I have been rather quiet online over the last several weeks since I made the decision to limit my activity on social media to focus on myself and the person closest to me. In late October, I began to slow down after feeling incredibly depleted as the result of essentially biting off more than I could chew. I was doing well professionally, but it turns out that I wasn’t doing as exceptional personally.
My husband and best friend from college were the recipients of sobbing phone calls and voicemails as I poured myself out in the middle of my kitchen floor during a legitimate adulating fail to pull myself together.
I realized I had fallen into a cycle of depression that is often overlooked, because much of the world still has a picture of what depression should look like. It certainly shouldn’t have looked like me: a woman who essentially gave the middle finger to corporate America earlier in the summer to do what I wanted. A woman who traveled more in the last 18 months than some people do their entire life and who had accomplished more goals than previously anticipated. Dreams of mine literally came true and the groundwork for bigger dreams had already begun. And yet, there I was, home alone for the weekend, having a complete emotional meltdown while my dog watched.
I have dealt with recurring depression since I was a teenager and each episode I’ve had has become easier to manage as I’ve gotten older. When I was in high school, I would spend weeks and months in the darkest places of my mind as I caved into myself, waiting to be consumed by anything that would take away the pain I was feeling.
I never told anyone how I felt. I was quiet and generally joyful around others, but when I was alone I cried often and wrote about the double-sided persona that I struggled with.
I grew up in an environment where, for the most part, I was often told that people had bigger problems than my own. Of course, as an adult I know this to be true, but as a teen I felt like the world was caving in on me; yet I wasn’t able to express my feelings for fear of being told they weren’t valid in a world that was so much bigger than me. Now, when I have an episode it usually looks much like the above meltdown and then I immediately seek help, rather than let it fester as I did when I was a teen.
I have seen a therapist every few years for the last ten years. There are a couple that I’ve liked a lot more than others, but I have gained something from all of it and that is a significant amount of insight and the ability to step outside of myself in an effort to see the bigger picture. I don’t always do it with grace, (hence my kitchen meltdown) but I’ve learned to identify what I’m feeling and (most of the time) why I’m feeling a certain way; and when I dig deeper I can usually determine what the trigger was. In this case, it turned out to be a lack of actually listening to myself and taking space when I needed it. The result was a lot of frustration and resentment mixed with old wounds I had yet to properly deal with as I moved through the year at full speed.
I realized the weekend that I fell apart was the first time I had been completely alone for more than a few hours in over a year. My husband and I had previously shared our apartment with a close friend of ours as a means of saving money for our wedding; so even when my other half traveled, I had a companion. Many would view this as a good thing to avoid feeling alone, however I am a textbook introvert and I value my alone time. Despite having a bedroom to retreat to, it’s difficult to feel as though “me time” was being fulfilled with a television blaring in the other room and the consciousness of another person filling the air.
I didn’t realize it until I was crying over fried rice, but the lack of space compounded with my busy schedule and the self-inflicted pressure to keep moving had taken a toll on me. I was failing at balance and somewhere in early 2016 I stopped consistently giving myself what I needed. I had created a cycle of recognition where I found myself fully immersed in moments, soaking them up for all that they were – not only to me, but to those I was sharing them with – and I would tell myself how important it was to be present and focus on the things that truly matter in life. I wrote about it and shared many of my experiences with readers and I got a boost from the positive feedback of each piece. I needed to do more and share more and experience more so that I could have more of those moments where I would recognize life sinking in!
And I exhausted myself.
I filled myself up to the point where I had difficulty focusing on one particular thought. My mind literally became a series of post-it’s with ideas I couldn’t expand on and my eyes were constantly overwhelmed with media from being glued to my phone. I needed to slow down, recalibrate and focus on what was actually important and I knew the answer wasn’t online.
I wrote one final piece for the year and it was, hands down, the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. I shared some personal things about myself in a controversial, political article that was published in November.
Once the feedback from my article started rolling in, I turned off notifications for my social media accounts so that I would stop picking my phone up every time the indicator light flashed. I knew that my constant use of technology was part of the reason for my spiral and it was time to take some space.
I spent the end of 2016 with my husband and among friends along with weekly doses of therapy to get my groove back so-to-speak. I took some of my own advice and prioritized what is truly important. I was reminded that listening to and expressing myself should be number one, because it’s not a new discovery when people say that you can’t care for others if you don’t care for yourself.
Depression isn’t always crying in a darkened room. Many times, it’s the person breezing through life, doing all of the things they’ve ever wanted to do without slowing down long enough to listen to what they truly need. Depression is found in the people you’d least expect and it doesn’t mean they’re ungrateful for the life they lead. I am certainly grateful for everything in my life and I am well aware that I have a pretty good one.
I’m also aware that I fall in the category of people who require a little more self-care to remain balanced compared to the average person. I lost sight of that, but I am getting back on track and I’m ready to move into the year with more balance, wherever I can create it.