I have heard that life is long and love is hard.
But that’s not how I’ve ever looked at it. I have always been excited about life—have always been someone who has sprung out of bed every morning, eager to greet the day, to drink in every new possibility, to taste every experience, good and bad, because life is precious, and all of it is beautiful. I have always been someone who is grateful that there are soy lattes in the world, and knee socks, and sunshine, and apple pie, and red wine.
Except for twice.
Twice in my life I have fallen into a debilitating, crippling, paralyzing depression. As in, no shower, no movement, can’t-get-out-of-bed-except-to-pee depression. Once was after a terrible break up, so it was semi-expected, even if that didn’t make it any easier. But this past time, it came out of the blue, on the heels of one of the happiest times of my life.
I was feeling confident, sexy, excited about my life—and boom. Face down. Into the toilet. I had to have my mother fly down to get me out of bed. After three days, I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own.
The worst part? I didn’t recognize myself anymore.
Not only did my friends and family not see where this came from, or know how to help, but I was so blind-sided by this new me that I had several moments where I went “who are you and where is Sunshine Girl?”
Yes, maybe I call myself Sunshine Girl from time to time. It fits. I am happy! I am light! Except for when I am in a dark, un-showered hole of sadness.
Now, there are mitigating factors. I have struggled with an eating disorder for over 20 years. That was not a factor the first time, but it definitely was this time.
About 10 months ago, I moved to a new state to be with a man who turned out to be…well, not the man I thought he was. I left, changed jobs, had a pretty serious injury, fell for a dude who didn’t fall back for me (splat), and drained my savings account while unable to walk from aforementioned injury. Oh, and did I mention that my sister moved across the world, and my parents went through an ugly divorce?
Looking back, it should have been no surprise that I was set up for a case of the blues if I didn’t engage in proper self-care; if I didn’t listen to myself and what I needed.
The common denominator for both instances of crippling, dark-hole depression is that both times I was not present in my own truth—I was not being honest with what I wanted and needed out of my life.
I have always been an excellent liar—to myself. They’re lies of convenience, always. “He isn’t really screaming at me, he is just very passionate about his feelings.” “You aren’t anorexic, you are just one of those people who doesn’t get hungry often.” “Don’t follow your dream of moving to Colorado—move to Raleigh. Love conquers all.” And maybe the biggest and the best and most recurring: “You are happy. Smile harder.”
Even if it is a constant struggle, even if I have to fight through every step, I will not lie to myself, or to anyone else, about being happy in a life that is not true for me.
I am lucky. I am an educated girl and I can have these feelings. I have never taken my life for granted. I have first world problems. But my feelings, my pains, are still real. My life is still valuable. And recently, I have been struggling.
I am tired of feeling as if my goals, my needs, are not valid just because they are not what society has deemed typical, or normally worthy of praise. I don’t want a hot shot career. I don’t want a fancy car, or a big house, or the latest, best, shiniest anything.
I want a well-tended garden.
I want to laugh. Every day. I want chickens clucking around a yard where I hang my laundry out to dry in the sun. I want kids—at least two, but why stop there? 10 sounds good.
I want to help people find the resources to empower themselves—through the practice of yoga, through nutrition, through helping them discover resources of which they were not aware. I want to learn something new every day, and I want to be amazed by this life every day.
I read this on a fellephant’s bio before and I will quote it—I want to “be prone to spontaneous bursts of joy.” I want to end my nights with a warm cup of tea and a soft kiss, and begin my days climbing a mountain to greet the dawn.
Dredging that dark, lonely place of depression was scary—and for a while, I wasn’t sure I would make it. For a while, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to.
But slowly, surely, Sunshine Girl is coming back. She’s got things to do. Things to plant, people to love, sunrises to be amazed by. I missed her. And now I know that the key to keeping her, all along, has been to follow my heart, my truth.
I hope I never have to say goodbye to her again.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Richard May/Editor: Bryonie Wise