I knew I was in trouble when Anthony Bourdain died.
That a hero of mine, so full of ready wit and gorgeous words and hunger for life could not find a reason to go on, could end his own life so abruptly – what chance did I have?
For months, I’d been battling depression and it wasn’t getting any better.
The color had drained from my life. Depression for me is not about sadness but about the complete inability to feel anything at all, except for occasional crippling bouts of anxiety.
I went through the motions. I pretended things were normal. I functioned, mostly. But inside I felt nothing. No joy, no anger, no satisfaction, nothing. (Which in its own way is rather painful.)
My usual tricks to feel better didn’t work. The things I love held no appeal. I avoided my friends. I was so, so tired, not just in body but in spirit.
I knew this wasn’t normal but I also didn’t feel like there was any chance things could get better. I felt like my eyes were finally open to the truth of life and it was no wonder I was in despair. Everything seemed wrong, including me.
I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t even have words to explain it when I tried.
But then Bourdain died and I wasn’t sad, just… thoughtful. I got it. I realized that the same voice whispering in his ear was whispering in mine too. And it scared the hell out of me.
It took weeks to work up the courage to find a therapist and over a month more to find one who accepts my insurance. Week after week I sat in her office and tried to articulate what was wrong. It was frustrating and slow but bit by bit I chipped away at the wall between me and my emotions.
I’m not sure if a professional would describe it this way, but for me it’s as if I had been ignoring what I felt for so long in a desperate attempt to hold myself together that all my emotions eventually stayed in permanent lock down. When you shut out fear, worry, anger, and sadness, all the good emotions get shut out too.
I remember the moment my senses came back to life. Walking into a grove of trees I suddenly noticed the smell of fir and rain. I heard the birds singing. I felt the spongy spring of the earth under my feet. And the light… the incredible magical dappled forest light took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in over six months, I wanted my camera.
Things started changing. Not overnight and not in a straight line, but one afternoon I had a creative idea for work. And then one morning I realized I was happy for absolutely no reason. One day a book made me cry.
There is still work to do. I know the depression isn’t far away. Too little sleep and too much extroverting leaves me dangerously numb. I’m still working up the courage to have some critical conversations. I need to get better at drawing boundaries because I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to overwhelm.
But I want to be here for it. And that can only be considered an improvement.
All photos taken by me with a Nikon DSLR.
In July, when the roses were at their peak,
I couldn’t summon the energy to get out my camera.
But the joy of living where I do
is that the roses are still in bloom in October.