There Is Nothing Missing: The Epiphany That Helps Me Cope With Depression
I feel like I'm about to write copy for an antidepressant commercial. Are you depressed? Trouble sleeping? Find you can’t focus? Find you’re feeling down when you have no real reason to, and, in fact, anyone would think you're insane for admitting it?
I've been struggling lately. And it’s a little overwhelming.
That’s what I have done. Or what I want to do. Try to put down some of my load: in a parking lot, in a blog post. Anywhere, really.
I suffer from depression. Or I have suffered. Which is it? Past tense? Present?
Let me be frank: I'm slipping a little lately. So is it present tense? Do I acknowledge it, then shift my thoughts, creating new mantras, such as, “I am happy! I am free of depression!” or do I sit quietly on this airplane and contemplate it?
What does that even mean — depressed? Is it something I've been told (yes!) or something I know deep in the labyrinth of my body, in my DNA (also yes)?
For as long as I can remember, I've felt a certain sadness I could never explain to anyone: a dead part inside of me that made me pretend I was sick and stay home from school (even in kindergarten) so I could eat cream cheese and olive sandwiches and watch TV with my mom. During college, I would leave NYU during the weekends to go home to Cherry Hill, NJ, an hour and a half ride on the Peter Pan Bus, so I could be at home, safe from the slick world of New York City and from feeling anything except hunger. Perhaps that's how I fell in love with anorexia; it allowed me to stop feeling such nothingness. I replaced nothingness with anxiety and hunger, but I no longer felt depressed.
The point is, my life is pretty great. I'm happily married. I'm successful. I'm healthy. So, what is it? What is this demon?
This is what happens. I sit down, and I can’t get up. I am superglued to my chair, and I can't go anywhere. I can't do anything until the minutes turn into days and the days into years.
Thirteen years of my life passed in this saltwater until I was spit back onto the shore and discovered my calling, to which I responded as if it was literally calling me on my iPhone. “Yes, I hear you, my dharma! I’m here. I’ve emerged from the depths of Hell, and I am here to inspire and write and teach yoga and travel and be happy.”
Except, the thing is, sometimes I feel like a liar.
Sometimes I find myself on a chair, with glassy eyes, a deep nothingness setting in like it's missed me and had to be close to my heart again.
What it feels like is that my insides are collapsing upon themselves. The outside of me is pushing its way in. The outside of everything is pushing its way in. The noise, the cars, the people, the fears, the future, the past.
“What do you have to be blue about?” a friend asked me on the phone a couple weeks ago.
Not a damn thing. My life is amazing.
So what's wrong with my mind? Is it broken? Is there a hole somewhere? Can I fix it with yoga or prayer or rewiring my thoughts or wine or laughter or sleep or sex?
I try it all. Trust me. I sleep like a dog in the summer. I drink wine. I do yoga. I teach yoga! I am mindful of my thoughts (most days).
It’s not enough. I must dig deeper.
Many people face the same, or a similar struggle. If you do, here are four questions to ask yourself.
1. What's triggering me?
2. What situations am I putting myself in?
3. Who am I surrounding myself with?
4. What am I allowing myself to think and say after the words “I am?”
Get a hammer and chisel away at the bone until you find the piece you are looking for. It's that part of you that sometimes goes missing. The stray piece that feels like smiling isn’t a chore, that wants to answer the phone and talk, that gets up off the chair and does things out in the world, things with other people, even.
I'm not saying it will ever go away 100%, or that we even want it to. This rogue part of me is where art is born and where I write. But enough is enough. I am driving the boat. Me! Not my so-called depression. Not my sadness. Not my mood. Not my apathy. Not my ego.
Here's the truth: There are two of me. (Possibly three or four.) As it was with others before us.
The battle in me looms like an uncertain diagnosis. Luckily, I'm armed with my bow and quiver. Some days I sway, these passions of the heart, so fickle, so tenuous. These feelings of sadness and emptiness will be taken down by me and my bow and arrow.
Until then, I will leave you with this:
Today, I feel good. Right now, I feel good. My life is amazing, and I am happy. (Go on, you say it too.)
Right now, in this moment, there is no missing part of me.
There is nothing missing.