I needed to write this morning. I felt this burst of energy that would not let me fall back asleep, even though its Saturday morning at 7:21 am, and I don’t have to get up for anything this morning.
My close friends and some of my family are aware of this, and I’ve gone back and forth in my head about writing this blog post. To not write about it would be out of fear, for which I have no reason to feel fear, shame, guilt or blame. And as I write this blog as my way of “journaling”, I said that I was going to write this for me first and foremost.
A little over two weeks ago, I had two very severe panic attacks, fueled by my depression being at one of the lowest points it has ever been. Although I know I would never go so far as to take my own life, I started thinking and dwelling about if the people I love would be better off without me bringing them down. I had a lot of little things triggering my depression, and I was spiraling downward in a way that I didn’t understand. On Friday February 21st at 1pm, I went to my boss and told her what was happening, and that I needed help. I’m incredibly thankful that my boss and my company understand the importance of mental health issues, and that I was not made to feel ashamed or weak. I was placed on medical leave, which was exactly what I needed. My doctor reviewed and adjusted my medication, and I’ve been doing therapy sessions both virtual and in person over the last two weeks.
I’m thankful that I still had other events and opportunities over these past two weeks to give me something to focus on (and from which to find some inner strength). I had two gigs with Ryan the weekend of the 21st, and to me, these were divine intervention. I’ve never been happier that Ryan had laryngitis, as it forced me to concentrate on doing all of the singing for those two nights, and the sense of accomplishment is what carried me through that weekend. At that point, I hadn’t told anyone besides Jenn what was going on, and I’m glad that I was able to hold it together. Although it may look like I’ve been having these “fun trips” recently, these trips were made for a very specific reason. I NEEDED to go to Ithaca, as I needed to go somewhere where I felt a sense of past success and accomplishment, and a place where I had a lot of positive memories. Seeing some of my former professors and reminiscing about concerts and performances was incredibly uplifting. Having my brain picked in a very positive way by music school undergraduates gave me a sense of positive reinforcement as a mentor, and this is something that I have not felt for quite some time. During these past two weeks, I’ve made day trips to reconnect with longtime friends, and ask for their support and understanding. (Cyndi and Lynn – thanks for catching up at the Park City Diner – your wisdom and your humor was EXACTLY what I needed the other day!)
Over the past week, I’ve also been doing a lot of reading about mental health – although it’s hard to sometimes accept that the chemicals in our brains can be out of balance, it saddens me that there is still such a negative stigma around mental health. I also have come to realize that I’ve probably had depression for at least 35 years, as I remember times in high school (and during my first year at Ithaca) where I felt similar to how I felt two weeks ago. Sadly, back in those days the ignorant answers were “deal with it” and “suck it up”….I’m sure there are going to be those who read this and think this blog post is for sympathy and attention – if you are one of those people, please take a few minutes to give yourself a “rectal/cranial inversion”…..300 million people worldwide suffer from depression – I know I have friends who also are focused on their mental health, and I’m sure there may be some who may be afraid to acknowledge or take action to their mental health issues. I hope by writing this post, it may give them the courage to take that first step, and that It may give them a glimmer of hope that they’re not alone in how they feel.
I should hopefully be going back to work next week. I’m not asking for anything different when I return. I hope that people don’t feel like they need to handle me with kid gloves, or fear that I’ll explode over any little thing. I also understand that their reactions are something I have no control over, and that my focus needs to be positive regardless of how I’m received. Over the past two weeks, one of the challenges I’ve felt every day (practically every hour that I’m awake) is how to rebuild myself from the ground up – not change who I am, but how to respond and react differently to my “triggers” than I ever have before. I didn’t get this way overnight, and it won’t be immediate, but the goal is steady progress and change, and to not beat myself up so badly if/when I take a step backwards.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present. Although I have depression, I’m choosing not to “suffer” from it anymore. I’m going to enjoy the warmth of the mental sunlight.