And then I see the mountain ranges in my rearview mirror as I'm shifting lanes on this tiny freeway.
I have to tear my eyes away, back to the road in front of me, and they're a little bit filled with liquid.
I get small flashes of wonder that I've actually made it through, sometimes. I get bright bursts of hope and gratitude and holy shit I did it and crying after birthday parties because this new life is so much better than all the lives I've ever hoped for.
But if this is a fairy tale and I have left my high high tower, I have yet to make it to the golden fields I was promised so long ago. I am still in the journey, and there are unmarked roads, burned bridges. Here be monsters, still.
I start to notice that gradually, I've had less and less energy. Maybe since the start of the year, really. I find myself not getting much accomplished outside of going to work and going to bed. Before, that's all I could've wanted - successfully being able to go to and from work and be a functioning adult was my dream, because it eluded me so often. And because I used to not be able to do even that, it's perhaps taken me longer to notice that just doing that isn't good enough for me anymore.
I want to have more energy, more life, more happy bursting from my throat. I want to have time in the day to clean my room and go to the gym and visit a friend. I want the idea of hanging out with someone to not be so draining that I have to cancel at the last minute.
I begin to wonder if this is depression's middle ground, if I am not so bad I want to die but not so good that I am able to fully live free. I start to contemplate asking my doctor to up my meds, because maybe since I've been on the same dose for so long the effectiveness has worn down a bit. I wonder if the people who think it's okay that I'm on antidepressants would still think it's okay if I start taking a higher dosage.
I wish there was a way to tell them that this isn't a new thing, this isn't a sort of post-leaving-trauma, this is something I have been feeling since I was five and eight and thirteen years old. I can remember seasons and swells of depression fogging up on the entire timeline of my life. I used to crawl into cupboards and sit in the dark, above the clamor of the busy house, and breathe slowly. I would stay there for hours (eight). I used to cry and not know how to stop crying, and be terrified because I knew that there wasn't a reason for me to spend an entire afternoon with hiccuping sobs. I was young but I knew by then that you didn't cry for that long unless you had a reason to, and I was scared because I didn't (five). I spent months in a fog, unable to tell anyone and unable to get my head above water. I slept too much and ate too little and couldn't stop myself from drowning every single day (thirteen).
I am not as bad as I once was, thank god and medicine and therapy and people who care.
But neither am I where I want to be. I have no illusions of depression being something that can be "cured." I know I will deal with it always and forever. I do maintain a hope, though, that despite this being an ever-present gray, I will find a time where I can do day-to-day a little bit better and live a little bit fuller, happier.
The pain first started about six months ago, leaving me shaking on my bathroom floor, examining the grout between the yellowed tiles in futile efforts to maintain composure. I finally cave and call my best friend, who talks me down and instructs me to go find hot water and drink tea and stay still til the pain leaves.
It happened in fits and spurts since then, but never as intense as that first time. I chalk it up to an extreme bout of lactose intolerance and cut down on my dairy intake, which seems to curb the worst of it. But I still spend quite a few nights canceling plans due to stomach pain that I can't explain.
It finally starts to become almost constant, and always unbearable. I miss days of work, which never happens (I have worked sick before rather than call out, which causes me to think this really is severe), and end up in urgent care all day on a Friday.
Weeks of tests and unpleasant liquids and scans and x-rays reveal that I've got a gallstone the size of a quarter, and the diagnosis is surgery. I am relieved to have an end in sight, and doubly relieved to have generous strangers from this network of care I've stumbled into on the internet send me money to help cover the costs of taking time off work for recovery. My best friend tells me she'll take the time off work and have me at her house while I get better, which makes me cry some more.
It's still surgery, though, and it's still working through more weeks of pain and exhaustion to get there.
It's still medical bills and things I wasn't planning on. It's just proof that this year really isn't turning out how I'd expected.
In an effort to challenge myself and get outside of my "comfort zone" (read: bed and books and no pants and no people), I've joined one of the myriad of online dating sites. I'm trying to learn how to date and how to relate to men and all this other stuff I've never had the opportunity to try and figure out. I am thus far finding it to be a highly overrated and underrated experience simultaneously. Crushes are amazing and being weak at the knees is a rare and multi-faceted feeling, but there is also the awkwardness of conversations in hipster coffee locations with a boy who's literally too scared of your intimidating womanly presence to even try to maintain eye contact with you.
There's also that thing of where you realize dating isn't serious until BAM it is, and you're left trying to figure out how the hell you're expected to be ready to fall in love and live life that way.
It is an ugly and unbearable truth that I am completely and totally afraid of commitment, of trust, of letting someone hold my hand or my heart. I am not scared of rejection or the weirdness of getting asked out on a date by a proud satanist (this is a real story), but I am scared of what might happen if I meet someone I like enough to open up to and then that is met with woe and pain. In a strange way, I'm fighting against all the things I think about relationships by continuing to make myself available for one. It'd be a lot easier to give up, and I think about it a lot. There's nothing wrong with listening to yourself and knowing it's not for you right now, but I think this is less that and more the big OTHER.
The other being learning how to view myself like I am worthwhile, like spending time with me is a good choice, like someone doesn't have to be crazy deranged to want to hold my hand. It's me trying to smash all the things that told me I wasn't good enough and it's me putting on an awareness of GOOD ENOUGH as a banner and marching outside to meet boys who then cannot meet me in the eye. It's me despairing of forgetting about the boy I wanted to fall in love with and it's me declaring that I am worth pursuing.
Or, like my friend Emily said, dating: it's like 90% awkward conversations and 10% making out.
This has been a mishmash recap of my first few months of the year. I'm sure I'll see you on the other side of surgery, and oh yes also, if you're one of the ones who have donated towards that cost, thankyouthankyouthankyou. Stay tuned for more weird boy times, depression talks, and waiting room selfies.