I don't write about my anxiety and depression as much as I'd like to. Mostly because it's so folded into my experience as a person that I forget other people don't have the same experience.
But last week I spoke about design at a MBlog, blogging conference in Winnipeg, and the experience shifted the axis of how I think about myself. Why?
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, and not a cute amount.
If it's not treated, it's a debilitating amount. The kind that puts thoughts into my head that I can't stop and don't want to think, makes me so exhausted from just being awake that I have to sleep for long portions of the day, and makes me feel like the stress and emotion of the world is dialed up to 9. And almost anything can tip it over the edge into a 10.
Fast forward to 2014, and last week I spoke at a blogging conference. And I had fun.
I didn't obsess about it the week before. I didn't freak out when I go there. I had excited jitters right before, but mostly I genuinely had fun. This isn't a humble brag, for me it's a full on tectonic level shift that I'm outright celebrating!
For so long I thought that I was bad at being a grown up person. No one else reacted to things like me, or felt things like me. I thought they were dealing with what I was feeling, but better. In late 2009, my depression escalated and I spoke with a doctor who told me that my world wasn't what being a person felt like. What I was feeling is what being mentally ill felt like – and it was probably optional if I explored treatment.
And I was so lucky. I went to therapy, and eventually the first medication I tried started to lift what I had been suffering through off of me. I went to therapy and learned about taking care of myself in deeper ways.
Now, my symptoms are barely part of my life anymore. I take care of myself, and I take a high dosage of medication everyday to make sure that my brain is getting everything it needs to work normally.
Since so much of resistance and static that made everyday so gut wrenchingly difficult has been lifted, I'm one of the happiest people you'll meet. Not because I'm a Pollyanna, but because I'm incredibly thankful to be fully participating in my life, and feeling all of it.
In 2009, imagining that I could give a talk at a conference would have been impossible. And the idea that I could actually enjoy doing it would be hilarious.
In 2014, I had a great time. I got my ideas across with personality and warmth, and met some really fabulous people.
And yes, I definitely needed to sleep when I got home because I was very tired out. And I felt a little wired from the experience the next day. But mostly I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and astonishment for how much my life has changed.
Not long ago, wishing for this would have been like wishing to start breathing underwater. It wouldn't even make sense to hope for that, when doing the grocery shopping took everything I could muster.
The Bloggess was one of the speakers at the conference I spoke at, and she has a fabulous saying: depression lies. She couldn't be more right.
Anxiety, depression, bipolarism, and all mental health issues lie to us in huge, terrible ways. Mostly about how it will never feel different. But they also lie in small ways, everyday, about who we are and what we should hope for.
Please don't believe them. It can feel different, and you be exactly who you want to be. It takes work, and it's not easy, but you really can do it.
It's a hard time of year with the winter in full force, so if you're dealing with any of this please get help. Speak to someone you love about making a plan to get help that they can support you with, speak to a therapist or to a doctor. If your depression is mild, exercise for some extra endorphins, or dance it out, or watch comedy specials that make you laugh until your face hurts. Or Cry.
Do what feels right for you. Just know that you're not in it alone, so please don't try to solve it alone.
So today I'm celebrating my discovery that I'm the kind of person who likes speaking about things I'm passionate about. And tomorrow will be different, and none of us have any idea how we'll feel this time next year.
But in case you're having trouble hoping, I'm going to hope that it's better we can imagine, and I'm going to hope hard enough for both of us. Just in case you need a little extra.
Feb 26th Update: Murphy's Law! As soon as I posted about this, I got hit with the worst rough patch I've had in well over a year. It's been a rough two weeks but I'm taking care of myself, getting enough sleep, and reminding myself that while it's frustrating it's just another phase and another season. Just like everything else in life! I'm right there with you. xo