Last month I was sitting on the train headed into work. It was hot out, and while I don’t remember what I was wearing that day, I remember sitting across from two beautiful young women, chatting with each other about their weekend plans, up at the lake house and out to dinner and drinks with college friends, laughing their flowery laughs, with their work appropriate flowy summer dresses, wearing those flat sandals with that little circle detail thing in the middle that I see everywhere now, just sopping with vanilla bean, safe-as-hell normalcy. In that moment I felt as alone as ever, hyper aware of how different I was from these women, of my hideous “me”-ness; I burst into tears , and spent most of the rest of the day tending to watery eyes, convinced that such and offense was grounds for termination. During the ensuing two weeks, everything was painful. Any innocuous thing could (and did) set me off, and rang some sort of alarm in me that I was an unworthy piece of garbage who deserved to be alone, who was doomed to fail, and that it could all be over if I just took this. One. Little Step. Everyone was out to get me, everyone I knew hated my guts, and they all want me gone, anyway, so let’s furiously go over the myriad ways to end it over and over and over and …
Depression is such a ridiculously wily thing, and confusing as hell. I never know how long it’s going to last, or how bad it’s going to get, or what symptoms will accompany it (will I have days were I can’t get out of bed? Will I have days where I’m trapped in a 24 hour panic attack? Will I overeat or starve myself? Stay tuned to find out!). Then there are the more frequent but less severe day to day depressive bouts, where I feel like I can actually “CBT* my way through it”, get shit done, and hope for a better tomorrow. This seems to be my general state of being, where I can actually power through the day and probably not cry, but maybe feel waterworks may ensue at any moment. Days where I can be out and about, experiencing life but not fully being able to enjoy it, despite how much I may want to; heartbreak is watching the most beautiful sunset over the lake in the arms of the love of my life, the smell of campfire smoke surrounding us as he strokes my head, and not being able to shake an overall sense of how pointless it all is.
Then there are days like yesterday, when everything just fits, and goes well, and feels right. When making a hodgepodge breakfast from the random things in the fridge with the love of my life is enough to make the day a success. When I can actually be out in nature, and laugh and smile and MEAN it. These are days when jokes are actually funny and inside ones are made, when even dying flowers are beautiful, and a veggie dog from a cart in a nursery parking lot is the best thing I’ve eaten in weeks. When I can meet up with someone and share sad stories over coffee, then express how much happier I am these days, and not feel as if I’m lying through my teeth; the gift of being able to tell someone that it does get better.
Not every day is filled with darkness. Some days the light manages to seep through the cracks, and I can feel the good that exists out there. These good days, these times of plenty, need to be appreciated for what they are. They don’t have to be huge, knock it out of the park days filled with awesome adventures, or really anything out of the ordinary. Just being able to feel something for what it is without the accompanying pall is gift enough in and of itself to constitute a win. I can’t afford to take these little things for granted; for the dark days that will undoubtedly come, I need to hold on to these fleeting moments of feeling so that I can hopefully convince myself that they’ll come again.
* CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and can be an effective treatment for both anxiety and depression (I personally use it a LOT). At the heart of CBT is an assumption that a person’s mood is directly related to his or her patterns of thought. Negative, dysfunctional thinking affects a person’s mood, sense of self, behavior, and even physical state. To learn more about how to learn to utilize these tools for yourself, please read more here.