“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown
As humans, we gravitate toward stories. We love stories for their beginning, middle and end, a perfect succession of past, present and future.
We love stories because of the rise after the fall. We fervently listen to the hero’s tale of fighting, overcoming, then saving the world and going on to rescue humanity with their lessons learned. We attach strings of our own truth, heartaches and struggles to the characters we read. We think, me too! and when they win, if they can, so can I.
I started my blog out this way. Writing buoyed me as I waded and swam through my eating disorder recovery. It saw me through to my win and beyond, looking down over the debris of a battle fought and won.
But here’s a thing about stories–they are never really over until we are gone, our earthly shells reduced to sprinkles of dust under the hard ground. Life is a series of ups and downs, challenges and changes–this we know well.
But for a while I was speeding along too fast to see the next hurdle in my path.
I am going to be painfully honest here. I’ve gone back and forth about this post for about two months now, after taking a break from writing because the words just wouldn’t come. I needed to pause, I needed to start the healing process. But the more I open up to my closest confidants, the more I have found this truth still stands: we are not alone in the struggle.
So remember this please, when I share my story with you.
At the beginning of 2017, as many were creating resolutions and setting intentions and dedicating their Word of the Year, I was quietly suffering a series of panic attacks. I didn’t know what brought them on, I didn’t even know necessarily what a panic attack was until I described it to my doctor. I looked back and saw an increasing pattern of anxiety building itself up over the past few months, but I never stopped to really dive in and figure out why.
Thank goodness I have a healthcare provider I trust and love in the city, and she was able to speak truth to me: it was going to be okay, but it was going to be a journey. It was going to take time. It wasn’t me, but a series of chemical processes in my brain in need of fine-tuning. It’s not my fault.
I have swum through the ocean of depression before. I have always been a deep feeler and highly sensitive person, (though I prefer the label empathetic badass, my best friend Lauren coined), which means I have a tendency to really feel my surroundings and emotions (both my own and others) more deeply. My ability to ride my up ups and down downs is nothing new–but then I started facing more downs than ups. It is a little different this time.
So here I am, knee-deep in the messy, muddy middle.
It’s hard to write about something when you’re in the thick of it. You’re too busy fighting, or fighting the urge to surrender. You’re too close to your own story to make sense of it, my non-fiction writing professor used to say.
We usually wait until it is all over to recount our tale–but I am finding true, authentic connection and healing beg to hear the middle. It’s too easy to just smooth over the rough edges with frosting and deliver a pretty cake at the end. But how much better does it taste when you see or experience the process of measuring flour and beating in eggs and vanilla, swirling gooey butter?
The connection heals. The I’m standing with you , even in the messy bits heals. The love heals. The laughter heals. Knowing you’re not alone, that heals.
Thankfully I have the immense support of my inner circle, my family and my care team. The safety net is wide and large, reminding me constantly not to shroud myself away, but invite in the little pleasures that still light my soul: sipping sour beers and catching up with friends who don’t falter, no matter how long you’ve been away. Weekends in the snow when I feel the healing power of mountains and see blankets of white reflecting the moonlight, begging me to drop my trials.
There are visits from my sister, visits down to my aunt in the peace of the Santa Cruz mountains. Spin classes and midweek dinner parties and weekend trips planned. Restoration of a dear friendship, finding understanding and open arms and cuddles with a fuzzy four-legged companion.
Sure, there is more sleep, a more cautious approach to my days, a gentler way of doing things. But there is still life, even if it looks a bit different at times.
There are once-close others who’ve quietly slipped away. I release resentment, knowing we’re not all built to handle each other’s burdens. We have seasons, and we find each other again when the time is right. There were areas I had to step back. Days of rest and canceled plans. But it’s okay.
So friends, if you’re reading this still, please know I am not reaching out with a plea but with honesty and openness:
This is where I am at, right now. This is what is happening, right now. But depression isn’t me. It is a chapter of my story–I’m still being grown and shaped. I’m still letting these pages be written.
We all have these hollow spaces in our hearts we wish others wouldn’t see. But what would happen if we start to let those we trust in?