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 I live moment to moment, sometimes engaged and sometimes withdrawn.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.