Tomorrow is an important anniversary for me. I will celebrate one year of learning to love life again.
Sometimes depression creeps in unnoticed. We keep on doing the things we need to do, but we stop caring about the things that used to matter to us. We may continue to care about others, but we stop caring about ourselves. For me, it was like that. I can’t point to an event that triggered it. I don’t know why things changed. I just know that in the days and weeks leading up to March 9, 2014, I was in a dangerous place. I didn’t think anybody really cared.
You see, at over 300 pounds I was having a lot of health issues. Daily life was difficult. Losing half of my body weight seemed like an impossible task to contemplate. I was having “heart palpitations” and began to feel as if I was about to lose consciousness on more than one occasion. I came to believe that I was dying. Rather than seek medical help, I decided to let nature take its course. I wasn’t about to take steps to actively end my life, but I didn’t want to make the effort to save it. I guess you’d call it passive suicide. My overeating and inactivity were robbing me of life in a very real way, and I didn’t care enough to stop it.
I wish I could tell you what, exactly, flipped the switch in my head. On March 9, 2014, I made up my mind to call my doctor and ask him to prescribe an antidepressant medication. It was a Sunday. The office was closed, but I made up my mind.
I called first thing on Monday morning. My doctor was out of the office for the week, but I had a prescription bottle and an appointment for the next week before noon that day. Opening the bottle and putting the first pill in my mouth, I felt both a sense of failure for not being strong enough and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe I could feel better.
I have a group of online friends who I have “talked” with in various places for 7-8 years. They are my invisible (not imaginary) friends. I have plants they sent to my dad’s funeral to prove they exist. I confessed to them my feelings of failure over needing medicine.
I confided in them about the tremendous loneliness and the feelings of isolation I was experiencing. One of them suggested I try running. I chuckled at the thought. I tried going to the gym the next day. I had a panic attack. I couldn’t do it. I was afraid of judgment. I made my husband turn around and take me home.
A fellow attorney practicing in another part of the state (not one of the previously mentioned group of invisible friends) who I have never met in real life sent me a message suggesting we virtually work out / run together and sign up for a race.
The “Arthur” video began showing up in my facebook feed over and over. I’d watched it dozens of times before. I’d even purchased the DDP Yoga videos in 2012, shed quite a few pounds, and did a great job of learning to get off the floor (a skill I’d retained) before eventually giving up and going back to my old ways and regaining nearly every pound I had lost.
I watched the video again. This time, when Arthur began running, the tears streamed down my face.
I’ve learned in my life that when I start getting the same message over and over from different sources, God is trying to tell me something. I listened. I decided that if I wanted to live badly enough to put medicine in my body, then I wanted to live badly enough to take back my life. If Arthur could learn to walk again, and learn to run, then so could I.
Those of you who have followed me the past year know how the rest of the story goes. I started walking, and then I began running slowly on the treadmill. I got over the fear of the gym and added weights to my workout. I hit the yoga mat and did some DDPYoga. I swam laps. I posted on Facebook (a lot).
Soon the weather warmed and the outdoors called. I ran on the high school track. I ran through town. I ran on trails. I ran on the beach. Although I sometimes took Jimi the Wonder Dood with me, usually this was time to myself. I started seeing the wonder in nature- in leaves and waves and birds. I talked to God. He talked back in rustling leaves and wind on my face. He talked to me through “cheers” when friends “liked” my runs on Facebook.
It wasn’t quick or easy. I still had days when sadness pressed on my heart and made it difficult to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Slowly, though, I returned to the land of the living. I stopped just going through the motions. I devoted more time to getting my soul back in order through prayer, meditation and lots and lots of sweat.
The popular adage says that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I’m making lemonade and trying to give it away. One year ago I really didn’t care if I lived or died. One year ago, I thought that nobody cared. One year ago I couldn’t have dreamed how wonderful life is today.
I still take those pills. I take another for my thyroid and one for my blood pressure. It’s part of my daily routine. The pills didn’t fix me. I had to do that myself with a lot of help from God and my friends and family. I still run. I still get sad once in a while. It’s no longer overwhelming.
I’m a little frightened to post this, but I feel it is necessary. It’s scary to admit that you struggle with depression. I worry that it could hurt me professionally. I fear that people will think less of me if they know that I have problems just like anyone else. I believe that we need to move beyond the stigma that mental health issues hold. I believe that if people in pain knew how many people suffer with them, people would be more inclined to seek help before it becomes easier to think about dying than to think about living.
Writing this blog post is me making lemonade. It’s not the “koolaid,” if it’s not your thing – move on.
I don’t believe that God tests us like Job in the Old Testament, but I do think that he gives us opportunities to understand and help others when we face trials. I think that he gives us the grace to move through our challenges if we ask. I think that when we are taught lessons paid for with blood, sweat and tears, it is only right to share the lessons that we have learned.
Please don’t give up. Don’t passively wait for your vices and problems to kill you. If you are depressed, there is hope. Medicine is not shameful. Therapy is not shameful.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of judgment. Never, ever give up.
Today, I celebrate the life I have been given. I am excited to see what the next 365 days holds. I am a work in progress. Next year you will see another brand new me. I can’t wait.
To those of you who have “liked,” “commented,” or “shared” my writing in the past, thank you for encouraging me. To those of you who are new to this page, welcome. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with you.
Today, I am celebrating life. Welcome to the party.