If I had died a year ago
Coming to the end of another year. What to say, 2017? You sure didn’t pull your punches. While I’m not entirely sad to see you go, I also want to magically make you into a person or a thing I can physically hold and squeeze lovingly in my arms.
About a year ago, depression got pretty close to killing me. Several times, in fact. (side note: I’ve stopped saying “killed ___self” or “committed suicide” — it puts blame and/or responsibility on the victim. not about it. don’t mind if you say it. just a personal choice. anyways…)
It’s almost cliche at this point to say that it’s impossible to describe depression to someone who’s never experienced it. But it’s annoyingly true. The best I can do is to say that I wasn’t myself anymore. That had been taken away from me. I was lost. I felt like I had fucked up my life irreconcilably. That I was a drain (… can’t tell if pun intended…) on the people around me. I physically couldn’t laugh. I felt little to no hope ever. It all just felt like such a big mess and that I had nothing going for me. I could only wish for it all to be over.
But I held on. I did my best to listen to my dad and therapists when they would say that this was all temporary. It would end. I would get better. Even though it all felt forever.
It was gradual, for sure, but this past year consisted of me slowly crawling out of that muck. Defying depression and death.
I think it’s now important to reflect and share what this past year has given me. Not only in order to help solidify for myself how grateful I am that I’m still around to experience all this stuff but to also suggest that better times could be just one moment away. There is so much to life. And as my dad once told me it’s “not meant to be lived in so much pain.”
Unfortunate circumstances led to having real opportunities to come together with millions of passionate people in order to make our voices heard. To speak up against the current administration and the terrible things that not only it represents but tries to do on a daily basis. Being a part of the Women’s March in DC was incredible. Being with that many people… it was hard to feel alone in that moment. And not because of the sheer number. I’ve certainly felt alone(r) in a crowd before. No, it was because we were all being counted. Saying that this is not okay. That we matter. That I mattered. I continued this at PHL when 45 tried the Muslim ban. And at a queer dance party outside the Republicans’ hotel in downtown Philly.
Even though I had more or less dropped off the face of the planet and was definitely not that fun to be around, people showed up for my birthday. They came out the day of to sing karaoke. They showed up that weekend for my party. And brought so much cake. And this was the last time I was good at Secret Hitler.
I took a solo road trip south to visit friends and family. I was quickly reminded that even though distance and time might separate us, these people still care immeasurably about me. And I’m so lucky to have truly amazing people in my life. All over.
An old friendship was deepened through attending weekly drag shows together. Not only were the experiences good for me but this friend helped me start to get back out there. Getting back into this scene was so joyful. There’s so much celebration and life at these events. And shade. Oh so much shade. Later in the year, she invited me to be a part of her road trip out west, going as far as Chicago with her.
I went to a watercolor workshop, reminding me of my love of painting. Of creating with my hands. While watercolor might not be my main jam, I’m back in it with the acrylics.
My yoga life was off the handle! I tried puppy yoga. I tried goat yoga. I tried standup paddle board yoga. AND I STARTED TEACHING BEER YOGA. This all to say, I was reminded of how important play is both in my practice and life. And that I have skills and experiences to share!
I saw more shows this year than ever. Some highlights being Sylvan Esso, Ibeyi, Chris Gethard’s Beautiful/Anonymous taping, Randy Newman, Kristian Nairn (aka DJ HODOR), The Magic Flute, PHOX, Overcoats, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
I was able to celebrate my body and my sexuality through participating in a boudoir photoshoot. Not only did this help me discover a personal, “selfish” sexuality, but it prompted me to want to share and write about it. Leading me to accepting something I had tried suppressing for years: that I wanted to be a writer!
I finally saw the West Philly Orchestra at a local garden and was surprised by the opening act, the Philadelphia Women’s Slavic Ensemble. I danced and sweated my ass off with neighbors and decided I wanted to sing with the women’s choir. One of the best decisions of my life. Not only am I back into music regularly, but I’m performing and spending time with some of the funnest, silliest, most talented women I have ever met. I love my Slavic fam.
I got involved in this amazing project, Symphony for a Broken Orchestra.
I reconnected with so many friends, in fact. People I’ve known forever and people from college. People I used to be close too and less so. And I’m putting together an informal 10 year high school reunion. Because I’m insane.
I took the whole week off to go on my family’s yearly beach trip. I was actually able to let go and enjoy the whole time.
I’ve been able to see the joy in family and holidays again. Seeing them less as these anxiety-producing events where I am constantly judging what I’m saying or not saying. That I’m just there to be me. And everyone is okay with that. And maybe even loves that?!
I’m starting a new job that has so much potential to grow into something great. Something that I can really dig my teeth into. I’ll miss my naps…
I just DID
I tried playing DnD, got my dream tattoo, sat by the Schuylkill River to watch 4th of July fireworks, went to a nudist camp, judged my first poetry slam, got interviewed for a radio show, tried out Muay Thai, threw a cozy party in my tiny apartment, played board games, went to a hiphop dance class, was a part of a book club, went to pools with friends, went to my second PAX.
Out of everything, I think the absolutely best thing to come from this year is my ridiculously strengthened support network. Between the people who have been strong enough to remain in my life to all of the wonderful people I’ve been able to meet these past 360ish days. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to call you all my friends. My heart swells thinking of how truly not alone I am, when I can remember about a year ago feeling the most alone I could ever imagine a person being.
My illness was lying then. It does that, by the way. Mental illness lies to you. It’s hard not to listen or believe it. Because it worms itself into your thoughts and emotions. Signals that typically give you crucial information. But it lies. And my illness most definitely didn’t want me to experience any of this.
I’m sitting here literally crying on my cat as I think through this year. Remembering how utterly broken-feeling I was at the very beginning. How every moment was agony. How close my depression got to putting so many people through a ridiculous amount of grief and heartache. And how it still left its scars.
I might say it too much, and it might even sound like fluffy bullshit by this point, but I am so incredibly grateful for everyone in my life. Even if we don’t know each other, just the fact that you’re taking the time to read this… I am so thankful for you. I am so incredibly privileged to be here today, and I try not to let a day pass where I don’t at least try to acknowledge that in some way. Anyways, you all are beautiful creatures.
And, dear one, if you’re ever going through a tough time, please know that it’s not forever. Or try to know it. Or at least say it to yourself out loud or to others. It’s really not. Sometimes you just have to hold on as tight as your little fingers can. White-knuckle it. Because what’s on the other side is beyond worth it. No matter what you’ve done or haven’t done, you are beyond worth it.
I love you and want to hug everyone now.