Tomorrow marks my third week of consistently doing yoga- by consistent I mean 2-3 times per week. But I am not taking this as a loss or beating myself up as I would in the past, especially with high intensity workouts where I didn’t feel like I was doing enough until there were beads of sweat rushing down my forehead and neck. I would like to work up to practicing yoga more, but this in itself feels like an accomplishment for me. To find consistency in a life that feels anything but and for someone who has been struggling with depression for the last few months, this is something I can give to myself that is a gift and an act of self care. It reminds be to stop feeling defeated by things I can’t change, and to take literally one hour out of the day to recenter and feel thankful that I am able to be present in myself.
Tonight during a class at a new studio, I had a particularly intense experience where I felt what letting go really feels like. I concentrated the pain and hurt my heart has been feeling and let it transfer down my arms and flow out of my finger tips. I let go of pain and disappointment- pain of watching someone I love struggle so unjustly everyday, disappointment in myself for not being able to hold a full time job while trying to maintain my mental health and some of the elements that make depression so dark and all consuming at times.
May is Mental Health Awareness month and I have spent a greater part of my adult life not admitting that I have “issues” as western textbooks may say, and that I need to let my guard down, set aside my pride and ask for some goddam help. I had a discussion with someone recently and they said, “the hardest thing isn’t admitting you have a problem, it’s being consistent and showing up for yourself to get the help you need.”
Flashback to March when after my mom’s “dry run” with her surgery, I felt the highest highs and lowest lows I’ve ever felt in my entire life over the course of just under 24 hours. It took me not wanting to get out of bed or really eat for a couple days to realize I needed to go to therapy. Something I have been in and out of for most of my adult life. I have found therapists I like, and then I have had therapists who listen to my story and all my “problems” and criticize me for not coming sooner, when really, the biggest step was me being there at all.
Currently I am attending a group “crisis therapy” for people who are going through intense situations. I had an extremely difficult time coming to terms with the fact that I could be placed in a box with such a loud and problem riddled name. With its hard vowels and sense of urgency, it’s a name that surely suggests I’m not a normal functioning human or one who couldn’t climb out of darkness on my own. It’s a 6 week “course” and so far I’ve been to one out of four meetings. At first, I was angry with myself that I couldn’t even show up, but then I realized that me even taking the initiative to show up that one time and open up to complete strangers was enough. Opening up to anyone really has been extremely difficult for me, especially over the course of the last year or so.
This weekend, I went out to a bar with a girlfriend (something I used to love doing, but now I find it hard to be social with strangers) and almost immediately after arriving and finding a table at the bar, a pair of machismo dudes latched onto us. She and I had a powwow and decided it was fine to keep them around in hopes that they would take care of our drink tab ($15 for a vodka soda). We talked and flirted and joked around and everything was fine. As we made our way to another bar a few doors down, one of the guys payed special attention to me. I didn’t mind it, because even though it goes against most of what I stand for as a fiery feminist, sometimes it’s nice to hear “you’re so pretty” from a stranger who’s about to buy you a drink. We took a seat at a table and I sat next to him and we started talking. It was just small talk, poking and prodding about what I do, where I live, where I’m from- formalities that I think actually tell you nothing about a person. When people answer menial questions like this, I usually instead watch their body language, their eye contact, listen to their tone of voice and you can always tell how sincere they are being. When we were having this conversation, I was a couple drinks in and my guard was up as usual. After a few minutes, he blatantly called me out on it. He said “you’re a really guarded person aren’t you?” I didn’t respond, he proceeded with, “I can tell you’ve really been through some shit. You hide behind your looks and your personality. But you know what? If you don’t let anyone in, you’ll continue to be this person. And you’ll still be coming here alone in 5 years…” at which point he gestured to a small pathetic corner table with a mismatched older couple looking lost. His words jabbed me like an elbow to the throat, air escaping my lungs, my mouth feeling dry- because loneliness and being alone is really one of our biggest fears as human beings right? Especially as a 30 something woman in LA where your “biological clock is ticking.” I sat with my mouth agape, stunned, totally caught off guard. I was expecting a night of being out to be a fun escape, not a harsh slap of reality. I couldn’t believe that my facade I work so hard to keep up hadn’t fooled him, because it was certainly fooling everyone else. And even if his words weren’t entirely true, and maybe he was just trying to sway me into giving him a chance in my pants (which I probably would’ve fallen for in the past), they still felt painfully real which felt heightened by the Russian vodka I’d been taking down rather quickly. Instead of going along with it, I threw back my drink and dragged my friend to get another shot.
For the past few days, his words have been echoing in the back of my mind like a looming dark cloud that I can’t clear away. That night brought me even more uncertainty and unfortunately lead me down a path of heartache that I don’t want to remember or feel right now (or ever). Little did said bar philosopher know that I gave my everything to a guy who took advantage of it, all the while I was watching my mom’s health and livelihood get significantly worse. I tried to lean on him as a pillar and instead of standing tall, he succumbed to drugs, self loathing and materialism which were all used as pawns to push me away. I was just another drug to him, another material possession that had to try and fit into his world without him ever actually making space for me. Even though it’s been a while, I’m still not ready to do that for someone because I am already using almost my entire emotional capacity to stay afloat and support people I care for unconditionally.
Today I ran into a guy I sort of dated last fall, he was the closest I came to something “real” in a long time. He had a string of his own issues including being a recovering heroin addict, and I think when I was talking to him back then, it felt okay for me to be vulnerable and talk about real things because he had no choice but to expose himself. I quickly realized that was toxic and our combined negativity and issues were just a breading ground for depression and more gluttonously addictive behavior. When I saw him today, I was reminded of where I was six or seven months ago, how using my body for temporary pleasure was a form of therapy. But obviously not anything that worked, or was remotely healthy. We exchanged awkward niceties and then parted ways, who knows if we’ll see each other again.
I have been able to find solace in the yoga pose “savasana” this is the pose you typically do at the end of a class where you literally just lie on your back in a receiving position with your palms up to the universe. The goal is to let everything sink into your mat and just be present where you are, in that moment. The instructor of the class will usually start saying things like “feel your arms getting heavy, your body spreading…” “there is nothing you need to think about, nothing you need to be doing right now. Just be here and be present.” Tonight, while doing savasana at the end of class, I started crying. I was glad the dozen or so people around me had their eyes closed because I just wanted that moment of vulnerability with myself. I cried because the teacher was telling us to think about what we’re grateful for, and how we can spread kindness and happiness to others, and then he went into telling us to think about someone we care about and to send good energy their way as we would hope they would do the same for us. I thought about my mom. I thought about how many things I am thankful for in my life and that something inside me really makes me believe that we will get through this. I let go. I let go of a lot and it was overwhelming because I’ve been carrying so much for a long time. Now I’m realizing in time I’ll be able to open my heart again, but first I need to heal it a bit and find peace.
Yesterday, as I was entering the doors of the ICU to visit my mom at UCLA, I passed two nurses chatting and one said, “It’s not so much what happens, but how you deal with it.” I thought it was serendipitous for me to overhear this piece of advice during a tough day. Everyday presents it’s own set of challenges, but it really does ultimately depend on how you handle them. x