I took out the trash tonight.

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I took the trash out to the curb tonight.  Six large garbage bags of trash.  And when I came into the house, I got a little bit emotional because I was proud of myself.

You see, I haven’t taken the trash out in weeks.  Every week, trash day would come and go, and I wouldn’t do anything.  I wanted to.  I thought about it.  I would give myself pep talks. I would berate myself for being lazy and a slob.  But every week I didn’t do it.  I didn’t have the energy.  I didn’t care enough.

Everyone who suffers from depression suffers differently.  For me, the clearest sign is my trash.  For the past few months, I’ve been battling a bout of depression and I am just getting to the other side of it.  It took me awhile to recognize it for what it was, and then it took me a little while longer to schedule an appointment with my doctor.  And then it took a couple more weeks for the new medication to start working.  And every week, the trash piled up.

I’m not sharing this for sympathy or attention.  I’m sharing because talking about depression is really hard.  It’s virtually impossible to do when you are suffering from it, and when you get past it, you really don’t want to dwell on it.  For some, admitting that you are taking medication for it feels like weakness.  For others, you are just too afraid of the judgment that comes with mental illness of any kind.  For anyone, talking about depression is hugely vulnerable.

So maybe I can shine a little bit of light into someone’s darkness.  If you haven’t taken out the trash in weeks (or whatever that represents in your life), it CAN get better.  If it feels like you are living under a blanket that you just can’t shake off, there are people who want to help. Maybe medication isn’t the right step for you, but talking to someone almost always is.

If it helps, that someone can be me.

Airports are soul-sucking wastelands.

airportsI am writing this from a hotel room in Chicago, away on business for a couple of days*.  I’ve been to Chicago on business too many times to count**, but this is the first time that I’ve chosen to drive instead of fly.  I’ve had to answer the question, “Why the f*** are you driving?” many times over the past few days, so I figured I’d try to explain.

In a word, anxiety.  Or rather Anxiety.  I had booked plane tickets originally and felt physically ill at the idea of having to travel.  Then I threw the destination into Google maps and realized that in 7.5 short hours by car, I could be here.  SOLD.

I’m not afraid to fly.  Or rather, I’m not afraid of flying in any traditional sense.  I am confident that air travel is a scientifically sound method of transportation.  I have never seriously thought about my plane crashing or being a victim of terrorism.  My anxiety over air travel has very little to do with the air travel at all.  I’m not concerned about death or my physical safety.  My anxiety is a fear of so. many. people. in so small a space.  I’m not even talking about the airPLANE.  The plane is almost a quiet respite from the utter chaos that you must endure immediately before and after.

That’s right folks.  I’m afraid of airports.

“Afraid” isn’t the right word.  I’m afraid of airports in much the same way that I am afraid of preschools.  I don’t really fear for my safety.  I feel reasonably certain that I will survive.  But will I survive without severe emotional trauma to either me or someone around me?

An airport is over-stimulation at its very worst.  Airports are people and noise.  Bright, often flashing, lights.  Computer screens with tiny print and scrolling message boards.  Airports smell of humanity and food.  Sweat and Cinnabons***.  Airports are a waiting room with very few, very uncomfortable seats, where everyone is anxious, angry and more important than you.

When traveling by plane, you must be aware of everything.  You have to make sure that you have packed everything that you might need, and nothing that you will not.  You must follow a rigid schedule in order to arrive on time, planning every step and every potty break to optimize your efficiency.  You have to listen for relevant announcements and filter out the irrelevant ones.  You have to appear friendly enough that your fellow travelers will be kind to you, but not so friendly that they will attempt to speak to you.  If you are traveling on business, you must be prepared to talk about what you do for a living, and feign interest when someone strikes up a conversation about the Midwest Life Insurance Sales Conference that they have just returned from.

Upon arrival, there is the scramble to get your bag (if you are lucky, safely in the overhead bin in the plane).  There’s a rental car with unfamiliar steering and brakes, or worse – cab drivers you can’t hear or understand.  And if the zombie apocalypse comes, you are stuck in an unfamiliar city with no way to get out.

In contrast, there is the freedom of driving.  My car.  The open road.  No schedule except “today”.  No limits on potty breaks, except those imposed by the occasional rest stop under construction.  I listen only to whatever I choose to listen to, and the infrequent reminders from my British GPS-lady.  No uncomfortable smells or noises, except those which occasionally escape from me.  I pack as much as I can fit into my car, including six pairs of shoes I know I will never wear unless maybe I will.  Because you never know when I might need hiking boots.  And flip flops.

And best of all, if the zombie apocalypse comes, I can get hell out of Dodge (or Chicago) without getting stuck in a security line at the airport.

*I know you are not supposed to announce when you are out of town on social media.  I really hope someone doesn’t break into my house and steal my old crappy television while I’m away.  It will creep me out.  But if you DO, can you at least move my clothes from the washer to the dryer while you are there?  I’m pretty sure I forgot to do it before I left.

** I’ve been to Chicago on business like… eight times or something.  It isn’t a very high number, but I’m lazy and it’s too many to count accurately.

*** This will be the name of my all girl punk band someday.

My therapist thinks I’m normal. Clearly she can’t be trusted.

ImageEveryone has anxiety.  It’s just a part of life.  I’m told that anxiety has some positive impacts on our lives – such as teaching us how not to die.  For example, if we’re driving and we think, “Hey look, that truck is coming right at me at a high rate of speed,” that thought is much more effective if it incites some degree of anxiety.  Anxiety that will, we hope, cause us to get the f*** out of the way.

I have Anxiety.  With a capital A.  With Anxiety, you see a truck coming toward you – safely on the other side of the highway driving at a normal rate of speed – and your brain is helpfully supplying all of the possible scenarios in which that truck might cross the massive median, flip over for 30 yards and land on top of your tiny car, paralyzing you from the neck down and requiring years of relearning how to communicate which you are far too old to relearn, forcing you to move in with your parents, and OMG who will take care of your cats, and OMFG how will you pay the medical bills, and JFC how are you going to pee?  (Go ahead and laugh.  That was an actual inner monologue of mine recently.  Except it was more detailed about the peeing thing.  I don’t think you need those details.)

So yeah.  That kind of Anxiety.

I’m lucky. My Anxiety doesn’t prevent me from living my life – admittedly with a happy dose of anti-Anxiety medication and the occasional text to a friend to give them a heads up that the bruise on my leg might be a blood clot that will kill me by morning.  (Go ahead and laugh.  I actually did that once.  Sorry, Lara.)  I have friends who can’t drive because of Anxiety.  Can’t go out into social situations.  Won’t meet new people.

Occasionally, however, Anxiety does like to remind me who is in charge.  Recently, I had a few panic attacks.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go without breathing for a minute or so at a time without dying, but it isn’t really fun.  And that ticking in my head?  Yeah, it kind of feels like an old friend sometimes.  But for reals, it was a bit out of control.

ImageSo I went to my doctor.  I cried like the stupidly stressed out crazy person that I clearly was at the time, but it wasn’t until I mentioned that I have regular nightmares and night terrors – something that I’ve dealt with since I was a kid – that my doctor suggested I try therapy.  I have to admit that I’ve always secretly liked the idea of needing a therapist.  It sounds kind of romantic and eccentric to be in therapy.  I wanted to have some sort of cool disorder that made me super unique.  My therapist would probably write a paper about my brain and win a Nobel Prize in… well, anyway.  Therapy?  Bring. It. On.

My therapist’s opinion?  I’m normal.  It seems like I have a great family, a well-rounded and happy childhood, and a happily independent, reasonably successful life.  I put too much pressure on myself.  I don’t know how to say no.  I’m an over-achiever who has gotten to a place where I can’t quite meet those high expectations I’ve set for myself.  Oh, and I should cut down on the caffeine and make an effort to sleep 8 hours a night.  And exercise. And eat better.

But it is still early in my therapy experience.  I’m going to go back next week, still holding out hope that I am, in fact, as batshit crazy as I feel sometimes.