This morning I woke up early. Like 2:30am. I have a cold so this was a mix of sinus congestion, jitteriness from Sudafed (for the sinus congestion) and my freaking unstoppable mind. Whenever this happens I hear the voice of Dr. Fleisher, the last psychiatrist I worked with, in my head, “Early morning awakening should be pathognomonic for depression.” I didn’t feel depressed as I laid in bed and then on the couch, trying to reclaim sleep. I actually felt a little buoyancy. I’m sure I’m depressed, but I’m terrible at it. I hesitate to even write this because I know so many people can exist in a pervasive fog of depression for months and years. I simply CANNOT.
I’m still congratulating myself for enduring the the emotion I did last week, when I wrote about floating like a rabid ghost. I let that go on for most of the week. When I was in the worst of it, buoyancy was not an option. I submerged into the sadness. I listened to sad music (have you heard Brandi Carlile’s new album?!?—freaking amazing). I looked sad. I said sad things to people I love. I really tried to not fight it off. The frightening thing about doing that is that it might never dissipate, but I’ve been through this enough times now to know that, for me, it has to. I simply cannot endure prolonged sadness.
By the end of the weekend, I felt myself starting to vacillate between tears and laughter. I write this at the risk of sounding crazy, but I actually would like to normalize this. The back and forth between tears and laughter is the clawing for the surface. It’s the reaching and it should absolutely be leaned into, full-force.
And as I go through this process, I think of cancer and death. Ha! Seriously. I thought about cancer and death for most of my 20s so it’s understandable that my brain goes there. When I was in my 20s, I wondered: How do you live like you are dying? Make each day count? Live each day to the fullest? All that garbage. Back then, I concluded that you don’t. You go on like a worker bee, building the hive until you go facedown in the honey and that’s it. This isn’t funny, but I’m laughing as I write it. People with their shit together don’t have the luxury of living each day to the fullest. They have to hustle for their worthiness.
I hustled for a lot years. And it’s great because it put me in the position I’m in now. I can sit in my comfortable living room in San Diego, listening to the rain fall outside my window and Ingrid Michaelson sing, “I don’t gotta hit the lotto cause I got a lot of lovin’ for free.” But I don’t want to hustle anymore. Eff that shiz.
So now when I’m clawing my way out of the depression hole, I ask myself, What feels like dancing? And I do that. Sometimes it’s actual dancing. Sometimes it’s going for a two mile walk in the rain and letting it soak my face and hair so much that my neighbors question what might be wrong with me as I walk past. “Her jacket has a hood….?” Sometimes it’s writing a beautiful and honest letter to the guy I keep trying to get over and hand delivering it. It’s laughing at myself as I’m standing there with him reading the letter. It’s making space in my mind for that fact that real love is a mess and it’s incredible and worth the hassle and the tears even if it lasts only a moment.
And you know what? Whenever I lean into the joy of life, which is inherently insensible, I realize that I am more fully alive than I ever was before. I can take the gut punch of sadness as I drive to work, that comes on for no reason and for every reason. I can submerge in the sadness for another moment when I need to because I know I will pop back up like a cork.
“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic