The Perks of Being Me

Wait for it… I have officially found employment. Actually, I have just finished my first two weeks of work in nearly 9 months. The way I look at it, I literally birthed this job – in all of its 9 months of pain and discomfort. And like most new parents, this is a wonderful and terrifying experience.

A friend of mine encouraged me to get writing again because according to him “you need to blog when you’re up too.” Touché. To be honest, since losing Isabelle last year, I have not been in a sharing mood; mostly because my mood had been down in the dumps.

It’s no secret, to anyone who knows me or who has talked to me over the past year or so, that I have struggled. I have had done battle with depression a few times in my life and last December found myself, once again, staring into that dark abyss. Mental illness has gotten some serious press recently with the rash of mass violence finding its way into the media. I refuse to get too deep into that so let me keep it at a high level – while I am happy that people are starting to recognize it as a serious affliction, we are at risk of lumping those struggling with clinical depression with the disturbed individuals who are out purchasing assault rifles with the intent of punishing a society they feel has abandoned them. These are two very distant ends of the vast spectrum of mental illness. What troubles me is the undistinguishable way we approach individuals on that spectrum. As a society, we don’t understand mental illness. We fear what we don’t understand. We see fear as weakness and as a consequence we hide what we believe to be weak. So it is no wonder that there are so many troubled people lashing out or that there are so many people unaware of this type of affliction.

I’m not scared to say that depression is a part of me – possibly a part of my genetic make-up – but a part of me none-the-less. I know what it means and I know how to deal with it. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else does. Depression is an abstract concept at best and a lie at worst, if you have not lived it or lived with it. I can only say that depression needs discussion. It needs to be talked about. It is a thing that thrives on fear and silence. We cannot be scared to ask or to talk about it. We cannot be scared to face it head on.  It is a disease that is designed to separate. Its strength is in its ability to make a person feel alone. Our fear to address it allows those suffering to retreat further into solitude. It then becomes a cycle that just feeds on itself.  I believe that beating it is based on two things: 1) people that SUPPORT you and PUSH you and 2) your pure WILL.

I am blessed to have friends and family that stick it out with me. My parents, who knew when to give me support and when to give me space. Friends who, though I am sure had no idea what to do, did their best to reach out to me when I was unresponsive. And Brian, a guy who really had no idea what to do or how to deal with me, did what all good boyfriends do: he tried. He didn’t understand, sure, but he tried. When I was a mental case trapped in an apartment all day doing battle with my own madness, he tried to console me. Days when I gave in and gave up, he tried to push me forward.  He tried to lift my spirits. He tried to help me land a job. He tried to get me exercising. He tried to make me laugh. He was not always successful – let’s be honest it was more of a 30%/70% split. At the end of the day though, the choice is mine to try. Try to understand why I’m depressed. Try and get up in the morning. Try to get that job despite rejection. Try to focus on the things that bring me joy. Maintain my will to keep trying.

And so, as I have managed to claw my way out of that hole, I am reminded of a moment not too long ago when I found encouragement in an unlikely place. Flying home after a particularly painful half marathon in California, I was watching a movie called “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Please see this movie. It was really strange and beautiful. But as the movie came to a close, the lead character gave a monologue that left me in tears.  Let me clarify, I was sobbing. The plane was landing and my friends sitting on either side of me could only watch the train wreck that was me. I could not hold back my emotional reaction to his words.

I was in a bad place.

You made me not feel alone.

You’re not a sad story.

We are infinite.

I believe that our success lies in our acknowledgement of the issue, in acceptance of our vulnerability and our willingness to participate.

One thought on “The Perks of Being Me

  1. Kristen,

    Are you ok? I heard about the Boston Marathon and have been worried sick about you all day. Hopefully you were at work in your new job?? Was afraid you may be running.

    Please call me or Nick when you can.

    Melinda

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