It’s 5:45 am and I promised myself I’d write to you for one hour and then hit publish no matter what—like I used to. I’ve been a little quiet lately because I’ve been trying to take very tender care of myself. But I miss, miss, miss you. I miss when I used to just sit down and write you letters instead of essays. So anyway—here’s just a little letter.
So this is what happened. About a year ago I went off my medicine. I was just feeling so goodish and normalish and I decided it was time to try life again without meds. It’s a good decision sometimes. Sometimes medicine can be used as a life boat to get you from drowning to solid ground. I thought I was on solid ground. So anyway, I went off and had some good months. But then—do you remember this? Well—I kinda went downward from there, you guys.
When I slide back into anxiety and depression—well, it’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. You know how—when something scary or really hard is about to happen—you feel fluttery and wired and nervous until it’s over? Anxiety is a little bit like that, except “the thing” is never over. The thing is life. And the constant fear/jitters/whateveritis makes it impossible for me to enter the moment. This is the best way for me to describe it—I am never ever landed. Never relaxed. Never present. On stage in front of thousands or in my kitchen talking to Amma about her day—I am not THERE. You can look at me and see me but I am not THERE. I am not feeling the feelings that one might be expected to feel in a given circumstance because all my energy/thought/emotion is going to calm my nerves and soothe myself. Anxiety is like a shaky hovering.
And depression is like putting a heavy, itchy blanket on top of anxiety. It’s like pouring spilt pea soup all over fear. It’s like a sucking out of the soul. It’s a disappearing act, really. It takes all the colors that a person is and bashes them all together until no color is left at all and all the person is or feels or reflects is gray, gray, gray. There is no LIFE anymore, just existing.
And I know this. I KNOW THIS. But it doesn’t matter.
When anxiety and depression first set in, I assumed I was tired. That lasted a week or so. I got extra rest. Then when I didn’t feel better, I switched up my diet. Less sugar usually helps me feel better. I committed to yoga and exercise. I was very, very tender with myself. I spent a lot of time in bed, just babying myself. I read my comfort books. I upped my therapy. I spent a lot of time snuggling my people. Curling up in a ball on Craig’s lap. Reminded myself that there are gifts inside these times.
And then, after a couple of months—I was sitting on my couch and I’d just finished snapping at Craig and the kids for the millionth time and I realized I was just gone. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t remember why I loved life or what was special or good about me or what the freaking point of trying was. And something about “what is the point?” made me remember something.
Remember when I told you about how I write notes from my down self to my up self to help me with therapy? I also write notes from my Up Self to my Down Self. To remind myself who I am.
So I ran to find my note. This is the one I found.
Don’t be afraid. Remember.
So I called my doctor and got back on my meds.
A few weeks later I was sitting back on that same couch, folding my kids’ laundry and watching some stupid Bravo show and my incense was lit and my house was quiet and I felt a wave of joy. I love this life, I thought. I love the smell of that incense and I love making these teeny piles of clothes and I love trash tv and I love being alone in this house. And OH MY GOSH! Wait, what? Joy? Is that joy I am feeling? I’M BACK, BABY. I’m back. So I called Craig and then I called Sister and then my parents and then Amy and I said I’m sorry I was gone for so long. I’m back. I’m back now.
So now I’m in the returning part, which has its own challenges. I feel so grateful. But I also feel fresh—new—baby-like, vulnerable, exposed, skinless. Like a soft shell crab that has outgrown its previous shell but hasn’t quite found a new one to wear yet.
For me, these depression times are exactly like an eraser. They come and stay and when they leave they take everything with them. The only way I can describe it is that I feel totally new—like I’ve forgotten all the wisdom I learned before. Like I’m starting over. It’s a little distressing for a writer. I don’t know anything again. It’s like spiritual amnesia. I am Dory from Nemo: Wait! Where are we? Hold on: Here I am and I SWEAR I KNEW some things yesterday! What were those things! Oh, who cares! Look! A whale!
I hate it a little bit. I feel untethered. But when I talk to God about it, when I say to God: What’s the deal with all the erasing? God says: Honey, take heart. I am doing a new thing.
And when I say: But I worked so hard to know all those things, God. And it’s my job to know things. People line up to hear me say things I know…
God says: Silly. You know nothing. You don’t teach by knowing, you teach by loving. You can do that. They don’t come to hear what you know, they come to hear your awe. And awe comes from having childlike eyes. Fresh. Post-erased eyes.
Beginners mind, they call it. Depression leaves us no choice but to begin again and again and again with beginners’ minds and eyes and ears and hands. Depression leaves no room for pride. What a brutiful gift.
I love you. Thank you for doing life with me.
Author of the upcoming memoir LOVE WARRIOR — PRE-ORDER HERE
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