I’ve spent the last nine months fighting a dark and intense battle with depression. When I just counted back to when things started to get bad, it took my breath away.
Nine months of darkness and mental torment. Nine months of feeling helpless and hopeless. Nine long months after a lifetime of smaller skirmishes with mental illness.
After my book tour ended in April, I sent my manuscript to my editor, and promptly fell apart. There are so many words, so much pain, and such a depth of despair I could tell you about during that two month period. But it’s not time for that, yet.
I quit blogging and writing my newspaper columns because I was incapable of doing anything productive– like getting dressed, taking care of my kids, or cooking meals.
There have been times in the past few years when I’ve felt down and had to fake the funny to keep writing. That wasn’t even an option. I was being smothered by a concrete blanket which settled heavier on my chest the more I tried to fight it.
In May, I gave up and gave in. My disease had become life threatening, disabling and I begged my doctor for help. I “summered,” if you will, at an outpatient treatment center in Jackson, MS to get the help I needed.
I spent 12 weeks in intensive outpatient care. This means I had to stay in a hotel, take my own meds and eat my own food– which was a huge disappointment to me. I had fantasies of three meals a day I didn’t have to cook, taking pills that somebody else counted out and possibly cutting my hair like Winona Ryder’s to look more waifish.)
I’m telling you all of this because I can’t find a way back to writing without being honest. I know writing is my gift and my life’s breath. It’s what fills me up, what connects me to other people and more often than not– it’s how I begin to heal.
But I’m terrified. As much as I’d like to say, “I don’t care what anybody thinks of me,” I do care. As much as I’d like to pretend there isn’t a stigma attached to being mentally ill– there is. I worry about small town gossip in front of my kid’s school mates, I worry about people telling them their mother is crazy. I worry about becoming so associated with mental illness that it becomes my identity. I worry that instead of being Robin– a compilation of strengths and weaknesses, humor and pain– instead of being human, I’ll become something less than.
So why the hell am I telling you this?
Because I can’t pretend to be something I’m not. It’s impossible for me to go back to being funny without acknowledging where I’ve been… where I am.
We all know that life is brutal. But that’s what makes the beautiful things absolutely breathtaking. Sharing the laughter without the pain makes the exquisite joy of life and laughter less meaningful.
I’m so much better than I was a few months ago, a few weeks ago, a few days ago and I am hopeful that my recovery will continue. But I’m taking it slow and struggling everyday to show myself grace– to take care of myself by doing simple things: drinking water, going to bed early, reading lots of real paper books and lying on the bed with whichever of my girls will be still and talk to me.
I needed to tell you where I’ve been, and that I’m okay. And if you’re there, hurting and hopeless– it gets better. I know you don’t think it ever will. I know you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. From where you are, it’s too dark and you doubt if a way out even exists.
But I promise it’s there… I’ve seen it myself and I’m reaching backwards, offering you my hand in the dark and urging you to take one tiny step forward.
If you need help call 1-800-273=8255 and Google “low fee therapy” for affordable therapy in your area.
*I am working on a mental health awareness project, if you are interested in being involved please email me at robinschicks (at) gmail.com, with a photo, your name, age, short description of who you are/what you do and your diagnosis. And I’ll send you more information.