In the interest of full disclosure, the last five years have been a little rough. When I announced my retirement back in August, I talked at length about what was happening in my professional life and how that had left me quite depressed. That was only half of the story. The unfortunate truth is that, at that same time, I was in a relationship that was bad news. Look, you don’t come here to hear sad stories, and I don’t want get into the habit of telling them. So I will make a long, unbelievable story short by saying that I got myself into a bad situation that I didn’t know how to get out of. I felt trapped, but more than anything, I was embarrassed by my own stupidity. I kept most of what was happening at home to myself. Even after I got out of the relationship, I continued to keep the majority of it to myself. (Not to worry, that shit will be a screenplay soon enough.) I quickly rebounded on to something else that ended up not being much better and eventually decided I’d be better off by myself since clearly I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
In time, I lost confidence, mostly because I didn’t trust myself anymore. I questioned my ability to make good choices and was really afraid to make any more bad ones. That fear then left me paralyzed when trying to make a decision about my career. I wasn’t sure I could take anymore (perceived) failures. I got increasingly anxious and depressed. All the while, though, I kept up appearances. As miserable as I was, I still got dressed up and put on makeup. I went to the gym. I made jokes. I even quit smoking cigarettes. I didn’t miss any work. That gets lonely, trying to not appear depressed when you’re completely depressed. But I was making an effort; I was trying to remain “myself.” Then an expected loss of a family member came along and put the final nail in the coffin of my personality.
Eventually, my depression made me boring. I knew I was boring. You know when you just get to a place where you can’t muster up anything good to say? All you do it bitch and complain. I had become that girl. I was a kind of a bummer. I don’t mind admitting it. Even my jokes were a little sad. “Keep your misery to yourself,” is advice my father used to give me. And while perhaps a bit abrasive in the delivery, it does have some merit. No one wants to hear about your problems all of the time. Even the people who love you the most will tire of only ever hearing about what’s wrong in your life. Hell, I was sick of myself, sick of hearing my own bitching.
I started to isolate myself. It isn’t particularly hard to do at this stage in adult life, when plans are usually made weeks in advance. My world had gotten very small. I wanted to be by myself. The only people I saw and spoke to daily were my coworkers. I was well on my way to giving up. I was seriously considering the possibility that maybe this is just how life goes for some people. That maybe, for some of us, things just don’t go the way you’d hoped. Not all dreams come true. Not everyone gets a happy ending. Maybe I’m one of those people. It happens all the time. Why not to me? Thinking back, I can remember making an earnest effort to accept that idea and to be strong about it.
It was nothing short of a Christmas miracle to get a call from my doctor’s office late one Friday afternoon last December. They called to report that there were some questionable test results after my recent visit, and they needed to schedule some more tests. I feel kind of silly now because in the end everything was fine, but I was pretty freaked out at the time. I don’t know that I ever thought about my own mortality the way I did after that phone call. All of a sudden, life felt really short. Too short. WAY too short to have spent the last few years marinating in my own tears. I didn’t want to resign to being a person without a happy ending. No, fuck that. There is no way. This can’t be how the story ends: “…and then she wore sweat pants every day, cried on her couch while eating take out, and lived out the remainder of her days quietly unhappy until she died of old age, surrounded by nothing but stuffed animals. The end.”
It’s like waking up from the Matrix. It’s a little weird and takes some getting used to. My perspective has drastically shifted. I can see things very differently now. Perhaps more clearly? I don’t know. But I’m convinced that we are here to do more than just struggle, suffer, and muddle through. We have to be. Otherwise, the creation of the human race was really a waste of everybody’s time. Much like with that damn tree, I refuse to accept defeat. I have decided that I am going to be happy, whatever that takes. Period. I will make it happen. No matter what anyone says or thinks about it. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that I need to be happy and then to walk boldly in that direction. I won’t lie to you, it’s kind of scary (ok, sometimes it’s terrifying). And it’s been a lot of work, some of it unpleasant at times. But so far, so good. This year has seen a lot of changes for me. And as much as I don’t love change, it has quite possibly been one of the best years of my life. For the first time in a long time, I am excited about the future. I think that might be the exact opposite of depression (but I’m not a doctor so don’t take my word for it).
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, partly because it’s true. It’s what I’ve been up to the last few years. And because, sometimes, I feel like I might suffocate from keeping it all to myself. But mostly because I’m willing to bet that one of you, maybe two of you are intimately familiar with some of the sentiments I shared. And now, you know that I know how hard it is. Sometimes, just knowing that someone else “gets it” is all you need to feel a little bit better. At least, I know it always makes me feel better. So while I am sharing, I want to also share with you some of the good stuff. I want to tell you about the things I have found along my way that have really helped to turn this sad ship around. In the next few weeks, I am going to talk about the things that I have found/read/tried that have been helpful for me in my pursuit of happiness. Things that have literally changed my life.
Listen, I’m not claiming to be an expert in anything other than my own misery. But hey, you never know. Maybe something that worked for me could work for you.
If nothing else, you know it will be entertaining.