Depression and the devil would be pretty good friends, TBH

Here's the thing about depression.

(Well, I mean, there are a lot of things about depression, the main thing being that, well, it blows, and the other things are basically just groaning sounds of various decibels.)

Anyway, this specific thing about depression is that it's kind of a swindler.

I grew up Catholic, then I went to a Lutheran summer camp for many, many years and spent time doing ministry in college. I've since become what you could call more spiritual than religious, but I think a lot about my depression in the same terms that a Christian would describe the devil. He lurks in your subconscious, whispering vicious lies that make you believe you aren't good enough or strong enough or rich enough or just plain enough. You find ways to build those parts of yourself back up; you go to church or to the gym or to happy hour or to whatever place or state of mind that makes your heart feel a little less empty. Me? Well, among other things, I go to therapy.

I've talked about it briefly here before, but I started going to therapy back in November. I hang out with my therapist Sarah every other week, so I'd estimate I've spent probably 15 to 20 hours dumping my life onto a perfect stranger. When I type it out like that, it doesn't seem significant. I spend 40 hours (or more, let's be real) at work every week, so 15 to 20 hours over the last eight months doesn't feel like a lot. But in those hours, I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned the different ways my anxiety and depression manifest themselves in my daily life and the thought patterns or habits that can trigger them. I've learned to mentally track how many times a day I say the words "can't" or "should." I've learned that I am really bad about having high expectations for everyone in my life, including myself. Sarah somehow pulls things out of me that I didn't even realize I was thinking or feeling until I say them out loud, and then I spend weeks wading through the weeds of my subconscious. 

Recently, I'm happy to report, things have been really great. I've lost 35 pounds since January and I'm actually starting to feel like myself again (whoever that is). I'm exercising daily and taking care of my body, and I feel stronger and healthier than I ever have. My boyfriend Jared and I moved into a little two-story house in East Austin last month, and I've loved exploring our new neighborhood and settling into our new home and our life together. I've recently thrown myself into reconnecting with old friends and fostering friendships with existing friends, and I feel happy and loved. I was put in charge of a new project at work that makes me feel incredibly happy and fulfilled. I feel really good. 

I posted this photo on Instagram Friday. It's one of my favorite little corners of our new house, and it's where I put my cozy chair -- the one I curl up in when I want to read or watch TV or have a snack. It's probably the safest space in our house, for me. 

I posted this photo on Instagram Friday. It's one of my favorite little corners of our new house, and it's where I put my cozy chair -- the one I curl up in when I want to read or watch TV or have a snack. It's probably the safest space in our house, for me. 

So at therapy two weeks ago, when Sarah asked me at the end of my session, as she always does, "So, two weeks?" I almost told her, "Actually, maybe let's do a month." After all, for several sessions in a row I had basically been telling her the same thing over and over again -- that I was, miraculously, pretty okay. But something told me to stick with the schedule. I was thinking about when I would get sick and get prescribed an antibiotic, and as soon as I felt better I'd stop taking it, even though the doctor always told me to make sure to take them all -- but I never listened, and sure enough, I was sick again a week later. If it works like that for your body, it must work like that for your brain, right?

Then, last Friday night, I was doing my usual routine. After work on Fridays, I go to a class at my barre studio called HIITRestore -- it's basically 30 minutes of intense cardio and strength moves, then 20 minutes of stretching and rolling around on the floor. It's my favorite way to end the week. On this Friday night in question, I was rolling around on the floor when suddenly I felt like I was pinned to it. I remember thinking immediately, "I really need to not be here right now." I also remember the intense imagery of a sumo wrestler sitting on my chest, because that's how it felt. I couldn't move. One of my best (and sometimes worst) qualities, I'm not ashamed to admit, is that I'm acutely self aware. I'm able to identify how I'm feeling at pretty much all times. (It's a blessing and a curse.) This was my inner monologue: I really need to not be here right now. What is happening? Am I having a panic attack? Well, usually, I hyperventilate during a panic attack. That's not what's happening right now. I definitely can't breathe, though. Yep, that sumo wrestler isn't letting me get enough air. Oh, she's telling us to stretch our other leg now. I can't do that if I'm pinned to the floor. Can I just get up and leave? What will she say? Can't get up and leave, still pinned to the floor. I guess I'll just stretch this leg and see what happens next.

It went on like that for a good five minutes, which felt like an hour. Then I went to my car and was overcome with intense dread. My chest was tight. But I was so calm -- this wasn't my usual panic attack. My heart wasn't racing and my breathing wasn't quick. I felt completely calm, except I was absolutely convinced that I was dying. I wondered if I should drive myself to the hospital or call Jared to come and pick me up. I sat in my car until I figured, well, it would be silly to make him drive here in traffic. So, dazed, I made my way home. I spent the rest of the evening in bed, watching Netflix and being generally over-dramatic about what had happened.

I asked Sarah about this the following Monday, and she described the way exercise can sometimes release really intense emotions. She didn't seem to think it was a panic attack, but I'm not convinced. (I mean, she's probably right, because she always is, but don't tell her I said that.) We talked about a few other things that had been on my mind, and I went about my day, feeling a little better. 

Then this past Friday, it happened again. I filled in on the early shift at work, so around 1 p.m. I was getting ready to leave for the day. I stayed late to take care of a bit of breaking news, and I finally made it to my car about a half hour after my shift was supposed to end. And then I just ... sat there. I had gone to my car to get my gym clothes, to change really quick and then spend time lifting weights before sneaking in a quick nap and going to happy hour with some girlfriends. I scrolled through my phone for a half hour. I just couldn't leave. I don't know why. When I finally changed into my gym clothes and went back to my car, I sat there for another half hour. I wasn't being lazy about going to the gym -- it was going to be a light day, after all -- I just couldn't do it. (There it is. Me saying I couldn't do something. I'll put a dollar in the "can't" jar, Sarah.) After an hour or so of sitting, I went to the gym and spent 20 minutes on the elliptical, which is not even what I meant to do. I couldn't think straight or even think, period. I don't remember what was on my brain for the full four hours it took me to get home from work on Friday. And I still have no idea why. Well, I have one idea.

Because that son of a bitch depression decided to pop his head in and see what was up. Because just when you start to think, "Hey, I'm feeling better! I'm cured! I am no longer a Depressed Person™!" Then depression is like, "Ha, bullshit. I'm still here. I live here. You're stuck with me for like, ever. You idiot. Why don't you lay down and sleep for like three days straight now, 'cause that's all you're good for, anyway." 

I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that it's kind of okay to not be totally okay. There probably isn't such thing as totally okay, anyway. Depression isn't cancer. It's not something that you can stamp out with hours and hours of treatment. It's something you live with. It's something you learn to deal with, and recognize, and work on, and give the finger to sometimes because man, does it deserve it. So no, I'm not quitting therapy anytime soon. Because, well, we've still got work to do.

Why I quit my second Whole30

A few weeks ago, I decided to embark on my second round of Whole30. I did my first round in February (I wrote about it here) and had great results. I felt energetic, healthy and I lost seven pounds and several inches. More than anything, I was amazed at the change in my mental health. With depression and anxiety, there are plenty of good days—days where I wake up feeling energized and motivated, ready to go to work and do good work that I can be proud of. Then there are the other days—there's a cloud over me and an elephant sitting on my chest; I can't focus and my mind and heart are racing. I had fewer of those days during February. It felt amazing, and I wanted to chase that feeling. I wanted to stop feeling like I was fighting the monsters in my head and start feeling like a normal person. A healthy person.

After my February Whole30 ended, South by Southwest started. I was working almost constantly, and when I wasn't working, I was trying to have some semblance of a social life. It led to me being exhausted, hungover and generally unhealthy. It totally derailed my progress, but then I started training for my first 10K. I was running between seven and 15 miles a week and dropping weight like crazy, so why would I stop? I was still getting the results I wanted. The other dangerous part about this line of thinking was that if I couldn't find something "healthy" to eat, I'd skip the meal completely (I'm embarrassed to even write that here because of how terrible that is). I was working out harder than I ever had before and not giving myself good calories or carbs to burn when I did. Yeah. Not good. I was starting to become obsessed with the number on the scale—I was getting so close to my goal weight, and I wanted to drop the weight even more quickly. 

I decided I was going to do another round of Whole30 in April, after my best friend's wedding was over and before the next wedding I'm going to in May (so many weddings, I KNOW). I needed to get back on track, I told myself (though in the back of my mind, all I could think about was losing weight). My friend Alex decided to join me—she just got back from backpacking around Asia for a few months, and she was feeling a little unhealthy (I think her exact words were "I am made of noodles"). So we started together in mid-April, and I instantly noticed how much more difficult it was than my first time around. I felt frustrated, because I knew that my body could handle some of the things I wasn't allowed to have. My reintroduction proved I didn't have a negative reaction to legumes, so why couldn't I have soy milk in my coffee or a peanut butter protein shake after a workout? I was frustrated and unhappy. Once again, I started skipping meals. I wasn't excited about the food I was eating. I was bored and everything sounded gross, so I just didn't eat. That was when I knew I had to make a change, because I wasn't healthy. All I was concerned about was losing weight, which is not the point of the Whole30. I knew deep down that I was developing unhealthy habits for the sake of dropping pounds.

Grain-free, dairy-free tacos. AKA my first foray into my new diet.

Grain-free, dairy-free tacos. AKA my first foray into my new diet.

So I made the executive decision to stop my Whole30 early. Seventeen days in, to be exact, so I was tantalizingly close to the end. I decided to shift to my own custom version of the Whole30. I added legumes back into my diet on day 17, and I felt fine. I felt great, actually, because I had given myself something my body wanted but I didn't sacrifice my health for it. On day 18, two of my friends got engaged. I had two beers with them to celebrate, and I hadn't eaten anything due to a stressful morning, so I splurged two slices of pizza. I spent the rest of the day feeling a little bloated and gross, but happy I'd been able to have a "normal" experience with my friends. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be having beer and pizza all the time—in fact, I'd say that'll happen rarely—but I'm excited to go forward in this journey on my own terms, eating things that make my body and mind feel good without that guilt and shame that are associated with eating "bad" foods. I've always been an "everything in moderation" kind of girl, and I'm going to go forward with that in my mind, while remembering that things like grains, dairy and added sugars don't make my mind and body feel great. I think that's what "food freedom" is, right? That's what Whole30 promises: Food freedom. To me, that means being able to eat these things occasionally without feeling bad or guilty, as long as everything else I'm doing is healthy.

I'm trying to figure out a way to keep track of my diet, though. I had the idea to make a calendar, or some pages in my bullet journal, to track my eating. Do you have any ideas for how to track your eating habits? Let me know!

I don't deserve any of this: Impostor syndrome and the lies your brain tells you

At least once a week, I look around — at my apartment, or my office, or at my boyfriend or my friends — and I think, "how did any of this happen?" 

And by "any of this," I mean: How did I end up with such a good gig? How did I convince the people at the newspaper in the 11th-largest city in the United States to hire me? How did the people who own my apartment complex decide to rent a nice, 800-square-foot space to this pretend grown-up? How did I dupe dozens of really nice people into wanting to hang out with me? 

I don't know if I've ever once looked around at my surroundings and thought, "You know what? I've worked hard in my life. I deserve for good things to happen to me, because my hard work has paid off." It's really hard for me to feel proud of myself, because I always think there's more I could have done. For example, when I'm done writing an article for work, I'll make continuous edits until the last possible second — then, when somebody compliments it, I'll say something like, "Well, I wish I would have worded this differently." I always find something wrong with it. I always pick it apart. And I have always been that way.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately after finding out that Viola Davis — Oscar-award winning actress and all-around badass — suffers from impostor syndrome. She told ABC News after the Oscars that she feels like she's going to wake up one morning and everyone's figured out that she's a hack.

Me laughing at how ridiculous it is that somebody so talented can call herself a hack ^

Me laughing at how ridiculous it is that somebody so talented can call herself a hack ^

Y'all, if Queen Viola Davis is a hack, then what does that make the rest of us?

This is why impostor syndrome is total bullshit — but it's also totally normal. More than 70 percent of people report feeling like an impostor at some point in their career.

I think for me it started when I didn't get into the University of Texas, my dream school. They turned me down and waitlisted a few months before I graduated from high school, and I was heartbroken. I hadn't worked hard enough, and I wasn't good enough. It was that simple. Then, one day in May, I got an email from the university: I got in. It wasn't to my first-choice major, and I'd have to work hard to change majors and get into the journalism program, but I was in. I cried. My family cried. I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it.

But from that day on, I felt like I didn't deserve to be there. I felt I wasn't smart enough to manage the work load that a top public university would require. When I performed well in my journalism classes, I thought I was somehow tricking my professors. When I landed internships and part-time jobs, I thought I'd somehow talked my way into something I didn't deserve. But when I got C's on my geology or statistics exams, that felt appropriate and deserved (hey, turns out I'm just not good at geology or statistics). 

I eventually made it out of there and I graduated a semester early, with honors — in fact, I had a 4.0 my final semester. Somehow I still have nightmares to this day, more than three years later, that they'll call me up and tell me that they screwed up, and I actually never had the credits to graduate. 

Every job I've ever gotten has come with a few days (sometimes weeks or months) of disbelief. After all, job applications are just curated versions of ourselves we choose to present to the world, right? We show our potential employers the best possible versions of ourselves we can create: The hard workers, the talented writers and thinkers, the organized and mature adults. We smile through job interviews, say all the right things and land the job. It's not because we deserve it — it's because we're good at faking it. Or at least I feel that way.

Some experts suggest impostor syndrome may have its roots in childhood. For example, getting too many participating trophies or undeserved praise as a kid can make us really screwed up as adults when we don't get that type of recognition. Or, on the flip side, too little praise as a kid can screw us up, too. I don't think either of those are at the root of my impostor syndrome. I think it's simply because I've never wanted to come off as cocky. And for some reason, my brain has a hard time making the distinction between being proud and being an asshole.

The past month or so, I've been feeling really good at work. I've been there for about five months now and I'm really hitting a stride — I'm working on projects I'm proud of, I'm writing a lot and I have good relationships with my coworkers and bosses, who frequently praise my work. But those feelings of fraud still remain. Every time I publish a story I've written, I think about the various ways somebody could pick it apart, even if there's virtually nothing wrong with it. It's a thought pattern that becomes dangerous and exhausting, and my anxiety really likes to take it and run with it. In short, I'm sick of it and I'm ready to give it up.

I've made a lot of progress wrangling my demons since I started going to therapy three months ago, so this is the next thing I'm taking on. I've come up with a few things to tell myself when the "I'm a hack" feelings start creeping up. Maybe they'll help you, too, if you're experiencing self-doubt: You deserve to be here. You were chosen to be here because you are good at what you do. These people care about you and would not lie to you. When somebody praises you, say "thank you" instead of making excuses or telling them why they're wrong.

Or, you know, as Viola would say:

Thirty pounds.

That's how much weight I've gained in the last year. I don't recognize myself when I look in the mirror, or when I look back at photos from a year ago. None of my clothes fit anymore. I can barely stand to open my closet door and look at the thousands of dollars worth of beautiful clothes that I can't wear.

I mean it when I say I don't know what happened. It felt like I woke up one morning and the jeans I wore the day before no longer slid up past my thighs. There was one day I broke down crying in the bathroom at my grandmother's house because I had to go to my cousin's volleyball game and I didn't have any clothes that fit me. She cried with me.

I mean it when I say I don't know what happened, but I do know that depression is a cold-hearted bitch. It takes and takes and takes from you until you think it can't anymore, and then somehow it takes some more.

So really, I do know what happened.

When life as I knew it fell to pieces last year, I stopped taking care of myself. I got drunk every day. There was one night in January a friend dropped me off at home after a night at so many bars I couldn't keep track when I drunkenly realized I had lost my keys. I had locked myself out of my apartment. I became hysterical. I called my dad and woke him up because he had my spare. Before he got there, I continued to wander around my apartment complex, wondering where I'd lost my keys. I found them in the parking lot — I must have dropped them either when my friend had picked me up or when he had dropped me off. I ran back to my apartment and I fell going up the stairs. I fell so hard I still have nerve damage in my knee a year later. My dad and his girlfriend still drove all the way to Austin at 3 a.m. and comforted me as I cried off the after-effects of a panic attack. They slept on my couches and stayed with me the next day to make sure I was OK. I wasn't. I stayed home from work for the next few days, ashamed of myself. I had hit rock bottom. 

Thirty pounds. That's what drinking every night did to me. That's what happened when I stopped working out daily, stopped paying attention to what I ate, started sleeping too much.

IMG_0692.jpg

I made a bad joke to a friend the other day about how I wished I was one of those people whose depression made them stop eating instead of start overeating, because joking is one way to cope when things feel bleak. But it only works for so long until you realize you have to wake the fuck up and do something.

My boyfriend, Jared, and I have gotten into several fights about my fitness and healthy eating routine (or lack thereof) since we started dating in July. He's a really healthy eater, he stays very active and he really takes care of himself and his body. His discipline is unreal, and I'm jealous of it. He doesn't want me to lose weight — I would "boy, bye" him in like .05 seconds flat if he tried to come at me with that mess — but he knows I haven't been taking care of myself, and he hates it. He wants me to be happy and healthy as I can be — that's love, y'all. But I'm not always good at taking criticism, even when it's constructive criticism. I've never been great at handling a situation when I feel like somebody's telling me what to do. So he's been patient as he waited for me to realize that he was right all along (he was, of course). 

Losing weight is everyone's number one new year's resolution, right? I felt really cliche when I kept telling people I was trying to work out and eat better in the new year. But these thirty pounds and I have some work to do.

I'm not saying I want to lose all thirty pounds. I've never been naturally "thin" and over the years I've come to love my curves. Also, as my doctor reminded me when I went in for some routine blood testing a few months ago, I don't exactly have a teenager's metabolism anymore. I may not ever fit back into those size twos again, and that's fine with me. 

Since January 1, I've been working out (I joined a fitness challenge at a local barre studio, and I'm obsessed) and eating well (I'm beginning to realize I actually like to cook!) and I've been feeling better physically and mentally this month than I have in more than a year. It's amazing what taking care of your body can do for your brain!

I was really hesitant about sharing the exact details of my weight gain with the world, as weight has always been one of those things women "aren't supposed" to talk about. But despite my fitness goals (for example, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't buy new clothes this year until I drop a size), my number one resolution for 2017 is honesty. I'd like to be more honest with myself and with the people around me, so I'm posting that embarrassingly large number on the scale for everyone to see. And you know what? It's going to feel even sweeter when we can watch that number drop together.

Stop doing things you don't like

I keep a pretty detailed bullet journal. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's basically a little notebook I carry around with me 24/7, and it's a combination of a calendar, a to-do list and a journal (if you're interested, I can do a post explaining how I use it!). Last week, on a day I found myself particularly frustrated with some of my interpersonal relationships, I wrote, "Stop saying 'yes' to things — and people — you don't like" on that day's page in the journal.

I've mentioned before that I recently started going to therapy. One of the things my therapist Sarah and I discussed just before the holidays is my apparent discomfort with the word "no." I was talking to her about a recent spat I had with some friends after I bailed on lunch plans we'd made because I was feeling really overwhelmed with all the things I needed to get done that day, and I simply had to wipe my calendar. We got into a bit of an argument afterward, which left me feeling really bad — and sad — the entire rest of the day. This led Sarah to ask me why I felt like I'd needed to say yes to these lunch plans in the first place, when I knew I had so many things to do that day and was probably going to end up canceling the plans. I didn't have an answer for her.

I think a lot of people are afraid of the word "no." We don't like to say it and we don't like to hear it. We plan our lives around avoiding it. Many of us would rather lie to our friends or make excuses for why we can't do something instead of just telling the truth. We're afraid of disappointing people. I also think we're afraid of disappointing ourselves. Saying "no" to something means we're admitting maybe we aren't the people we pretend to be on social media. We're not necessarily the fun-loving, spontaneous, mysterious creatures who have dozens of friends and never get tired of hanging out with them. 

One thing Sarah always mentions is self awareness. If I was self aware enough to know I wasn't prepared for that lunch with those friends, then it was healthy for me to be honest with myself and them about not being able to make it. If I had gone, I would have probably expended the very little energy I had on that gathering, and it would've thrown me off for days, maybe even all week. And I knew that, so I said no. It ended poorly and led to a disagreement, but I'm still glad I did it. 

And that's the thing about "no." It's not a negative word. It can be a really positive, freeing one. It can mean that you're being honest with yourself and the people you love. It can mean you're taking care of yourself, which is something so few of us actually take time to do. 

Recently, I invited my friend Vicki to a Christmas party I was throwing at my apartment. She lives in Dallas, and I'm in Austin. She messaged me after she got the Facebook invite, saying that she would come to my party, but she had just read Shonda Rhimes "Year of Yes" and she decided to have her "Year of No." I laughed, but I'm with her. I haven't read the book yet, but a "year of yes" sounds exhausting. So here's to 2017, the Year of No.

The scribbled note in the aforementioned bullet journal.

The scribbled note in the aforementioned bullet journal.

Staying afloat

This post was originally published on on Medium on Dec. 31, 2016.

*Trigger warning—this post contains anecdotes about depression, anxiety and suicide. Proceed at your own risk.*

A year ago today, I was sitting in a different apartment, on a different couch, with a different man. Staring at a different computer screen, with a different show playing on a different television. I had a different job. A different life.

They say what you’re doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve is what you’ll spend your year doing. Last year, I was on that couch, with that man, with that life.

On the first day of 2016, the year I welcomed with open arms, full of possibility, we awoke to the news that my boyfriend’s grandfather had shot himself. He was dead, almost exactly two months after my boyfriend’s older brother had taken his own life in the same manner.

We laughed when we got the news. It wasn’t funny, not remotely. But on the first day of 2016, I learned that right when you start to think, “At least it can’t get worse,” it can. It always can.

Seven days later, he left me. He loaded up a Budget truck full of all of his earthly belongings and he drove to South Dakota. I was wearing his T-shirt; he was wearing a down vest I’d gotten him for his birthday the month before. It’s how I’ll always remember him — bags under his bloodshot eyes, ragged like a man who’d lost everything. He had. And I was about to lose everything, too.

It was all I could do to resist running after the truck as he drove away from the home we’d shared. I didn’t go back inside. I couldn’t. I went to work. I cried in the bathroom. I called him on my lunch break. He was in Dallas. It seemed unbelievable that he was somehow still in my state, when it felt like he’d been gone for months, not hours. We tried to make our long-distance love work, but it didn’t. It was cursed from the day he left. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two broken people don’t make a whole.

The spring was a blur. All I wanted to do was stay in bed. I did, but I was rarely alone. I found comfort in a man I’ve known since I was a teenager. My phone would ring with his photo on it, and my heart would leap. I hadn’t thought that would happen for me. Not again, not this soon.

I landed my dream job in April, somehow, between hangovers. I thought everything would change.

It did, but not in the way I thought. The man I’d fallen for had not fallen for me. I would say we broke up, but there was nothing there to break.

My new job allowed me to work from home. At one point, I went five days without showering or changing out of the same ratty pair of pajama pants.

I realized, for the first time in my life, that I was depressed. I laughed out loud when the thought hit me. It was ironic. The man I’d loved, the one who had left me, was chronically depressed, and for two years I struggled with finding empathy for his fight with a disease I couldn’t understand. I laughed because I finally understood. I cried because I finally understood. I cried because I missed him, my whole body missed him. I physically ached for him, the man I thought I’d spend my life with, who was now a stranger.

It was summertime. I met someone. It was terrifying. It was easy. He changed everything. I moved into a new apartment and shed my skin. I started anew. He held the broken parts of me in his hands, breathed new life into them.

Two days after my 25th birthday came the layoffs. I was one of them. Just when everything had begun to come together, I fell apart again. Even after I found a new job, I mourned the old one. I struggled to pay my bills. Everyone parroted how lucky I was to have found a new job so soon. I didn’t feel lucky. I still felt broken.

At least it can’t get worse, I thought.

During my second week at my new job, he showed up. The one who’d left me nine months before. He was in the parking lot, asking for some old T-shirts of his I’d kept and meant to mail to him but never did. He was back. He was here. He was in front of me. We talked. He hugged me. I remember none of it. I threw up in a trash can in the parking lot at my new job. I threw up in the bathroom at my new job.

The old wounds were torn open, violently. I began flaking on social events, on friends, on my new boyfriend. I was terrified of the world and what it held next. So I stayed in bed, alone, leaving only to go to work. I was afraid of everything. I couldn’t bear to think of what could happen next.

I started going to therapy. I started sharing my fears with a total stranger, and that made me feel brave enough to share them with my friends. I apologized for who I’d become, this person who was too afraid to put on clothes and face the world. Some understood. Some didn’t. I healed, ever so slightly. Honesty makes you see the world in new ways.

I am still afraid of everything, but perhaps less so. I have stopped convincing myself that it can’t get any worse, because I know that it can. I think perhaps it will, and I can only hope that I will be better equipped to handle it next time.

This has been the most difficult year of my life. But it’s also brought me great joy. Just when I thought it would never happen, I found someone I can truly call a partner. I’ve lost friendships but strengthened others. I have been so very loved, even when I felt my most alone.

I have spent most of this year mere seconds away from drowning, but I stayed afloat. Sometimes that’s enough. I’m still fighting. I hope you are, too.

(P.S. This thing from Rupi Kaur helped me, and her book “Milk and Honey” changed my life this year. Also, I was inspired to share this very personal tale today because of this thread on Twitter from Chris Jones.)

Image via Rupi Kaur on Facebook

Image via Rupi Kaur on Facebook

P.P.S. If you feel you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

If you live in the Austin area and are looking for therapy services, I highly recommend Alive Austin. They will connect you with a therapist they feel will best suit your needs mentally, emotionally and financially. They are truly amazing people who do amazing work.

 

Living deliberately: About the launch of this blog and living with intention

So, this is new.

As a lifelong writer, reader and producer of #content, I've launched probably a dozen blogs in my lifetime, each with different intentions and themes, a few with a variation on the same name: Living deliberately.

That phrase pops into my head often, ever since I visited Walden Pond a few years ago and I saw this sign with a quote by the man Henry David Thoreau himself:

I was 19 then, and I didn't think much about what the quote meant. "Living deliberately" meant nothing to me at the time, I was just fascinated by the idea that this dude went and hung out in the woods for a while. Didn't he get bored? A life in the woods sounds lonely.

Since I saw that sign six years ago, I've questioned myself. What does it mean to "live deliberately" and how do I learn to do all things with intention? How do I set goals for myself each day and actually achieve them? More importantly, how do I live without guilt when I inevitably don't achieve those goals? How do I regain control of the thoughts that fill my mind, the habits that fill my day, and the people that fill my life?

Well, here's the entirety of that Thoreau quote from the sign:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...”

At the end of 2016, I found myself run down and exhausted, ensnared in the clutches of clinical depression and high-functioning anxiety. I felt like a broken boomerang. Somebody had thrown me into the wind with the expectation that I'd make my way back eventually, but we were both starting to figure out that maybe I wouldn't. I was hurtling through time and space with no direction and no safe landing.

So I began thinking about this quote again — this whole idea of "living deliberately" — and even though I generally shy away from making new year's resolutions, I thought the dawn of a new year was as good a time as any to try to muddle my way through figuring some of this stuff out. 

I don't have all the answers, if that's what you're looking for here. I fully expect that 365 days from now, I'll be sitting at this same desk, staring at this same laptop, wondering how to better my life. But that's the beautiful thing about being human, right? We're constantly trying to better ourselves. We have the gift of complex thought and self awareness, and we can choose to be or do whatever we want. And we have the ability to fail, epically and painfully and viciously, in ways we think we can't bounce back from. But we do bounce back, even if it's not in the ways we expect. Boomerangs return, eventually.

And that's what this blog is about. It's about learning to live with intention. It's about life with depression and anxiety. It's about a girl in her mid-20s trying to figure this big damn world out. It's about living and loving and traveling and reading, and sometimes failing (okay, OFTEN failing) and figuring out how all of that fits into daily life.

This whole thing is scary, but let's do it, shall we?