Recently my boyfriend and I were driving to the gym, and instead of our typical chatty trip, I sat in silence looking out at the greening Colorado foothills pass by, feeling nothing. Something had been off with me for a couple weeks, so I chose to try and positive "think" my way out of the funk.
I told him I needed to find "something to look forward to." I yearned for the feeling of positive expectation, or even just a little flash of happiness in the moment.
He took a pause and responded, "Alpine season, summer, Squamish, house projects... aren't all of these amazing things to look forward to?"
My head immediately said yes, yes, absolutely, but my heart and soul still felt detached, almost frozen. Why was I not feeling into these incredible experiences I would have in coming months? Why couldn't I feel good right now, even in just this one moment?
I didn't get it. I felt envious of his nonchalant happiness. We drove a couple more miles. I apologized for my ups and downs. "You don't need to be sorry," he said.
"I know I don't need to be sorry, but I also know it must be hard when I'm all over the place.... I would never want to date an artist." We both laughed.
We turned into the parking lot.
"Is it an artist thing, or more of a depression thing?" he asked.
My heart sunk.
As soon as he said it. My heart sparked. It knew he was spot on.
Yet suddenly, all of these words from my head spilled out onto my tongue. I tried to explain, "I think the stereotype of the tortured artist exists because creative people are prone to more highs and lows, and we find solace in creating as a means to express those feelings."
But while my mouth and mind moved, my heart stayed still, knowing.
Depression. There I was experiencing another bout of... depression. For a moment I felt hugely disappointed. I've been here before, and not too long ago. I thought I worked through this. I thought I was done with it. Why have I slipped again?
Then came the tears, then came the freedom.
I won't lie. Experiencing depression is HARD. It sucks. But in that moment I realized two very important things.
1. Depression is something you manage. I won't say it will impact me forever, because who knows what will happen, and I believe life is ever-changing. But for now, this is a very real experience I have to deal with regularly. And it "coming back" is not a sign of failure or weakness.
2. You can only move on after you acknowledge. I am a believer in positive thought. But I think masking all of our internal experiences with "positive thinking" robs of us a deeper understanding -- to acknowledge our pain, and to show our inner selves compassion.
Even though I am on the upswing now, writing these words still feels raw and brings a steady stream of tears down my face, because I know it will come again. And when it does, I hope I can sit with it, perhaps with a little more openness, and see what it has to teach me on that day.
If you're dealing with anxiety or depression at this moment, please know you're not alone. And if you need immediate support, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.