Anniversaries often trigger the inclination to pause and reflect.
Happy Anniversary! Yeah, it was a mistake to go braless under that strapless dress. I’m so sorry I ended up topless at your wedding. Oh, you have that on video? Or, The boyfriend who insisted I call him "Sir". A Scorpio. I should have known better.
Some are destined to haunt us. And others are cause for celebration.
This summer holds two anniversaries that deserve celebration. Events that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago. Although, I never was one to fully envision my future self. Especially as a young adult. I’d flit one day to the next, the future but a dream. The sort of dream that you cannot recall upon waking. New developments were taken in stride because change is inevitable. That’s how life is. New home, new job, new car, new baby. New hairstyles.
Today marks two years since I ditched nearly all my belongings and moved into a tiny house. Modern nomadic life beckoned and I wanted to be on the road to happiness in an RV. Down-sizing was the best way to start.
And next month is the one-year anniversary of my resignation. From a job with good benefits. And generous paid time off. And my own cubicle. In that cubicle, I was crushing it. Industrious and dedicated, I was an administrative ninja. I was good at my job. No, I wasn’t. I was outstanding. Until depression and anxiety pillaged every ounce of energy and passion I possessed. What remained was a gloom that rendered the job meaningless and toxic. I was convinced that spending all my days in such a negative environment was killing me. So, I left.
Those were two seriously monumental decisions for me. In light of their anniversaries I’m obliged to consider what, if anything, I’ve accomplished since then. I should make a list. Because I had plans. And I like lists.
- Completed a four-day course in Colorado for interim innkeepers
- Took my first cross country road trip
- Set a goal to hike 126 state parks
- Became a driver for a rideshare
- Improved my photography
- Learned new software
- Bought a guitar
- Started a blog
- Attended a funeral
- Kept my dog alive (and a cactus)
Nothing for the history books. But enough to compel me to examine my truth. Because I’ve been dishonest in how I’ve represented this past year. And that changes everything.
I created a blog with the notion that I might become an influencer. My imagined target audience was women my age, perhaps suddenly single or empty nesters, restless and searching for adventure, yet inhibited by fear. I would document the exciting and fabulous trajectory from leaving my job, to full-time life on the road, and everything in between. My message would embolden readers to take the leap and make the changes they wanted in their own lives. I secretly hoped for an even broader audience. That I might inspire anyone, of any age.
Yet somehow, I could not achieve any of that from my bed. Instead, I spent about 2000 hours hoping I wouldn’t ever wake up again. Then, the incessant chatter in my head berating me for being too-stupid-too-worthless-too-boring-too-fat-too-ugly-too-old would finally fall silent. Unless there’s an afterlife. My hell would be an eternity of ceaseless castigation. That’s a horrifying thought.
After leaving my job I improved somewhat and there were less dark valleys to navigate. I’m still completely confident that it was a good decision. I’m happiest on the road, so I traveled as often as I could manage. And although I blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagrammed, I neglected the real story I was living in the silence between posts. While I addressed past episodes, I didn’t fully concede that depression and anxiety continued to render me impotent. I was often so defenseless against their assault that I could neither get dressed nor leave the house.
When I wasn't despondent, anxiety prevented me from fully engaging. I declined invitations from friends and family, and repeatedly dodged arranging time to visit until the offers were dropped.
It's terribly humiliating.
Frustrated that I couldn’t document the journey I wanted, and unwilling to bend the truth to fit a false narrative, it was apparent that I have a different story to tell.
It had become clear that my mess is my message.
I could write nothing further without acknowledging that first. Living with depression and anxiety informs everything I do, or don’t do. By omitting this, my writing is disingenuous. More importantly, the denial severely impedes my progress to better mental health.
Yet, I remained conflicted. Sick to death of myself and the struggle, it stood to reason readers would be, too. I feared I would be perceived as a whiny, spineless slacker. And what if nothing changes? What purpose does the writing serve?
Truthfully, none of that matters. What matters is my developing a fearless commitment to ignoring skeptics, critics, and self-doubt. Simply writing for myself. Perhaps, by discussing my illness freely others who need to will do so as well. But complaining you’re depressed because the grocery store was out of your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor doesn’t count.
Depression and anxiety do not define me. My plans haven’t changed; I want to have a mobile life. I want to share my lessons and experiences in words and photographs. Authentically. That will undoubtedly entail revealing uncomfortable moments. Which might provide entertainment. I can’t believe that’s how she lives! Some of you will feel superior. Enjoy that. The rest, I hope, will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms enabling you to help someone you know. Or get help for yourself.
My mess is my message. A sublime mess of moments through which I maneuver forward, one step at a time. Because that’s how life is lived.
Is this a breakthrough? Because I feel better. Liberated. There’s a cliché for this. A cheap and easy ending. It’s happening.
The truth will set you free.