Redefining Independence Day: Celebrating My Break-up With Depression

escondido-independence-day-celebration-escondido-ca

We broke up about two years ago, give or take. We had been together since I was a child and we did everything together. We would lay in bed together for days; take occasional walks (he preferred indoors,); and of course, we made decisions together. It was like I didn’t know where one of us began and the other ended.

And our passion was intense. Our sole purpose was to destroy and destruct my soul and the life I was attempting to build. Our lives were so entangled, it took me years to break it off.

And I couldn’t imagine my life without him. After all, our relationship is the longest emotionally intimate relationship I’ve ever had. Over the years, I’ve had my slip-ups and we’ve gotten back together for a few months here and there – they were short, but they were intense.

He’s really persistent too. He thinks he’s like Lloyd Dobbler in Say Anything, but he’s really just a creep who tries to disrupt my life and constantly remind me he’s watching me. He definitely stalks me, sometimes I can feel him close by. I sense him as he waits for a weak moment to swoop in and try to convince me why we belong together.

And it’s tempting to get back together. I feel comfortable with him. Being alone I feel so vulnerable and weak. Now I am free, but I am also naive and clueless without his guidance. Without his narcissism, I am forced to look within myself, to define life around this self, not him, and it’s really scary.

We broke up for a lot of reasons. Well, I was the one that broke it off with him. Not only was he overbearing and controlling, he was suffocating, insecure, and abusive. He taught me all I thought I had to know, but turns out, he was just warping my thoughts, crushing my innocence, and guiding me down his path, not my own.  He tried to keep me from seeing or talking with my friends, and resisted all my tactics to push him away. But I did. I got away. At least for now.

I’ve only ever been in a relationship with him, so I’m a little scared about being with myself, let alone someone else. But at least the next one will be present, real, and allow me to maintain my individual thoughts and feelings. I am gaining strength with the hopes that if my guard is down, he can’t completely take me back because I will have an arsenal of tools to keep him in his place. I will and have to be the last one standing.

So I take my pills every day. And that pushes him away. I go to the gym. And he gets farther. I eat healthy and get sleep. I can barely feel his presence. I call a friend or meet someone who makes me laugh. And in those moments, I almost completely forget about him. The scars of his abuse remain, and I know he’s always lying in wait, but I will continue to move on. Because as scary as it is to be alone; to learn how to do things without his support; to make choices and think about my future without him; I enjoy my independence. Fear derived from excitement and anticipation is so much better than fear from feeling powerless.

I no longer look at the calendar to see how long we were together; now I have begun to celebrate the anniversaries of the time we have been apart. It’s not easy. I’m still healing from the damage he has done and I will never be able to get fully away from him. And life isn’t perfect. Far from it. But for now, he’s far enough away that I can try to imagine the possibilities of life without the chain of our broken, dysfunctional dynamic wrapped tight around my mind and body.

For all of us who have been or are currently in the process of ending our relationship with depression, let’s redefine what “Independence Day” means this year. Let this year’s fireworks remind us that we are bright, beautiful, loud, and larger than life. We are explosions in the sky. And we will not stop fighting for our independence from the reins of depression.

Enjoy the bbq’s and beer if that’s your thing; consider turning up the tunes; and choose to smile, dance, and love completely. And if he dare attempt to crash your party, yell it loud and clear until he hears: “We are never, ever getting back together!”

Happy Independence Day, whatever that “independence” may mean for you.

(Yeah, that’s technically a Taylor Swift lyric, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t invent that sentence, so fuck it. Also, “Explosions in the Sky” is one of the most amazing bands EVER – they did all the music for Friday Night Lights. Just saying…)
Advertisements

Run Like the Wind: Failed Attempts to Sprint Past My Illness

Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting alone. Or sometimes it happens at a restaurant or inside a home with friends or family. I suddenly have this intense, aching desire to get up and start running. My chest aches, my forehead breaks into an unnoticeable sweat, and my legs begin to shake.

I imagine myself running fast and free, my heels almost touching the back of my thighs, my chest heaving, my throat burning, my sweat drying from a cool breeze. Unlike real life, while I have pain in my thighs, I don’t stop. Instead, the pain frees me from it all – I can keep running for as long as I need to.

Maybe I’ll run to the cemetery and slowly pass the plots with names, dates, and rotting flowers. Or maybe I’ll find a dead street and see the left out tricycles, garbage, and lawn chairs. Or maybe, I’ll run to my car, get in, and drive far away from wherever I currently sit.

Sometimes, there is even a soundtrack as I run, pushing me farther, faster. I have run so far, I have shattered the disorder from my heart, my lungs – it disintegrates, dissipating slowly from my blood stream, ripped off in one large piece from my dermal layer of skin – it now lays in a heap far, far behind me.

And this quest I have now begun, with only the clothes on my back, and the sweat lathered upon my head, neck, and back, has lead me to a new place of hope. A place where no one knows who I am or what I’ve done. There is no pressure to smile, to captivate, or to be proper or interesting. I can reinvent myself to be a loner in a small town. Maybe I’d go to the same restaurant every day and they would already know what I wanted because it’s what I order every time. Or maybe I’d be that quirky girl who doesn’t talk much but dresses in 50’s clothes, and buys vinyl records and wears distinctively eye-catching makeup.

I build a life there. One where my past does not haunt me. Where my future is open for business, for discussion, full of choice and random coincidences. Where there is no place for my disorder and therefore I choose what to be and that is now who I am. I am no longer defined within the limits of my disorder. No pills, no doctors, no concerned faces, no worries of failure. My skin is fresh, my heart is full – I am finally the real me – whoever that may be, for however long I choose.

And then I am snapped from my daydream – my feet firmly on the ground. The sound of others in the restaurant too loud, the conversation uninteresting. In my plain, non-descriptive clothes, I sit and attempt to listen, knowing those around me are worried I’m not speaking. Where have I gone in my thoughts? Will I come back? Will they have to deal yet again with a depressive episode? Should they try to make me laugh? Should they leave me alone? Do I just need a good cry before I come back to them?

It’s nighttime now and here I sit. My disorder masking my screams, my desires to run from the life I have inevitably created. I am not who I want to be; I am not where I want to be. And yet, this is the consequence of my disorder and therefore my decisions and choices.

It’s not until I’m in bed at night, feeling my belly heave up and down as I wait for my medications to knock me out into a world of dreams and nightmares, that my thoughts turn to running away. And slowly I fall into sleep and awake the next morning disappointed to find myself in the same place.