels of just learning my brother had a double pulmonary embolism hours before (thankfully, he is doing well), and dealing with some tough issues with my sixteen year old, this break up hit me hard. It immediately sent me into a panic because it also meant that I was facing the holidays without him, which was not the plan.
Nobody likes to think that their love was unimportant in the other person’s life, or that they weren’t worth a little effort when things weren’t easy. I told Sara that I still had questions. One in particular, was how it relates to my depression and chronic illness. I really wanted insight from him, because I was deathly afraid that this would repeat itself in a future relationship. I wanted to know if the way I dealt with, or struggled with it all, was really the reason he ended things. As I said at the start, I am all about learning and growing. I choose to try to evolve out of my experiences and hopefully not get perpetually stuck in patterns. I hung up the call with Sara and began sobbing.
Alrighty then, today was going to be a tough one, apparently. That is when I got a text from another friend, Suzanne. Meet her at yoga? Yes! Sara and I were just discussing yoga, a teacher she admired and I realized I hadn’t been in months. I tend to practice more during Winter, when my bike is not in use as much. There is no doubt in my mind, the connection between mind and body, I had not been connected to my body for a while, feeling too ill to do what I loved. I needed to get back into that connection to enable healing.
This was going to be just what my broken spirit needed. As I hurried to get ready, I already knew that often in yoga things come up and can be very emotional. I was anticipating a hard, but hopefully restorative class. Well hard was a gross understatement. I walked into the studio and rolled out my mat next to Suzanne’s. I took one look at her and was welling up tears already. Awesome.
Sometimes the messages we receive in life are subtle and other times they hit us over the head with a cinder block. Today was a cinder block kind of day. I sat on my mat and was listening to the music playing pre class. Already, I was feeling that I not only really needed to be in that class for my mind and body to begin healing, but that there were so many things going on in my life, for so many months and in my friends lives and in the world lately, that entering that studio was the first time I felt a sense of release of it all.
Normally, I turn to my bike, but in the last 2 months I had been so physically ill, I barely rode at all. That had also been noted by the man on our second to last conversation, when I said I was really having a hard time staying shiny and also mentioned my doctor had just said that everything I had been dealing with was too much for any one person to navigate through. His response was it must be time to put the bike on the trainer. The thing was, it wasn’t the weather keeping me from my sanity saver, it was my body. He was right in his thought about my need to ride. The body can change the mind. My bike had been my savior before. Not just endorphins, but emotional and cognitive healing take place. So three weeks to the day later, I sat on my yoga mat for the first time in months.
Here’s where the cinder block comes in. Tracy Chapman’s Telling Stories was playing on the iPod in the class and my mind returned to my conversation with Sara and my need to write, tell my story and the reality that it is just that. A story. Like any, just mine. Then the instructor began speaking. She was talking about the period we are in and the cycle of death and rebirth, much like the astrological charts for entering into Scorpio. She was saying that there is so much going on that we all feel off balance. She referenced exactly the same things I had been seeing in my own life. Many break ups and many marriages, but a lot of big change and not just relationships, but everything. In addition, a lot of unknowns causing discomfort in not having answers to the questions. Then she remarked that in these times new creativity is born, along with new paths and purpose. She mentioned being gentle with ourselves, especially with the questions.
I again thought of my conversation with Sara and my desperate feeling of needing to know if my depression was why I had lost my love? I am not gentle with my questions, least of all, with myself. As we went into a heart opening pose on our backs to begin the class, she then read a quote from Rilke, “Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves….Do not now seek the answers, which can not be given you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Suzanne looked over at me (yes I was crying) and said, she is talking directly to you. The class had only been five minutes in and I was toast.
The remainder of class was on and off with tears depending on the pose and where my attention was, but physically I was stronger than I expected after the last two months, albeit stiff as a board. Going back to the feeling I had when I entered the studio, unlike when I ride alone and am out there to cleanse my mind, or work my body and counter medical or emotional pain, with endorphins and pain derived from pushing myself for myself, in the studio there was a communal sense of awareness and release going on, yet is was personal.
Jeez, it was only 1:30 in the afternoon at this point and I was drained.
Once home, I was checking email and checking in with friends that knew how difficult things felt for me still. I was trying to somehow make peace with the idea that I did not have the answers to many very uncomfortable unknowns in my life. This is where the anxiety that I had been dealing with along with depression is rooted, I believe. I had so many very real and scary unknowns. Job, how my medical condition would manifest, would life be lived without a partner now? All questions that had been troubling for me and I was trying to see how to love the questions.
And of all the questions I had. Learning to love one question in particular seemed quite the challenge. “Was I responsible for losing love in my life simply by how I was unable to cope better, due to my depression rearing it’s head again?”. I wasn’t loving this question one bit.
At that point my friend Stephen called. We talked about plans for the evening and about this man in Tampa that I had met three weeks earlier and had been in contact with me on multiple occasions since. I hadn’t responded because my heart was still someone else’s. Stephen said, just let his words in. This man had no problem telling me what he thought of me and why so mowed over at our chance meeting. He had read my blog and had many words to champion me without my coming away feeling somehow flawed or weak.
No, I have NO desire to date someone long distance, if not the man I already fell in love with, but the point was this person knew that already and was still saying what he saw in me. It was actually quite powerful. He wrote, “You have a personal magnetism that is level 100. I’m sure others must see it in you as well all the time. I realize that you have things that you are struggling with, but I believe that you have a very unique inner power to overcome them. You certainly have some challenging stuff to get through. Perhaps I’m supposed to help in some way? Maybe you’ll help me? In a big way, you already have…” Well, damn. I will tell you that there was more and I told Stephen how hard it was to hear all he had to say.
What was most significant about my conversation with my dear friend, who has been there through all that I have lived, in good and bad times, over the last four years or maybe longer, was that he wanted me to see clearly the questions I had, regarding my love life, were unfounded. His words were from the heart and from a perspective of being a real part of my life since we met. He said that through all of the surgeries and all of the diagnostics with my health, to losing my store and raising two remarkably great kids, and even through battling depression, I had never stopped giving love to those I cared for, never stopped being there for others as a friend, never stopped trying to do the best for my kids and even in the hardest times, never stopped really being me full of life and laughter. He said that I had to see that there had been an inordinate amount of stuff and nothing I did or didn’t do, or how it impacted me, or how I have dealt with it all along the way, made me less lovable. I was still “infinitely lovable”.
Whoa! I knew he was right. There was no answer to my question at all. The reason this man left was about him, not me, at all. So, then other things, became more clear to me. I can still hold that mirror up and strive to learn and grow from all the things life throws my way, but being gentle with myself was something I had not done. I am always quick to show compassion for others, especially the man I loved, wanting to ease his suffering around things that were difficult like emotions and choices toward love, but never treated my self with the same care. And, it is not that I don’t love myself, I simply have expectations of myself that are impossible to meet, at times. So the real question, that I will try to figure out how to love, is how can I be more compassionate with myself?
Later that night at dinner with Stephen, his wife and another friend, the conversation circled back to why hit publish? Our other friend wondered what would happen if I didn’t hit publish and why expose myself that way? Well, nothing would happen different for me in terms of dealing, healing, grieving and having my posse of love and support around me, but as I have learned through all this, there are others that are helped in some way, as the emails and texts and overwhelming amount of feedback tells me. I choose to hit publish and put it all out there because I know that for those that also battle depression they may not have people or outlets that genuinely understand this is not a condition where “bucking up” makes the difference. If you have not lived it or truly understand the medical science around it, you may not ever get it, but for that person out there, alone in their battle, sometimes just knowing there is someone else going through it can be like a lifeline. Regardless what the trigger, life circumstances, love lost, medical condition that prompts a nasty reaction, or any combination of things, depression and anxiety are hard wired in our brains and physiology. Depression is ugly and hard. Depression is painful and scary. Depression is every bit as frightening and difficult as Cancer and Lupus. So, I hit publish. I choose to live out loud so that maybe someone who is silent feels they are not alone because someone else “gets it”.