There’re two ways to get in the sea. One is where you slowly wade in, splashing water onto yourself to get accustomed to the temperature before submerging yourself little by little. The other is to just dive in.
I prefer the latter. Cold and shocking as it is, I need the cold and the shock. I need it, if only because the feeling of breaking the surface for the first time is the best thing in the world. I feel refreshed. I feel alive.
That’s not always the case, but most of the decisions in my life, I approached them as I approached the sea – eyeing wearily from the side before diving right in. Moving and studying abroad. Taking a scholarship. Learning a martial art (okay, that took several false starts.)
I have two things that might one day grow up to the point of becoming full-on disabilities – Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome and depression. One I’ve lived with all my life. The other seems to have developed, on and off, during my late teens and early twenties. I want to say that this is the reason I think of them in very different terms, but that would be a lie. Truthfully, I have internalized a lot of ableism over my life, and it didn’t start coming out until I was faced with a choice: Get better or be stuck in Limbo.
Okay, so it wasn’t as dramatic as that. But my work was suffering, my relationships were suffering, my motivation had gone down the drain and I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. Every time news of a death – family or celebrity alike – reached me, I felt terrified for reasons beyond simple mortality.
Then, for a brief moment in time, I felt incandescence. I spent a few weeks away from work, I met up with people who shared my passions and values, felt a surge of hope and love of life and art again, and I realized: fuck, I want this life. I have dreams beyond the next day, and the next, and the next.
I didn’t just need to get better. I wanted to get better.
I’ve had a condition that affected me almost from the day I was born, but which really kicked in when I was around 7. It wasn’t fixeable, but it was manageable. So I manage it – I put on my elastic stockings, do a lot of exercise, and don’t shop for skinny jeans. I do what I want, but when my body tells me to stop, I listen. I know my limits. I work with what I’ve got.
So why the fuck should I be precious about being depressed? It’s so freaking common, far more than K-T, and a bloody plight on Ph.D. candidates and writers. It doesn’t help that I do research on social media, which can be like an echo chamber for insecurity and self-doubt. It happens. It’s nobody’s fault. If I got a really bad infection, I’d ask for antibiotics without a second thought.
Except the world believes that people who are on medication for depression and other mental health conditions are somehow less-than. Less-than what? Less-than everything. And somehow, despite my best efforts, I fell into that trap. It wasn’t until push came to shove that I realized I had these beliefs, and I had to do something about that.
So now I wait. My head feels like it’s full of cotton, I’m moving as slow as a tortoise and every day feels like the recovery from a long, terrible flu. But it’s quiet. For once, my heart and head are peaceful. And despite all that I’m afraid of, I feel hopeful.
I wonder how much more different it would have been, had I not been so afraid to seek help earlier? Had I not been afraid to talk about it? I’ll never know.