And Then I Fell Out the Window

Life, examined and punted around


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There I Was Then, Here I Am Now

Keep a journal. Even if it’s just a record of what you did that week, or that day, if only so that you can pull it out later and see how things have changed.

When I started this blog I was severely depressed, I was in a job that I hated, and I felt disconnected from people around me. I re-read that blog entry today and had that alien sensation of not remember being that person who wrote it. So much has changed. Several aspects of my life have changed for the better, but the big step that I needed to take was getting medication.

Depression can happen when your life circumstances suck, but it can also happen when you have a lot of good things going for you. Of course, when you’re depressed, acknowledging all the good things in your life only makes you more guilty, invalidates your sadness. I remember thinking, I have no right to be unhappy. I have so many privileges and luxuries in my life. I am pathetic and ungrateful for feeling this way. 

Being on the other side of this years later, I realize how irrational that is. But depression is irrational. It’s wonky brain chemistry, and I began to realize this when I did everything right – worked hard at my job, socialized, exercised, ate decently, forced myself to work on creative projects – and I was still feeling miserable. It wasn’t me, it was a chemical imbalance.

When I started this blog in 2013, I didn’t think I’d live to see 24. I didn’t want to see 24. Being in that state of hopelessness is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I wish so desperately that 26-year-old me could go back and tell 23-year-old me that it’s going to get so much better, to keep holding on, one day at a time. jAt some points in life, that is the only way to keep going.

 

I feel so lucky to have what I have now. I know that I will have hard times again, and I hope that when those times come, I can return to my journals and my blogs and remember that I was here at deep despair before, and I will be there at happiness again.

 

 

End note:

I don’t take antidepressants anymore, but I now know what it feels like, and I know that if I needed to take them again to feel normal and rational again, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back on them. The stigma of mental illness is still prevalent, although it’s getting better, and there are so many excellent articles and essays on mental illness in general for those outside of it. I would deeply recommend Hyperbole and a Half‘s comics about it. She hits the nail on the head:

Part 1

Part 2

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Yoga and a Quiet Blossoming

I’m sitting in the dark on the porch swing outside my house, starts twinkling–Big Dipper is right overhead, and yes indeed, summer is here. The breeze wafts over the scent of the lilac bushes lining alleyway I just walked down, sweat-drenched, yoga mat slung over my shoulder.

For a long time I’d thought of yoga as something pretentious, at least in the states–something rich white people do to show off how flexible they are. In some ways this is true. I went to the $5 community class at Hothouse Yoga (usually pretty darn expensive for a lowly baker/simulated patient like me) into a class of all-white college-aged students, most wearing designer outfits. This used to bother me. I remember going to a yoga class at Luther three years ago and finding the whole situation ironically stressful. I would fret over my downward dog and wonder why my wrists hurt so much, then I’d scowl over at the curly-haired girl who brought her own yoga mat (most of us just used the ones in the studio, as dubiously sweaty as they were) and made a point to get into the deepest lunges, the best tree poses, and to be all-around smug.

Or maybe that was just my perceptions.

This class, too, had its all-stars…and the one shirtless man in the front who breathed extraordinarily loudly and pushed himself too far…but I found myself not caring. I happily walked in with my shaved head, my normal old t-shirt emblazoned with “Got Libros?”, my old running shorts, and my somewhat wobbly midsection and found that I did not care if I messed up or was behind the “regulars” of the class or if I needed to take a break. I didn’t feel flustered if I stumbled over from tree pose…I just grinned and planted my foot back above my kneecap.

What had changed over the past three years? I had changed, slowly, quietly…and it was only when I was in downward dog, sweat-drenched hands slipping over the mat, that I realized it. I feel at peace, happy…wow.

I feel like I should explain the “hot yoga” phenomenon, because it sounds miserable, at least to heat-hating me. They basically put you in sauna for an hour and you do yoga and try not to die. I was anticipating sweat, of course I was, and I brought my waterbottle to compensate, but I’ve never sweated like this before. Within the first five minutes of the warmup poses, sweat was tricking down the side of my face. Soon my entire arms glistened with wetness, and then my entire body was absolutely soaked. I am eternally grateful for my short hair so I could dunk it under the faucet in the bathroom immediately after class. 

The purpose of hot yoga is, presumably, to let you get into deeper stretches, and hey it worked. Ms. I-Can’t-Touch-My-Toes did manage to wrap her digits around her big toes with relatively straight legs tonight. Then I suppose there are the benefits of sweating out all the blech in your body. When I did step out into the starry night with my mat, I felt like I was floating down the street. I hovered down the ped mall, full of students done with finals, drinking, eating meals, sitting on benches with cups of frozen yogurt, preteen girls doing gymnastics on the springy floor of the play area by the library, people on iPads studying at Bread Garden, an old man playing blues guitar. 

I walked past the blossoming trees, petals falling like snow, and under the leaves on the trees that just a week ago were nothing but buds, past dandelions which seemed to have burst from yellow tufted flowers to the halo of fluffy seeds in less than a day. And I never saw this happen. The change came and I only noticed the shocking disparity between what was and what used to be not long ago.

Where was I three years ago? In such a different place than I am now. Even three months ago I was in a completely different place, though my outer circumstances haven’t changed much. And where will I be three months from now, three years from now? Maybe I’ll be in a low place again. Maybe I will be looking back and realizing how something inside blossomed without me seeing it. So past me, three-months-ago-me, things did get better. Things do change. And no, you didn’t have to go to a wild party or run away across the world or lose ten pounds. You were stepping forward and sprouting quietly amidst all your sorrow and chaos.


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What’s (With) the Buzz?

I don’t think it’s the norm for Cost Cutters to hear from a female with shoulder-length hair, “I want you to shave all of this off.” The hairdresser looked at me and raised her eyebrows. “All of it? Really?” “Really.” “Okay, are you sure?”

No, I’m thinking. What if this is a terrible horrible idea? What if I have a fat neck and a weird skull dent and I look like an ugly man with boobs? 

I sat in the chair, she got the cape on, and then helped another customer. I stared in the mirror, nerves setting in. It wasn’t like this was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I’d been musing back and forth about shaving my head since this summer. But now that I was in the chair, was I really going to do this? It grows back, sure, but what if the growing back was terrible and awkward? “I’m actually really nervous now,” I said when she came back. 

I’m nervous!” she said. “My hands are shaking!” 

The hairdresser and the man in the chair next to me are looking over in interest. She starts buzzing and I grin and bite my lip. Hair starts falling. 

It was weird watching it go, but I’ve never loved my hair to death. It’s always been thin, but in the fall I got so stressed with student teaching and life-after-canoe-guiding that it started thinning even more. It’s a dull color in the winter, looking limp when it’s down and skinny when it’s up. And, I realized, once it was gone, that I felt a million times happier without it. 

I was grinning ear to ear when she was done. I almost teared up with how gorgeous and, surprisingly, feminine I felt. More gorgeous than I ever had. It was like I’d had the past years of awkward growing up buzzed off. I got out of the chair and stepped over strands of thin hair that felt like every single time I’d hidden myself or tried to be something that I’m not. I felt genuine and beautiful and right, finally.

That seems really ridiculous to suggest that one stupid haircut gave me a whole personal revelation, but it’s true. I drove home with the car windows down, the wind ruffling through my 1/4″ hair. It’s funny. Whenever I would tell someone, “I want to shave my head,” most of them would say, “Ooooh, please don’t.” Which I interpreted to mean that I didn’t have the face for it. Yeah, I don’t have the swanlike neck or willowy features of Natalie Portman. Maybe it was a bad idea. So this comment always gave me pause and I’d end up getting a wild and crazy trim instead. Maybe throw in some layers if I was feeling rebellious.

The other response was, “If you do, people will think you’re a cancer patient.” I feel like the opposite of a cancer patient right now. I feel strong and more alive than I have in forever. And gorgeous. My hair was the sickly-looking thing. Not my face. 

The people who said, “DO IT” were, consistently, women who had shaved their heads before. They get it, I think. They could relate to the feeling of lightness when it was gone, of purity. A fresh start. A simple aesthetic. All things that I needed and craved, and I didn’t realize how much so until I finally got it and I felt elated. 

The point is, I hope this becomes more than just a haircut. I want this to be a fresh start for everything else, not just my scalp. And I can feel how cliched this all sounds. Whatever. I fucking love my skull right now.

….Also, my parents haven’t seen it yet. This’ll be fun.