For the past three, four years I’ve been walking along the edge of a cliff. I have struggled with depression for most of my life. Mid-to-late-2016 through mid-to-late-2017 was one of the most consistently hard years of my life, and it changed me in ways if I’m honest I don’t know I’ll ever recover from. It’s not just depression. But it all comes back to depression.
I’m an ambitious person. Stubborn. Resilient. The way I have coped with my depression has been acceptance that it’s there and a refusal to let it stop me. Ever. Often people see my life and they judge the ways I’ve been successful to mean I’m okay, but you can’t see the battle in my mind by looking only at my victories. You can’t see how sleep or attempting to sleep every night feels like torture to me, and how I think at least twice about waking up every morning. You can’t see how quickly my thoughts move and how much I’m working through and against every time I decide to do something. I don’t want to say that my depression is the worst depression because it clearly is not, but it is chronic, and it is hard. It has always been hard.
That year made everything heavier. I got rid of a lot of shame, but I acquired a lot of guilt and regret. I don’t have a lot of experience with regret. Or I didn’t. Now I do. I spent a long time waiting for answers, waiting for things to happen, and nothing was happening, but all of my energy was invested in it. I’ll stop being vague, I’m talking about my pursuit of justice against my rapist. I’m not ready to talk about the details, but that’s what it is. My life was on pause. It took me many months to realize I needed to keep on living at the same time that I was trying to get justice.
So that’s what I’ve been doing since: Forcing myself to continue living, to allow myself to give energy to my actual life. While trying to heal. While trying to understand. While suffering from the consequences of the rape I still to this day am processing. But while living. And I’ve done it. I’ve gotten two job promotions, to exactly the positions I wanted, that I worked hard for. I’ve made and maintained meaningful friendships. I’ve gotten engaged, and I’m planning my wedding. I’ve raced around the world. Had a dream come true with Kona. And the fact that all of these things have been going so well has been a constant reminder to me that this energy is worthwhile, that my life is worth the energy, and that when I am done healing from the thing that is still hurting me, I have an amazing future no matter what happens with that.
But at the same time, more than ever, I was exhausted. I fought myself not to take days off from work that weren’t planned when I wasn’t physically sick because I craved a break so deeply every single morning. I love my job, but I fantasized all the time about calling out and sleeping through the day because I was exhausted, mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, desperately. Sometimes instead of dreaming of a day off, I would literally imagine myself checking into a mental hospital, have a few days off, a week off, from everything, everyone, a full break from my life. I never told anyone that. But I thought about it.
Quarantine gave me the break from life I’ve been dreaming of. (I am referring solely to the mandate not to leave the house, not to go to work, not to do anything you don’t absolutely need to. I obviously did not dream of or wish for a pandemic, for people to die. I just want to make it very clear that I recognize that this is an absolute tragedy.)
No more alarm clocks. No more exhaustion. I sleep as much as I want to. I don’t have to deal with many of the sources of my anxiety like crowded subways, worrying about running into my rapist on the streets, social anxiety. I had time to do all the things I’m usually way too tired to do. I get to spend all day with my cats and my fiance. And sleep as much as I want to, did I mention that? And not feel shitty that I can’t fall asleep at a decent hour, and not worry when I sleep like shit because I can nap whenever and for however long I want to. And now it’s been almost three months, and I can confirm that my exhaustion knows no bounds. I could sleep most of the day every day and still be tired and still want more.
I still remember how good life feels. I miss racing most of all. And travel. And seeing my loved ones. I miss swimming, and running without a mask. I miss working and feeling proud of the work I do. I miss a world where people were not dying from COVID.
But I could do this forever. I’ve joked about it with my family, but I am scared of it. Quarantine has felt to me like finally, I gave in to my depression, and it has been as much of a relief as I thought it would be. That scares me. I miss the things I love, but I don’t miss them as much as I thought I would. I keep reminding myself that I’ve had lows before, and that depression is not who I am — ambitious is. Strong is. Resilient is. And when it comes time to live my life again, I will show up. I know I will. I’m telling myself I know I will, but I’m afraid I won’t, and I’m afraid that when I want to take a break, I’ll remember that it did feel as good as I wanted.
When I put my own life on pause in 2016/2017, it was a low, because I didn’t realize I had done it, and I had to find a reason to unpause. Now, I have so many reasons, and I still want to pause, and this doesn’t feel like a low at all. I feel like I’m thriving in quarantine. Because it’s socially acceptable, and I’m doing it right.
That will change. I know it will change. I know I’m going to be okay. I have been fighting depression for a long ass time. My life and my depression happen to be aligned, but when they are not anymore, when life calls, I will answer.