CW: This post deals with what might be termed severe anxiety and depression. If you can’t read about that right now, that’s okay. I hope you’re well.
I’m walking along a street in my neighborhood. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is out, there’s a nice breeze. I’m pushing my 10 month-old daughter in our stroller. We do this every day, at least once a day, if the weather’s nice enough. Everything’s great, except for what’s going on inside my head.
Inside, I’ve got storm clouds. I’m starting and stopping imaginary fights with my wife. I’m thinking that everything—the house, our marriage, my career, all of it—is all going to end, to go up in smoke. And that, somehow, I’m the one holding the match. This isn’t a new place for me to be, mentally. This time, thankfully, something was different.
A warning bell went off somewhere in my mind. This isn’t right. You’re not looking at reality. All of these things you’re brooding on? …you made them up.
Back to Life, Back to Reality
I nearly stopped walking and just stared because the voice was right. It cut through the thick, sad fog in my mind and I felt some clarity for the first time in what seemed like a long time. While continuing down the sidewalk, I sent an email to my doctor to ask about getting back on anti-depressants. I also decided to stop drinking.
It’s been almost 10 years since I was on Celexa for the first and only time I’ve taken anti-depressants. At the time, I’d just lost my teaching job (but had to finish out the last three months of the school year). Not many months after that, my ex-wife and I decided to dissolve our marriage. I recognized some of the same mental patterns from then when I was walking and I knew I wanted to not be in that place again.
As for the drinking, well. I like to drink. I’m a large person and I have a decently high tolerance. In general, I don’t get hammered and I don’t cause problems for myself when I do. The problem now is having a beer or four or five, most nights, and staying up until 12am (or later) when I have to be up at 6:30am to take care of the baby. I’ve never put myself or my family in danger with this behavior, but I’ve made myself miserable. Under-slept, dehydrated, and ripe to begin walking the mental trails that depression and anxiety have burned into my brain.
So it’s time to leave it alone and to build better habits.
This all happened over this past weekend. So, some four days ago. I have an excellent doctor and he was able to get me in this morning to talk through things and to get a prescription waiting for me at the pharmacy. I haven’t had any alcohol in four days and the only side-effects I’m seeing are that I’m feeling tired when I’m actually tired. Not unwelcome.
I’ve been sleeping more, and better. I honestly feel like a new person. However, I’ve felt like this before and I know from my history that downswings will happen. I have ruts in my brain and it’s way too easy for my thoughts to fall into them. That’s what the Celexa is for, along with exercise, more water, no alcohol, journaling, and meditation.
I also want to change more things. I want to be more curious and to actively learn. I want the feel of big, sweeping change but I don’t want my life as I know it to get destroyed. This is a habit of mine; to build things up and then see them fall, sometimes at my own hands. I don’t want what I’ve built with my family to fall. I want to change and grow, but to do so on a stable foundation.
It’s taken me most of my 41 years to get to this point. I don’t want to mess it up.
If you’ve read all of this and you’ve wondered at my behavior in the last few months, you likely know why now. I’ve been kind of erratic and desperate-seeming, letting my anxieties lead me on, then getting depressed when it doesn’t seem like things are working out for me. It’s a familiar pattern, and one I want to break.
For Me, For Yourself, For Everyone
If any of what I’ve written above resonates with you, if you’re in that dark place, let these words pierce the fog, if they can. Make some sharp, positive changes and do what you can to get out of the way of your own recovery. This isn’t a reductive statement; it’s for the people who need to hear exactly that. Mental health is a thorny tangle, especially in a capitalist society that actively seeks to make us depressed and anxious.
If you need to talk to someone, please talk to someone. If you need meds, please try and get meds. It’s not easy, and it’s not always as easy as that, I know. I hope you can make one small step today, and another tomorrow, and just keep on stepping. It’s what we have, and, at the least, we’re in it together.