I had great aspirations when I was growing up. Not just as a child but as a teen and young adult. I was going to be an actress or an astronaut – one or the other – but I was going to prepare for both. And along the way, I planned to pick up a husband, a few kids, and live out my dreams of bungee jumping and skydiving and exploring the Amazon.
Somewhere along the way, those dreams got quashed by fear which gave rise to anxiety which ultimately gave rise to depression. It’s no secret that almost eight years ago I was afflicted by crippling depression. I literally lost a month of my life while I struggled to get back on my feet. Eventually I did and lived to tell the tale. But this time of year, I feel the ugly demons rearing their heads again.
It’s clear that I’m affected by the gray skies of winter. I’m not sure if it’s a physical condition or mental but either way, I can feel the sadness creeping in when the dark, cool months arrive. Over the holiday break, it’s been especially obvious to me. I’ve been staying up late with the inability to sleep, sleeping late, and then feeling lethargic in the morning. Once I’m able to get myself going, I often feel wired during the day. And when I take a moment to stop, usually right around lunch time, I crash. I sit on the couch and bury myself with a book or electronic device and basically hide from the world.
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize that I’m not simply lazy or unmotivated. I’m depressed. It’s been a challenging year for me personally so it’s really no surprise but without putting a label on it, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle.
When posts started popping up on Facebook with my friends declaring the hopes, dreams, and goals for the year – daring to state it publicly so that they can claim it! – I secretly rolled my eyes wondering how a Facebook status could empower them. And then I wondered more deeply. Why don’t I have any hopes, dreams, and goals for the year? Or for life, in general? Who do I look up to and admire? What do I want to be?
These are all questions I don’t have answers to and haven’t had answers for a long, long time. And I think that’s depression taking hold. I’ve realized that it’s much easier for me to let life simply pass me by. I live moment to moment, sometimes engaged and sometimes withdrawn. And that’s no way to live.
When my friend, Nicole, asked me about a “word” for 2016, I immediately thought that I wasn’t going to go down that road. It’s not my thing and any word that frames my life right now would be considered less than inspirational. Those were my exact thoughts at 11am this morning when I finally decided to drag myself out of bed and find the strength to go on a hike.
Something about the cool, crisp air and the solitude of nature made all the difference. As I started hiking, my intention was to do nothing but finish. And yet, my mind finally let go and all of the thoughts you’re reading now came rushing in. And about a mile into my 4.5 mile hike, I found clarity. I found what I needed for 2016: strength.
Finding strength is hard. Sometimes the things we rely on to give us strength are the very things that take it away. So I’m going to look inward. I’m going to get out of bed when my mind says stay. I’m going to write from the heart instead of going through the motions. I’m going to physically strengthen my body knowing it will mentally strengthen my mind.
This is a tough year for me to face but going into it with the clarity I reached today helps give me just enough strength to push forward.
A head-clearing walk is good for a lot of things. I’m hoping you have a year of strength. One day at a time. One decision and question and step at a time.
I’ve been taking things one day at a time. But, man, I need something to look forward to. I think I’ll at least look forward to Spring – a time of renewal.
Love this and love you.
Right back at you.
I am so very glad that I was able to give you that nudge … a little voice inside told me to add your name, to see where you would go .. to see where you were in that moment. I have so much love for you, a huge respect for you as a writer, a professional, a mom and a friend. Strength comes to us from all sorts of places … and know, that no mater the time of day or night, I can hold your virtual hand … I will also jump on a flight at a moments notice and we shall hike under a grey sky and believe it to be blue – anytime.
It turns out that I’m so invested in strength this year that I paid a ridiculous amount of money to have it put on a bracelet. I’ll do this. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Somewhere, some time.
well, beats having it tattooed on your derriere 😉
Hope it is sooner than later … the meeting that is …
Apply to be a returning champion for [email protected]!!!
You are a woman I admire.
Love this piece for so many reasons; but mostly because it took strength to write it.
The admiration is right back. You are strong and so full of light. I hope you never lose that!
I was totally that way too this year, yet I had no clue that it was depression I was battling. For months now, I have just gone with the flow not really caring one way or the other. I had become stagnant in all things and thought it was just a mood, but later found out I was battling my first real bout of depression. My word for this year is “change” — so much needs to happen with me and I claimed that this year for myself. Kudos to you for giving yourself the word strength. Your words are inspiring to me and strengthen me to keep going 🙂
Jennifer – thank you so much for sharing this with me. I know that these feelings, moods, bouts, will come and go. Luckily, I know my triggers. But my goal is make sure I do everything to lessen them. Hoping for much change for you this year!