He ate the light...

"He ate the light..." is a quote from the movie "Jaws." Taken completely out of context, this quote could mean just about anything. For me, right now, I'm in this weird place where I'm trying to find my joy again. I feel like I had this light in me, and now it's gone.

Like it got eaten?

It will make sense in a minute...stay with me...

I saw Jaws when I was really much too young to see Jaws. (watching scary movies at an age where I shouldn't' have been watching scary movies was kind of a theme in my house) As a result, growing up, I was pretty sure that sharks existed in any body of water, and were just waiting to kill me. Can't swim in the lake - sharks. Can't go to the pool - sharks. Not going to take a bath because...sharks.

original photo found here

Fast forward to grown-up me and I've figured out that sharks aren't in my bathtub. I also know they aren't really in pools or lakes and the chances of being eaten by a shark in the ocean are pretty slim. That doesn't mean that a small part of my brain doesn't still think that I'm going to get eaten by a shark in a pool, a lake, or an ocean. There is a tiny part of me that is still convinced that I will die by shark.

Given my lifelong fear of being eaten by Jaws, I'm also strangely drawn to the ocean. I'm fascinated by coral reefs. I love the idea of swimming with aquatic life. Sitting by the water brings me more peace than just about anything else in the world.

Emiquon Nature Preserve, where there is so much water and so much peace.

A lot of the jewelry I make is also inspired by water...specifically coral reefs. The more I started researching reefs, the more I realized that I wanted to someday see them in person. Which means that I would have to figure out how to face my very real fear of getting into really deep water...where all the sharks are. So I signed up to get scuba certified.

I had about 50,000 panic attacks in the water but I finished the course and am now certified to go swim around some coral reefs. And Jaws.

The thing is, when I finally got in some deep water, I discovered that the scariest thing about it (for me) was the nothing. The part of the water where you can't see the bottom and you can't see the surface and you can't see into the distance anywhere around you and you're just sitting nothing.

Which is what depression feels like to me. Like nothing. I've cried a LOT in the past few months, but in the worst parts of it, I wasn't crying or sad...I wasn't anything. I was just there. And I wasn't sure why. But I didn't really care. Because there is nothing. And nothing is actually terrifying.

painting by Jessica Mcghee

Sometimes you start wondering what is beyond the nothing. Sharks? Dead bodies? Ghosts? Piranha? (so many scary movies in my life, so many irrational fears)

So, for me, depression with anxiety is kind of like being in the deepest part of water... in the nothing...and then starting to wonder about what's beyond the nothing...and getting really, really freaked out about it.

It's awful. And it isn't rational. And it doesn't matter, because the tiny part of my brain that believes that I will die by shark is really strong for its size. And the rational side of my brain is now constantly in battle with it. The rational side of my brain sets my alarm to get up everyday and face the world. The part where the shark fear lives hits the snooze button because sleep is better than nothing. When I finally do get up, the shark fear part of my brain tries to convince me to stay in, because if I venture beyond the nothing, the sharks will rip me to shreds.

The depression has been easier to fight than the anxiety. Even now, as I write this, I can feel the sharks circling. Today I'm in a good mood, I'm up, I'm working, I'm functioning. But I'm also alone, which feels very, very safe. Because people are sharks, and sharks are terrifying and if I have to get in the water, I'm only going to get in the bathtub because it's super small and I KNOW the sharks can't fit in there.

I'm getting better. After I wrote my last blog, I was overwhelmed with the amount of support and concern and love that I was shown. So overwhelmed that I got even weirder around people because I was already uncomfortable around them, and now I pretty much feel naked. Of course, since I wrote that blog, now most people in my life know about what only a handful of people knew before. And they're understandably concerned. But the thing is, I wouldn't have even been able to write that 2 months ago. I'm being pro-active about this. I'm trying to be realistic. Monday was a great day. Tuesday, not so much. Today is kind of meh, and the fear of sharks is pretty strong. I just tackle each day as it comes and when it's over, it's over. If  I didn't get out of bed all day (like last Thursday), I didn't fail at life. I just had a bad day. 

I have always been a person that tries to find the silver lining in any cloud. I am trying to find the silver lining in this experience, and I believe I am succeeding. When I first realized that my brain was just going to go off and do it's own irrational thing, I didn't want to tell anyone. I felt like it would give people even more to talk about - like, "see? She's crazy. I told you to stay away from her." 

And then I had a good day and I decided to write about it. And opening up about this has prompted other people to share that they deal with a lot of the same things. And it sucks. And it's exhausting. And it's isolating. And embarrassing. And if anything, we should not feel embarrassed by this and we shouldn't feel like we're alone in this battle. We should not be ashamed. 

artist unknown

I do have to say that I am far braver on paper than I am in person. I feel like I am oozing confidence all over this blog post. But in about 3 hours I have to go to work...I have to throw myself into the middle of the ocean, and I am quite sure it's infested with sharks. And I'm terrified. But I'm going to do it and I believe that, eventually...someday...I will again have as much confidence in person as I do on paper. I will get back to the place where I can just enjoy the water, and not be so sure that everything swimming around me is a shark.

1 comment:

Rebecca Grace said...

Here's my outsider perspective. I am suddenly remembering that the reason I originally bookmarked your blog and stuck it on my sidebar so that I would know right away and never miss one of your posts, was that you are such an incredibly gifted humorist. You have written posts, complete with adorable cartoon images, that made me laugh so hard I cried -- on days where I started out just wanting to cry. You have that rare comedic gift. So now, as I read about your struggles with depression and anxiety, all of a sudden I'm remembering how blown away we all were by Robin Williams' tragic suicide. Because, how could anyone that funny, who has us all howling with laughter all the time, possibly be carrying such a deep despair inside without anyone seeing it? I am so glad you are talking about this, letting people know and hopefully allowing those who are closest to you to be there for you and support you in this. I hope you seek professional help, if it gets bad enough and you ever feel out of options. And I hope that you know that although yes, there are some sharks out there beyond the nothing, there are also friends you haven't met yet, guardian angels, and strangers who have your back if you let your guard down enough to get to know them. I did read your last post so I understand why you are feeling social anxiety right now; I'm not ordering you onto the playground to make friends today or tomorrow. I just want you to remember, when you're looking out into that dark nothingness, that there are a lot more good, beautiful, piss-yourself-funny, worth experiencing things out there waiting for you than there are sharks. And also let you know that I'm pretty sure you are strong enough to take down a shark if it came to that. When you are ready, there are joyful things waiting for you in the future just as surely as you have had joyful experiences in your past. Hugs!