Push Open the Door
This Hot Air Post might be one of the most personal to date. But, as with writing, sometimes a topic needs to be discussed so I can better understand it, and maybe it can help someone else. Depression runs in my family and I am not one to escape from this illness as well. For years I have tried to hide it. Maybe it was acting like nothing was wrong if someone asked me, or maybe it was days when I couldn’t shake unhappiness within me when everything outside appeared fine. How could you be depressed? I have my health. I have food. I have shelter and I live in one of the greatest countries in the world. Underneath this disguise, a cloud appears so often, and casts a long shadow over me. Please understand that this is my own particular experience and not one to compare too or criticize in any way. I recently watched a video clip from an episode of John Oliver’s show, where he spoke about Mental Illness as a topic America still does not understand.
I live and work as most Americans do and are blessed to be living in one of the most diverse and creative cities in the world. As an artist, I get to create projects to satisfy a curiosity and maybe one day this will become my full time occupation. The threat of war is far from my doorstep and I can walk to a grocery store and buy any item my stomach desires. I do my best to eat healthy and workout as much as I can. Yet, depression still finds a way to surround me and take control. Recently, a bout of depression hit me so hard that I had trouble believing that I wasn’t a failure. That each decision I made was a “mistake”, all of them, but none of them where as big of a “mistake” as the decision to leave Charleston. I even thought about each moment of my travel out west as a failure and a foul’s errand. Lying on my back, staring at the ceiling above, listening to my fan rotate, all my thoughts were negative. To provide more details of how depression held me down, I rather not get into specifics. I just know that depression is an illness and something I live with each day. A fight I will win but is an illness many of my friends and family fight as well.
My mother battles depression and she has learned to cope as best as she can. Today she is doing better than ever. But this illness runs deep within my family and unfortunately not all of it is good. What is important for me is not to look back, but better understand this illness by the triggers that cause an episode to occur. I love to be a busy person. I don’t know where this comes from but even today, I make a list each morning of things I want to do. Maybe it’s an OCD thing, but making a list, striking off an item from that list, in bold red ink, makes me feel wonderful. Maybe the list is a trigger, I don’t know. What I do know is that depression will manifest if I don’t get enough sleep. This I can relate to the fact that I love to do as much as possible within a given day, to complete my list. Sometimes this keeps me up late. If I need to get up early, without much sleep, this could be a trigger. More importantly, alcohol abusive is a trigger. I know this. I do my best to avoid alcohol as much as possible, and knowing my addictive personality, I do my best. Yet, sometimes I drink. Maybe too much, and a trigger can happen. But, more importantly is that this year, I have made large scale decisions in my life, that the stress of those decisions have caused me to become depressed at certain moments, sometimes days. Such dramatic changes for me has caused me to lose focus on how important those changes are for me.
To describe my depression, is to picture a door swinging closed. This door is closed so tightly, that I can barely push the door open with all my strength. Moments like these I often reach my lowest point. I feel as if I can’t “see” my way out. I will suffocate under all the decisions I have made. Good or bad. It doesn’t matter. Depression keeps the door shut closed as hard as I try to open it. But depression won’t win. I will not let it. I am making better choices and leaving Charleston was one of those. Spending the 7 weeks on the road I learned much about myself, maybe too much. Yet, I know that each day I spend concentrating on the moment, the present, the NOW, I don’t need to worry or stress about past decisions. This is easy to write of course but I do my best to put forth my strongest effort of living in the NOW. Meditation is a morning routine of mine I have been practicing for almost a year now. No it’s not the cure all. But what mediation has taught me is that worry, stress, and thinking about the past and future is not a positive way to spend the day. To concern myself with only the NOW, the present is my best approach. I have spent too much of my life thinking about the past. Too much time spent looking back, why? This is not good. I don’t know what the future will present. No one does. What I do know is that I am learning to be on the lookout for triggers, and understand that my depression is an illness I will battle each day. I will not let depression win.