First of all, a warm and heartfelt thank you to everyone who reached out to me in some way–comments, emails, messages, tweets, phone calls, quick visits etc–after I posted my last blog. Whether you were just checking in to see how I was doing or sharing a story of your own struggles, you made me feel less alone and very loved.
Secondly, an update: I’m doing better, due to a combination of exercise, therapy, and, yes, the miracle of modern science in the form of an SSRI that seems to be successfully slowing down the gut and brain churning. (Unfortunately at a cost of insomniac nights and dry mouth–anyone else deal with those and have advice?) I’m not exactly dancing in the streets and my heart speeds up unexpectedly at the slightest bit of tension and I’m fiddling with dosages, and I’m not getting any writing done, but still . . . being better is better than not being better, I always say. (I’ve actually never said that before, but it’s hard to argue with, isn’t it? I love a good tautology.)
One thing that struck me after the last post is how many people told me I was “brave” to write publicly about my anxiety and depression. I honestly don’t think I deserve praise for that (although I’m grateful for the generous thoughts that prompted the praise). I’ve never had a problem being honest about things that I don’t feel ashamed of or guilty about, and I’m not ashamed that I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety. I believe there’s an underlying physical and chemical reason for it–albeit a complicated one–and so I don’t think I should feel any more ashamed of my emotional distress than my son should for having Celiac Disease.
But I know other people don’t feel that way, that it’s hard for them to talk about feeling weak and helpless. Sometimes there are practical reasons not to want to tell the world what’s going on–you have a job at a place where they might question your ability to get your work done if you admit to emotional distress. Or you come from the kind of family that isn’t comfortable with showing the world anything less than a perfect exterior. Or maybe you just want people to see you as focused and successful, and admitting to depression or anxiety will work against that. Or you’re genuinely the strong, silent type: you can take care of yourself and your family, and you don’t need other people’s sympathy, pity, or help.
I totally get all of that and know that it’s a luxury to be able to speak freely. I’m a mouth flapper. It helps me to talk or write about stuff. I mean, sometimes I’m too deep in the hole to communicate, but that’s rare. Most of the time, I’m in over-share mode. It helps me to talk things out. My friends give me good advice, my family gives me love (they don’t mind my talking–they worry about my silences), and my new acquaintances can decide if they want to share right back or quietly edge away from me. Anyone who thinks less of me for being honest about the crap life dishes out isn’t going to be someone I’ll want to be close to anyway.
So, again, thank you for all the support and kindness and stories and affection. Writing that post was the best step I took toward feeling better. Which means it wasn’t brave–just smart.
Finally, there’s a video going around that most of you have probably already seen, showing a dog obedience lesson. The owners call to their dogs from the opposite end of a floor mat that’s lined with dog treats, toys, chews, etc. The first few dogs trot straight to their owners, ignoring the bounty, but there’s one golden retriever who just bounds delightedly all over the mat, checking out every single item, sniffing, eating, chewing, destroying and just having the best time ever.
That dog is my hero and my inspiration. Someday I want to feel that kind of exuberance and delight and dedicate myself to enjoying things simply because I can. That golden retriever reminds me what I’m working toward as I try to make myself healthy again. Here’s to going off the beaten path to crunch some liver treats!