‘HUGOT FOR HOPE’
My battle against depression has left me weary and wary, battered and bruised. And yet I keep fighting
• STILL HERE—AND WINNING • THANK YOU, MISSY • I MADE IT TO ER JUST IN TIME • YOUCANNOT GIVE UP • BACK TO THE IRON
In September, I stood in a room full of businesswomen and said, “I’m still here, and I’m winning.” That’s how I ended my talk about living with clinical depression and anxiety, something I have been doing since 2015. I discussed how depression is a battle, and how it’s one you can win.
It is, but the truth is, it doesn’t always feel like I’m winning.
It didn’t feel like I was winning when, earlier this year, my psychiatrist prescribed a new pill and it kicked my ass with its awful side effects: nausea, headaches that almost never went away, brain zaps, strange vibrations throughout my body, the inability to sleep for more than two hours at a time, and restlessness, a persistent, unrelenting restlessness I had never known before.
It made me feel like breaking out of my own body and leaping out of my skin. My doctor calls it akathisia, I call it hell on earth.
It didn’t feel like I was winning when I wrote my big wish just before I turned another year older: “All I want for my birthday is to feel like myself again.”
It didn’t feel like I was winning when, two Decembers in a row, I found myself crying in my shrink’s clinic, about to start treatment. “It feels like we’re back at square one,” I remember telling her last year.
It didn’t feel like I was winning when I was in London a couple of weeks ago and I could have and should have been outside, checking out the Christ- mas markets, stuffing my face at Beigel Bake, grabbing a pint at a pub, but instead I was in my dark hotel room, hiding under the covers.
It doesn’t feel like I am winning on days when I’m so unsteady, when I’m constantly drained, when I feel like folding into myself, when everything, absolutely everything bothers me, when just opening my mouth to talk takes so much effort.
It’s okay to not be okay, I keep saying to people struggling like me. But not being okay can be really, really exhausting.
“There’s something about depression that allows you (or sometimes forces you) to explore depths of emotion that most people could never conceive of. Imagine having a disease so overwhelming that your mind causes you to want to murder yourself,“Jenny Lawson wrote in “Furiously Happy.”
I think of Avicii, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain and all the other people we lost to suicide this year. Depression is a liar and a thief that has stolen from us again and again. It makes me angry and it makes me want to keep fighting. And so I do. I ride the waves, I take my meds, I listen to my shrink, I watch myself and I celebrate the good things. I embrace the triumphs.
Like my family and friends who offer endless, unwavering support, even when I am silent about what’s going on.
Like when my doctor removed that damn medication from my cocktail of pills and I started to feel like myself again.
Or how it’s already December and I haven’t found the urge to run to my shrink yet.
Or how after a day-and-ahalf of hiding, I threw aside the covers and found the energy to explore London.
Or how every time I write or post about my mental health journey, people reach out to tell me it’s helped them feel less alone. (They make me feel less alone, too.)
Or when the light breaks through the darkness and I forget my condition even exists until I have to pop my meds.
I am weary and wary, battered and bruised. And yet I’m still standing and determined to keep going.
I think that’s still winning.
I ride the waves, I take my meds, I listen to my shrink...