Wednesday, June 24, 2015

depression & breathing.

The storm is coming, but I don't mind.
People are dying, I close my blinds.
All that I know is I'm breathing now.

I want to change the world, instead I sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me.
But all that I know is I'm breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
Ingrid Michaelson


It's been nearly a year since I started working again, and in that space I have done a lot of things I am proud of, and grateful for: I left a toxic work environment, began a new and healthier job, played in a symphony, pushed myself out of my exercise comfort zone, wrote a few good toasts for weddings, began to involve myself more deeply in the strange little church community we've stumbled upon, and even practiced being spontaneous with friends (you know it's foreign to be spontaneous when one must "practice" at it).

There's also this always-present temptation to give in to waves of depression.  The fact that I have a choice and am not just living there constantly, down in the dirt, is evidence of the healing and growth that have taken place over the past two years, yet I still find myself on that precipice from time to time.

The despairing rumination on jobs goes something like this:

What am I doing with my life?  I don't want to sit at a desk all day, I want to spend my time doing something I care about.  I want to get paid to do something I care about.  I like writing, I like psychology, I like counseling, I like stories.  I should look at graduate programs.  I should volunteer.  I should make a plan.  I can't do this.  What if I fail?  What if I don't really like whatever it is I choose?  What if I try and it's not the right fit and I'm back to square one?  I shouldn't take the leap because I'm not sure.  I'm afraid.  I'm so afraid.

There are also despairing thoughts about strained relationships, misunderstandings, black people being shot and violently oppressed, the at-times disappointing evangelical presence in this country, my body.  It can feel as though all is hopeless, all is lost, all is static and stuck.

I've never given birth, but in my therapy, we often talk about a birth metaphor for this journey I'm on.  Mothers of the world, forgive me, but it feels true: there are waves of pain, terrible contractions, where it feels as though I couldn't possibly survive or to get to the other side of that moment.  It's the type of pain that demands some wiggling--it's far too intense to bear while completely still--and so I'm always either frantically Googling graduate programs around the country and researching my Meyers-Briggs personality, or else disappearing entirely by watching Netflix or reading a novel, trying to escape the pain, the anxiety I feel that lodges somewhere in my throat and makes it hard to breathe.

Here is what I want to do:

When I am despairing, I want to remember the beauty in my life, how far I've come and how much I've been given.  I may feel totally lost, convinced my life is over, with an imperfect marriage and imperfect friendships and a tendency to hide rather than live out my beliefs--but I also have a porch with a view of the sunset, and a husband who talks in strange voices to make me laugh, and a cat who follows me around everywhere, and strong legs that can squat and lunge, and people who love me and want to share life with me.  I may feel despair over cancer and police brutality and the death penalty, but I also pray the Psalms and love Jesus and sometimes can passionately believe God will return and set it all right, creatively redeeming all the exploitation and fear and violence we have created, and in fact is doing so now, in small ways.  It is not too late for me.  It is not too late for the world.

When I'm afraid, I want to ride the wave of fear, to not drown in it but not let it keep me from even dipping my toes into the water, either.  I want to notice the panic rising when I think about jobs or future plans, and then to say to myself with kindness, "You'll be alright," to keep engaging and exploring plans and even commit to some of those plans, even when doing so causes what feels to be unbearable pain and fear.  I want to pick a graduate program or a next step and do it, even when it terrifies me.  I want these contractions and pain to lead somewhere.  I want to give birth to this new life struggling to emerge from within.

So I am trying.  I am looking at graduate degrees and certificate programs, I am considering different paths to take, I am trying to find a balance of all the things I want to do and prioritize in my life, from work to music to volunteer work to church to relationships.  I want to change the world, and my own life, and I am still breathing.


  1. You are doing a wonderful job. You are persevering, you are being good to yourself for letting yourself feel. I am so proud of you and I love you so dearly - so glad to be a support though this journey (and have you be a support during mine!). - Steph

    ps. I cant remember my google password so Im sending these from Markus's.

    1. I am giggling at Markus' old profile pic + more than grateful to have you on my home team. You're already like your parents with their joint Facebook account! xoxo