I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety and depression lately. I went through kind of a major bout myself and there’s no knowing for sure how far out of the woods I’ve gotten, but things are pretty sunny and I feel I can see my path again.
I tried a bunch of times to write about what my depression was like, what I’ve been experiencing. But to be honest just go read Hyperbole and a Half. Allie Brosh perfectly captures the experience that I think anyone who has been there can relate to. I’ll save my own story for when I finally write my own novel. The TLDR version of the past 6 months of my life goes: took on too much responsibility, tried to make too many changes all at once, my emotional energy and mental focus was being pulled in too many different directions and I essentially crashed like any computer would. I froze, I stopped responding. When I did snap out of it, it was like waking up from a restful night only to be met by the shocked and concerned faces of everyone around you because you’ve been in a coma for a while and they didn’t know if you were going to wake and they were just about to pull the cord, then trying to go through a self-prescribed mental rehabilitation while still under the same pressures and same distractions and not being able to find my center and just repeating the pattern of overload and shut down.
It took a few reboots but I know now that the key is remaining grounded. Literally. Sometimes I’m so overcome by my own energies or that of those around me, it’s like a constant static charge and I never know who’s going to get too close and I’m going to arch on them. I had to learn for all the planning in the world, it’s meaningless if I can’t remain flexible enough to work around the surprises life is going to throw. It started with the onset of anxiety attacks, something I’d never noticed before. I’ve always been kinda weird about social gatherings. I love disappearing into a huge crowd and I cherish the quality time experienced from a small gathering of a few close friends; but put me in a room that is somewhat full of people I sort of know and suddenly I’m a wallflower. It stems from my fear of people getting the wrong impression of me. I’m just really concerned that people know that I don’t give a fuck. I’ve now been in Orlando for exactly too goddamn long. Long enough for there to be a few groups of people who each have known a different version of me. And the close friends, they know I’m just trying on identities like dresses in a store; just seeing what fits and what I like and what I can afford. They know that I do not betray who I am at my core. But for my tertiary friends who felt abandoned as I dropped the banner we once shared for some other, I worry they’d see me as a poser or a betrayer or a flake. I used to get away with my shapeshifting ways when I was moving all the time, but now there’s facebook and a track record. There’s no escaping the expectations other people have for me, there’s no more burning bridges and running away when my social ineptitude fucks up another relationship. Oh honey, your self-hatred is showing.
Being in the middle of a highly social season and production for my debut as a playwright, there wasn’t much chance to get away. All I wanted was to be left the hell alone but everywhere I turned there was someone needing something from me. A decision, a favor, simply my own strength. I had nothing though, not a damn thing to give. My energy was being drained out of me faster than I could recharge. And so, I collapsed into myself. I fell into a pit of inaction. Anxiety gave way to depression. I was convinced of my own uselessness and defeat. I’d painted a terrible, ugly image of myself that didn’t seem to make much sense when I considered the reality of things.
I think that was what woke me up, realizing I was stuck in so many ways. What’s the point of being a phoenix if I’m just going to make my nest in my own ashes? I began a mission to start over from the drawing board. I opened myself to the infinite possibilities that life has to offer, which, if you’re manic-depressive, is a hell of a rollercoaster. Everything was wonderful and beautiful in one moment and in the next I was convinced of my damnation and ruination of all around me. I was unstoppable but I couldn’t decide if I was using my powers for good or evil. Before I knew it, my unfocused creative power and deeply buried subconscious began to gang up on me and used my indecisiveness against me. You know how when you’re waiting for a ride, soon every car that passes will look just like it? It was like I was looking for a sign that I was wrong and soon everything was pointing me towards destruction. I started to suspect that the whole wide world was against me. Oh, one day I’m going to make a living using the self-deprecating conspiracy theories I suffered as novel fodder. It became crippling. I still don’t quite trust the plane that flies over our house every day. It lead to a lot of miscommunications and misdirected anger.
Worst of it all, I stopped writing.
This time lead to some very serious soul searching. It got me talking to my family, just to grasp at the one thing I know as reality. It got me thinking very hard about my future and how to seriously accomplish the things I want. It forced me to deal with my fear of commitment on every level. I learned a lot about how I view others and how my emotions changes how I regard them.
I also realized that I’m not actually depressed, not in the clinical sense. I’m just not living the life I was meant to. I’m feeling the pull to do something great with my life but my lack of focus and commitment kept me circling the same drain. My depression has just been a part of the same cycle I’ve been living over and over because I’ve never learned to live more than a year at a time. But I’ve been listening to my heart, listening to my intuition, and they seem pretty much to agree that it’s time to take control and live less reactively and more proactively. I want to lead but first I must learn to serve. I mustn’t look at the sacrifices I must make to achieve my end goal as a burden but investments in myself. And I’m no longer going to worry if an outside observer thinks my choices are wrong because I know they are right for me.
So now I’m writing again. I’m being sure to capture moments and remember they are real, but my emotions about them are fleeting and will constantly evolve and change depending on how I view them. I’m setting achievable goals, and I’m counting researching and planning for the things I want as a goal. I’m remembering that it’s good to know the destination but know that I’m going to have to take the trail as it is, day by day. Basically…