The Great Big Hill

There is a journey that is being undergone here. I hesitate to say destination because are there really ever any endings, just accomplishments and mileposts and then on to the next challenge, the next batch of change that one embraces. I’ve chosen the theme of travel, of moving, of journey for these last few posts, but really what I have meant is change, and the truth of the last few years has been this: I am going through some incredibly large life changes.

And perhaps that’s obvious, but sometimes you need to start with the obvious don’t you? A journey starts from a place that you’re already familiar with, after all. Be it for a few days or a few decades, when you strive to travel, even if it’s “back home”, you are leaving a place where it always makes sense to take stock of your surroundings – because how else will you know how much further you have to go?

And though I often feel the need to wax dramatic and try not to show too much of the shark, the next few posts of this site will measure those changes that have occurred, the journeys I’ve taken, and they will, not a one of them, be light, airy pieces. Owing to the sentiment of the previous paragraph, I’ve spent a good chunk of this chapter talking about my past, examining, if only for my own benefit, the “where I’ve been” so that I can better define for you all, the “here I am.”

I would say that it should come as no surprise given the topics I’ve covered that this first post will be about my depression and the coming to terms thereof, but that would be a well-known lie. It has been a surprise, to yours truly, or at least, it has been something that I have refused to admit until just recently.

I suffer, and have, for likely the entirety of my adulthood, from depression.

I am fortunate. My depression has rarely crippled me to the point of being debilitated. I have, despite my mental state, been able to maintain a successful career, live a full and exciting life thus far, and those episodes in which I have spiraled downhill have been infrequent and I have, with one notable exception, been able to correct myself before doing anything truly rash.

It’s the one exception that scares me.

The most notable episode of my depression taking the wheel, ironically, happened in my car. Near the end of my time in San Luis Obispo, I fell deep into a spiral. I had graduated, and began to feel the dread of no longer having a goal, no longer having the safety net and imposed structure of school, of having to face adulthood. My relationships with my roommates deteriorated, I stopped caring about what I did or how I would make my way in the world, and it culminated with me driving off in something of a fugue state, then crying and screaming, until I drove my car too fast down the windy gravel road of Sea Canyon Road, and into the hillside. Providence alone saved me from injury or worse. I had escaped the episode through sheer grace or luck, and that fact scared me straight, so to speak, for a time.

There have been other episodes. Less frequent as I became to know myself, but also as I settled into a pattern that I have frequency mocked – long periods of sullen inactivity, hermit crabbing, complacency, “things are just fine” and then a whirlwind. Walking out on a job, getting a new one and moving, getting married and moving to Oregon, the list goes on. Even here, in Sacramento, the pattern has continued anew, though fueled obviously not only through my depression but by the pandemic as well.

Throughout this, the thought of my suffering continued like a splinter of the mind, and nothing that I wanted to encourage or face. It wasn’t really until I started therapy back in 2018 that I had even considered the word “depression,” and even then I had masked it with words like “anxiety” and “panic” and covered it in writing like “Spring Forward“.

I’ve been trying to will myself through this.

And then I would think about people like Robin Williams and Chris Cornell and Anthony Bourdain and fear would creep around the tattered edges of those lies. “Am I doing myself wrong,” I’d lie awake and wonder. Should I get help? What does help even look like? From who would I ask it? Are my problems even all that real? I’ve never even considered hurting myself, well, not seriously, right? Not since Sea Canyon Road, right? Yeah. I’m good. I’m fine. Let’s not bother anyone else with my problems. They have more important stuff to deal with. Far more important than any of my useless shit. I am useless, aren’t I? I’d have this sorted out already if I weren’t…

“… I should get help, right?”

And don’t think, even for a second that I wasn’t crying completely writing that paragraph, those tattered drapes of fear and shame and the familiar circle already rising to engulf me, to smother me for another round of hiding and crying and doing nothing but the barest minimum. Because this, this is depression. No, I’m not thinking of anything drastic, and I haven’t in a long time. But that absolutely paralyzing spiral lurks around every bad day. Every bit of negative feedback, every doubt and criticism, founded, self or otherwise.

It wasn’t that long ago that my therapist finally brought up anti-depressants. It was a long go, made shorter only in that I have been making a conscious effort to be more forthcoming, more open with my emotions, and – for the first time in my life – feeling more connected to them. I’m very capable of telling stories, making people like me, being gregarious and likable and fun and fucking NONE OF THAT helps in therapy. So after a few months of slowly letting my guard down, finally, we had come to that moment…

… and I lost my shit. I couldn’t think. I didn’t want to admit that she was right. I sank back down into a mood and considered some fairly drastic options. I could just get in and drive, right? Drive east, find new places to hide, new places to run to, where fuckery and foul dealings didn’t invade like a daily herald of doom or the next terrible thing wasn’t waiting around the corner to destroy everything. And then I thought about that. About my wanderlust, about my attempts to settle down and how by a myriad of reasons, many far outside my control, had unsettled those attempts, and how that was affecting me.

It was really past time to admit that she was right.

This isn’t the end of the chapter, or any chapter. There are travels yet ahead of us. A windy and rocky path lays hidden under these dark clouds. But the clouds are starting to lift. I finally got to talk to my doctor about it. She agreed, ordered a prescription for me to start, and for the first time, I’m actually a bit hopeful that I am taking a definitive step towards overcoming this. I won’t be cured in a day – I might not ever be “cured” of this. But at least I know now the direction of the road before me, have translated the signs, in hindsight, so obvious. At least now I know this onward and upward direction is not some Sisyphean task but rather just another hill on the great unknown road.

And, yeah. That feels a little bit like hope.

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