Weakness or Strength

I’ve been starting a lot of posts lately without finishing them. One of the main themes I’ve been trying to figure out how to begin addressing again is depression. Mostly, my depression and how there can be periods of breakthrough, relief, and healing, but it isn’t something I believe I’ll completely be over.

I used to think that depression was something that made a person weak. I was so determined to appear strong, to appear like I had my life together, that I refused to accept that depression might be the cause of my panic attacks, sobbing at the slightest provocation, and the general emptiness I felt in life. This went on for years. It’s only after I finally faced the fact that I was living with depression did I realize that being willing to admit that and begin the journey toward a fulfilling life again was something that made a person strong. So strong. Stronger than anyone can realize without being in that same position.

I think the most frustrating thing about living with depression as a constant ghost is facing the fact that it can come back with a vengeance. This is where I’ve been the past few months. There have been glimmers of hope, moments of knowing that being in this depressive state isn’t a permanent curse. I am always so hard on myself. I expect so much more. I hold myself to the standard that I should only struggle with a certain issue once in life before growing and becoming better. But I’ve found myself retreating into my shell and feeling angry, worthless, and empty again.

I’ve caught myself thinking “You’re so much better than this. Stop being that weak excuse of a human. Stop wallowing. Stop being worthless. Stop.” The thoughts come much more often that I’m willing to count. I’ve viewed it as a weakness.

However, I’ve realized that this is an incredible double standard. Reflecting over conversations I’ve had with a couple close friends who truly understand the feeling of hopelessness that comes with true depression, I’ve marveled over how strong they are. How impressed I’ve been that they have felt the same way that I have, and continue to fight every day for the side of hope and healing. How extraordinary they are as humans. It’s made me wonder why I can see their bravery and strength, but only my shortcomings.

This fall into the pit of depression has been different than previous ones. I think it’s mostly been brought on by the fact that I am nowhere where I want to be in terms of my career, geographical location, or physical appearance. However, I’ve been trying to remind myself that I’ve made so much progress in the past few years. I’ve come so far. My depression doesn’t make me weak.

Living in spite of my depression makes me strong.

Frankfurt HBF, Frankfurt, Germany - September 2014
Frankfurt HBF, Frankfurt, Germany – September 2014

listening to: Florence + The Machine

Love and Writing

One of my favorite quotes lately is one that I discovered reading Donald Miller’s newest book, Scary Close: “Being afraid to love and being paralyzed at the keyboard both involve a fear of being known, a fear of making mistakes, a fear of being found lacking.”

I’ve been working through this idea of writing a collection of short stories based on some character descriptions I did a couple months ago. However, as I delve deeper and deeper into these different story threads, the harder I find it to continue. The paragraphs I originally did were all based on people I know and have come to love, but I’ve been wanting to take those characters and fictionalize them a bit more to create more interesting narratives. However, their stories are already interesting. The struggles and the triumphs that I’ve seen them go through are incredible, so I’ve found myself writing much more truth than fiction.

I’m an observer. Even if I can’t claim to be talented at much else, I know that I’m good at reading the emotions in a room and understanding the back stories that shape people. That’s partially why I’ve come to love writing so much…because I can use that skill. However, in stories, not everybody can have a favorable role. There has to be conflict, there has to be struggle, there have to be antagonists. And this is where I’ve hit a wall. I want to write as exposed and vulnerable as possible, but the people that will read these stories first are the ones who inspired the characters, and it worries me to think about the fact that some of them might not appreciate the path I want to take those characters down.

Most of all, sometimes I fear that writing a character that is inspired by some of my life experiences might paint a too-real picture of myself, and the people who really understand how to read between the lines might decide I’m too much, too complicated, and filled with too many issues to really invest time in anymore.

It seems like I’ve been struggling with this thought process more this week than I have in some time. Wednesday night, it hit a boiling point. It was one of those moments that I actually verbalized the reasons behind why I don’t think I’ll ever find someone who can actually stick with me through all the bad, why I absolutely do not want to have children, and basically just word-vomited all of my insecurities out to two people (one being a complete stranger, and the other being a person who I used to exhaust myself wanting to impress). The more that I’ve reflected over those hours of excruciating emotional pain, the more I’ve realized that it’s not as much of an issue of trusting somebody else to love me, but it’s the worry that I’ve lost the ability to wholeheartedly care for someone the way that I want to. The worry that there will always be fears to hold me back, and the idea that I could cause someone even a fraction of the pain that shoots through my heart and soul.

The more I read the quote at the beginning of this post, the more it resonates with me. It is a fear of being known. It is a fear of making mistakes. It is a fear of not measuring up. It’s a debilitating fear.

Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas – April 2015

listening to: eastmountainsouth

Brain Bruises

“It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.” -Iyanla Vanzant

I went camping this weekend. Actually, if I’m honest, it was more of a blend between camping and glamping. We had a cabin, running water, and electricity, but we still cooked everything over an open flame in the fire pit outside. The details of the trip aren’t really relevant to this post or the thoughts in my head right now though, so I’ll just move on.

I went on this trip with three friends I went to high school with. We were all in choir together, but with them being a grade below me, they knew each other far better than I did. About halfway through the second day, one of them asked me a bit hesitantly if I had been married, or if she had just imagined it. Admittedly, it is a bit of a touchy subject, but I really don’t mind sharing it with people because of the simple reason that I feel a bit of relief and a sense of calmness after getting it off my chest yet again.

This is why I write what I write, and this is why I share so much of my personal struggles: it’s always felt healing to me. I think our culture has become such a culture of secrecy and false exteriors. It has become so important to create the illusion of “everything is perfectly okay”, but the consequences of living that way are incredibly detrimental to our health. So I write about divorce. I write about insecurities. I write about depression.

Lately, I’ve been caught in the midst of another depressive period. It shows itself in the lack of energy to do much of anything, in the feeling of utter exhaustion, in the inability to feel emotions even a fraction as brightly as last year, and in the annoyance and irritability of the people who tell me to just “cheer up”. The difference is that I’m able to recognize the symptoms this time around. The last time it was this bad, I felt completely lost and like I was drowning without any way to be saved.

There’s this quote I love about depression by Jeffery Eugenides that says, “Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch where it hurts. It’s always there, though.” Yes, last year I was doing better. I was the healthiest I had been in close to a decade. But the thing about depression is that once you’ve truly been held captive by it, it’s so easy to be recaptured. Sometimes there’s almost a relief to not feeling emotions as strongly anymore. It sounds twisted, but there’s some sort of comfort in the familiar nothingness. However, the comfort is coupled by a terror that this time, you might not get back out of the hole, that you might not get to be healthy and feel anything anymore.

The reason I write this is because practicing a life of openness and honesty, a life of true vulnerability, means sharing the struggles along with the triumphs. After writing about my struggle with depression over two years ago for the first time, I was able to really see and experience that I wasn’t nearly as alone as I felt. Depression is such an alienating experience, but writing about it helps take the edge off.

So this is who I am: I’ve had high moments, moments where I still feel joy and excitement, but the empty nothingness is very present in my day to day life, and the road to recovery will be one that I’ll be trudging through for a very long time to come. I’ll continue writing about it, because sometimes that’s the only thing I can do.

Bluebonnets at Black Rock Lake Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Lake Park, Texas – April 2015

listening to: Phosphorescent

Fight or Flight

When faced with confrontation, people tend to fall into one of two categories. They either run from it or they stay and fight.

I’m a runner.

I run from fights. I run from people. I run from lies. I run from any uncomfortable situation imaginable when given the chance.

I’m not here to say that either way is right or wrong. I think both reactions can be better for certain situations, but it’s a very rare instance that I’ll stay and fight when I have the chance to escape.

I’ve written lately about some of the struggles I’ve been facing, but I think a big part of my tiredness is just a sense of restlessness. A feeling of containment and loss of adventure. I don’t want to say it’s still a culture shock type of thing, because I’ve been back in the states for four and a half months, but I think it’s more of a “I’m back in this massive country and the sense of newness and exploration has disappeared.” I know that’s probably not a very healthy way of looking at life, but more than just wanting to see new places, it’s become a craving. It’s becoming this way to quench a thirst in my soul.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, maybe it’s perfect timing, or maybe it’s just because I have some friends who can relate to this feeling more than most, but I recently got offered a chance to go on a week-long trip. This family that I grew up with in Alaska offered to take me with them on a cruise that will make stops in three different countries next week.

Of course I accepted the offer. How could I not accept an offer like that? It’s one of the most selfless gifts I can remember being given in recent history. It gives me a chance to breathe, to relax, to emotionally and mentally recover from whatever I’ve been pushing myself through lately. Most importantly, it’ll give me quite a lot of down time without outside distractions to write and meditate and get back into my right mind.

Back to the fight vs flight conundrum. I feel like this cruise might be a bit of a way for me to escape and avoid some of the conflicts that have been building up or have already happened. If I’m being completely honest, I’m looking forward to the running away. I’m eager to escape from my reality for eight short days. I want a chance to block out all responsibility and accountability that seems to be consistently beating down my door. I want to get back to being fully me without any of the nonsense I’ve been bringing on myself lately.

Obviously, I know that running away for a week doesn’t fix the major problems. I know that running forever doesn’t fix anything in the long run. This is why I’ve stopped permanently escaping for the most part. I do face things and deal with problems now when absolutely necessary.

However, I wait. I breathe. I think. I recover. And then I deal.

Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland
Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland

listening to: Mat Kearney, Hushpuppies