personal

it’s okay if you’re not okay.

This is supposed to be a blog about my trips to Disney World — at least, mostly. In a bigger sense, this is a blog about starting over, about trying to find happiness after many months of not having any. My expensive, ridiculous hobby is a big part of that journey, but the rest of it is stuff that only I can do, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Sometimes, before things get better, they suck. Sometimes they get better for a minute and then they suck again and then they get good. Right now, I’m in the middle of a whole lot of suck.

I’ve been in a weird, uncomfortable place lately — and by lately, I mean for the past year. I feel like I’m very often drowning, except I’m drowning in a life jacket. I feel like I’m going to hit the bottom even though there’s no way I should be. There is so much good in my life. My husband is my perfect match, I have two cats I adore, my job is so fun it doesn’t feel like work, I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood and even though I feel like I should be publishing books and running my own feminist media corporation right now, I’m doing okay. Our bills are paid every month. I have a family who loves me, and a mom I am so close with we text all day, every day. Aside from a 70 inch TV and a big house with an outdoor fireplace, we want for nothing. I’m probably right around where I should be for 27.

Those big things aren’t the problem. It’s the little things, and there are hundreds of them, and they probably wouldn’t bother me at all if my brain chemistry wasn’t so screwed up. But it is, and I have to figure out how to deal with it, and lately, that’s felt out of reach.

Last year was hard on me, and I think it was because I built my wedding up in my head to be The Most Important And Beautiful Day Of My Entire Life, and how can anything real ever live up to a title like that? Instead, it was A Nice Day In My Life That Also Came With Stress And Disappointment. There were no speeches or toasts given by our friends like we imagined there would be. Almost everyone who attended the wedding saw me in my wedding dress before the ceremony because our photographers forgot to change their watches to Georgia time, and that’s a moment I can never get back. The photos I have from the day are very disappointing, and none of these things are things I can go back and fix.

And every time I cry about it now, six months later, Blake kisses me on the cheek and says, “I wouldn’t change anything about that day, because that was the day I married my best friend.” He never tells me to quit bitching about it, even though I know he wants to. He never tells me I’m complaining about nothing, even though I obviously am.

And there are so many wonderful things about that day, and maybe, when I’m not stuck in the land of suck, I’ll be able to see them and remember them above the things that weren’t wonderful. And there were positives. The day was a huge reminder of how much my parents love me. My bridal shower was beautiful beyond all comprehension; my mom, Jessie, and Jacie pulled it off flawlessly and it will forever be one of my favorite memories. My hair and makeup were perfect, the orchestra was beautiful, the ride in the car from the wedding to the hotel afterwards with Blake is something I’ll never, ever forget. My friends Heather and Alisha scrambled to make me a new cake topper just an hour before the ceremony when we realized I’d forgotten mine at home.

I’ve never been able to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve. I don’t keep my emotions or thoughts in; I tell everyone what I’m thinking, and maybe that’s why I grew up to be a writer. So if you’ve gotten this deep into this post and you’re wondering why I’m still complaining, that’s probably it. I don’t know how to deal with my emotions in any other way.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was a teenager and maybe even before, and lately, it’s been worse than ever. Over the summer, I injured my back and a few months later found out that it’s sciatica. It makes my legs hurt and my back hurt and it’s painful to walk and exercise. I’m going to physical therapy once a week, hopeful to fix the problem so I can start exercising again, but for now, I’m just doing my daily stretches and mostly staying off my feet.

This means my life has become a little different lately. For me, the best way to keep the depression at bay is a routine. When I’m feeling my best, I wake up, drink my coffee, get all my work done for the day, and then I work out. When I was really kicking life’s ass, that was a #BBG workout and cardio at the gym, and Blake and I would take hikes and walks a few times a week. I was cooking all the time, I had the energy to leave the house, it felt like living.

Now, I can’t exercise — at least, not until the doctor says I can. So I stay inside when what I need is sunshine and endorphins. I work, I watch TV, and then I go to sleep and wait for the days to pass so that I can get to the one where I finally feel healthy and live my life as a Real Girl again. It needs to end soon and I believe that it will, but I just don’t know when.

Sciatica is an insignificant health problem compared to many, many other things I could be struggling with. But when you’re depressed, it multiplies every inconvenience by ten. When you also have anxiety, add a pair of 20 pound weights to your chest, too.

Suddenly, you feel a weird pain in your side? Google says it’s pancreatic cancer, and the next thing you know, you’re crying in the shower because you don’t know what to do, and now your head hurts and maybe it’s an aneurysm. Is this what an aneurysm feels like?

You want to sleep, but you can’t, because the second you close your eyes, you can’t stop thinking about The Bad Things, like the fact that your parents are going to die someday and how eventually, the kids you don’t have are going to grow up and move away and what if Trump launches an atomic bomb and gets us all killed?

You question your own thoughts and feelings because you don’t know if you can trust them. Am I really sad in this moment, or is my brain tricking me again? Does that person secretly hate me, even though she seems to be my friend? Did everyone just think I look fat in that photo I posted? Your insecurities are overwhelming.

Your to do list is a million miles long, but you just don’t have the energy to tackle it. You don’t have the energy to do anything, really, so you have to drag yourself through doing even the bare minimum and when you’re done, you’re running on empty until you get in bed, where once again, you can’t sleep.

This has been me lately, and last week, I finally did something about it. I went to the doctor for an unrelated problem (which is actually super embarrassing and, for once, would be what I would qualify as an overshare) and got up the courage to ask why my antidepressants aren’t working anymore. He doubled my dose, and over the last few days, things have been much worse as my body adjusts. But now, I can be hopeful. Help is on the way, I think — I probably just have to wait a few more weeks and I’ll finally start feeling like myself again.

There’s a song by Ingrid Michaelson called “Keep Breathing.” She sings, “I want to change the world, but instead, I sleep.” That’s me for the last year. Everything else gets put on the back burner because of this imaginary boulder I’m carrying around. I may not have a published a book yet, but I can diagnose dozens of rare diseases because of the number of times I’ve seen Meredith Grey do it from my bed.

I want energy. I want to be a good friend and wife and daughter. One day, I want to be a good mother, and I’m worried that my broken brain will get in the way of that. If my daughter inherits my tendency to hide in dark spaces, I want to be able to show her the way out. I want her to know that it’s okay not to be okay, but also that she’s capable of digging herself out. In order for me to be that person someday, I have to start now.

So if you want to know the purpose of this expensive, ridiculous hobby I keep writing about, there it is. I rely on it. I rely on having something to look forward to; when I’m at Disney World, it’s physically impossible to be anxious or depressed. You’re surrounded by children discovering the same magic in the same way you did when you were their age. Even though you’re 27, everyone calls you princess. You get sucked into this bubble where only happy people exist (minus that lady cussing at her toddler, anyway. And, well, Grumpy). It’s a feeling of peace that I get when I’m there. Everything is right. Everything is good. Everyone needs that — everyone needs to find the place that makes them feel like that.


And for now, that’s what gets me through it. Lots of trips to my happy place. Long car rides with Alisha, where we talk about everything and she helps me find ways to laugh at the things in my life that suck. We get up too early and stay up too late and we joke about what Walt Disney would have wanted, if he were there. We eat second dinner if we want to, and the real world doesn’t exist.

And my wonderful husband, who I have to recognize because he helps make Nicole The Person possible, and because he takes the brunt of my depression and anxiety, despite the fact that I make him nuts sometimes. He points out when I’m having an inappropriate reaction to something that’s happening. He washes the dishes because he knows I don’t want to. He tucks me in at night after filling up my humidifier for me, something else I hate to do. He almost always does my laundry and folds it for me. And even though I know I have to be frustrating as hell, he always shows me such kindness and unconditional love.

There has not been a single time where he’s accepted my apology for making him deal with a depressed wife. When I tell him I’m feeling ugly or fat, he shoots me a disapproving look and tells me not to talk about his wife like that. He never lets me feel alone. I may struggle to love myself, but I never feel that I am not loved by him. Every day, he tells me out loud that I am his best friend.

There are cats who snuggle me all night and follow me around all day. There are the memes and the text messages my far away friends send me that make me laugh. I wake up in the morning, drink my coffee, and spend my day writing about things I am insanely passionate about — for money. When I’m driving and I see a mom and her kid singing along to a song on the radio, I know that we live in a good world where there is joy, and I can’t take everything on the way that I do. It’s not good for me and it doesn’t help, anyway. As dumb as it is, you have to smile when you see a puppy. You have to care about who wins The Bachelor, or whatever your equivalent of that is. You have to close your eyes and commit the moment to memory when you’re on the couch watching Parks & Rec with the person you love.

I’m probably sharing too much. This is probably way more than I should ever put out on the internet about myself, but if you’ve ever felt the way I do, if you feel like it right now, I want you to know that you’re not alone. I know that it can feel like everyone is having a better time, a better life than you are. I think that all the time. I look at everyone else’s lives on my screen, and I wish I was that pretty, that happy.

But that’s just the highlight reel. No one has it figured out; not really. So here’s something real, in my own weird, whiny way. Whining is a part of life, and I think everyone should be allowed to do it — as long as they have a plan in mind to get to the part where they don’t need to whine anymore. For me, I know when my back is healed and I’m used to the higher dose of Lexapro and I’m back in the sunshine, taking a walk and listening to my favorite Gilmore Guys podcast again on the elliptical, my whining will decrease dramatically. Find your light at the end of the tunnel and know you’ll be there eventually, even if it takes a long time.

There is no rush. There is no deadline. If you can’t get out of bed today, get out of bed tomorrow. Brush your teeth and your hair. Take a shower. Go to the dog park and see other people’s pets and how they love them. For me, on a really bad day, what helps is keeping my hands and mind busy. Get a really complicated Lego set to keep around for those days; that’s what I do. Get a really nice coloring book and colored pencils. Sometimes, when I panic, it’s my body’s way of telling me I just need to color. It all stops eventually. You’ve been happy before. You’ll be happy again.

If you need a friend, if you want to talk, you know where to find me. In the meantime, I’ll be here, bitching but also knowing that things will get better. You don’t have to be strong, but you do have to try.

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