I owe you one.
The last few weeks I haven't been able to shake the blues.
It's been that constant depression that feels like someone's trying to rip your chest open and you feel stuck in a perpetual panic attack with no discernible cause.
Yesterday it was particularly bad. I almost burt into tears when meeting my friend for dinner. We were going to a play, which I was skipping something that felt much more important to me to see. One of my most very favorite people in the whole universe sent me tickets to the play, which was the only reason I went to see it, instead of finals at the Portland Poetry Slam.
As I was waiting for my friend at the restaurant, I couldn't shake the thought that I was doing all of this out of obligation, not desire. I didn't want the sender of the tickets to feel like her money had gone to waist, and I was excited to see my friend, but I couldn't shake the notion that the entire evening was a feeble attempt to hold onto a part of my youth which I didn't really care about anymore.
As I drove through downtown, listening to Barbara Lahr and looking for parking, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was a different person than I'd been when I'd woken up that morning.
If I had grown older since that morning, surely I'd grown older since adolescence too, right? I was a different person than the girl who wanted to get an I Love Lucy tramp stamp at the age of twelve, I had to be. The girl still lives within me somewhere, but she isn't the same person I feel I am most days.
I feel protective of her, ashamed of her, a kinship with her, and at peace with her, but I am no longer her.
Before I got formally diagnosed with GAD, I had a LOT of problems no one (including myself) knew were attributed to severe anxiety. I had regular panic attacks of varying levels severity, I fought different kinds of unhealthy ways to cope with the pain of day to day living, and finally was able to make it to the other side. The other, medicated side. Once I was able to quell the seemingly uncontrollable physical symptoms of anxiety, I could start to tackle the mental ones.
There were few ways I could think of to take care of myself without going down the dangerous road of self harm. One of them was throwing myself into my dance class, the other was emailing my friend who sent me the tickets to the play. I used to send her so many letters, long rambly emails, nothingness, a plethora of masturbatory & superfluous messages. It was one of the only things that consistently made me feel better, because I knew she was always listening.
Last week, I made the hard decision of finally quitting my dance class. I had come to terms with the fact that it wasn't giving me what I needed anymore, and I was too busy to carve out time for it anymore. I used to not miss class unless the world was ending, but last session I noticed I was skipping more and more class. Finally this session I had to pull the trigger and bow out gracefully.
I am no longer fifteen with no way to deal with my symptoms in a healthy way outside of the studio. It's a weird feeling not to be there anymore, or really want to be there anymore, but I'm ok with it.
It occurred to me yesterday that either way, if I'd gone to slam, or gone to the play, I'd have felt bad. There was no way to win Sunday evening. After I'd gotten back in my car to drive home, I realized that I needed to stop feeling like I owed people.
Dance had saved my life, but it was no longer saving my life. I needed something else to throw myself into. Writing to my friend Julie had also saved my life, but was no longer saving my life. There are other things I do now that fill that void—that save my life when my symptoms become intense.
What I then realized, standing outside of the restaurant waiting for my friend, was that the person I really owed all that gratitude to was myself. I'd continued to make the choice to commit to living despite my brain being insurmountable some days. I made the choice to seek help, to recognize when my behavior was unhealthy, and when I needed something new out of my life.
I had so much help with a lot of these things, but at the end of the day, I'm the one that's made it this far in the choose your own adventure. I've been making the decisions and turning the pages. Sometimes the decisions haven't been smart, but I've learned and grown from them.
Now I am here, in this coffee shop, sipping toddy, listening to jazz, watching the rain, and living.
I may be sad, but I am alive.
Take some time today to give yourself credit for making it this far. You deserve it.