Friday, July 15, 2011

the differences one year can make...

Last night, after an enjoyable gathering of college friends for beer and pizza and hearing the details of one of our number's recent engagement to her boyfriend of one year, I took a walk through my Pittsburgh neighborhood and did some mental self-examination.

Tauruscat Dream Helmet
image source: Tom Banwell: Leather & Resin Projects
Despite not having the lovely thinking helmet featured above, I think I came to some splendid revelations.  The main one is this:

I feel like the cloud of depression has been lifted.

Last July it felt like the exact opposite.  Around this time I was actively making my final plans as I counted down the days until the end of my life.  I was going to swallow sleeping pills, allow my heart to slowly stop, and drift off into a much-yearned-for oblivion.  At the time I had such severe family problems that I was actually kicked out of my parents' house for a few days, friends who had all but drifted out of my life as they pursued the goals of their own adult lives, and confusion at work that made me feel as if I was hurting, rather than helping my beloved battlefield's struggle to stay open.  I had hit rock bottom and couldn't see a way to scale the walls.  Despite my attempts to control my life I felt that there was no hope of determining my own fate.  I wanted control back, but could only see one way to do it.

I made my plans.  I set a date.

But then one person did all he could to show me that I was loved and cared for.

In all honesty, I was a bit resentful towards him for his act.  I suddenly felt obligated to try another method of taking control back.  And maybe it was good that that Emilie Autumn concert was delayed for several months, because it gave me more time to focus on that goal.

These were the things I did to get control back:

  • I got a new job.  I was lucky enough that it wasn't high-pressure, something that I don't think I could have handled at the time.  And I had one boss instead of nine.  That made the greatest difference, as I only had to take my orders from one individual instead of several persons with varying opinions as to how I should do my job.
  • I moved out of my parents' house.  This step took a tremendous amount of effort.  I understand that my parents wanted me to live at home, that they want to enjoy my company and want me to enjoy theirs.  But I knew it wasn't working.  They made me feel obligated toward them for "allowing" me to live in their house.  Even though I paid rent, I also sacrificed a great deal of my own free time to satisfy their whims, and dealt with still being treated as a child.  By last August I was fairly convinced that I couldn't survive long in their house.  My leaving wasn't a pretty scene- both parents were upset with me, I think more so out of fear that their depressed daughter would not make it by herself in the big, scary world, although there was an element of feeling that I was personally rejecting them.  In a way I was. But moving out was the drastic first step that I needed to make toward getting better.
  • I went to counseling.  Here I focused on controlling how much involvement my family has in my life.  It has worked for my benefit- most of the negative stuff my family says or does does no longer affects me negatively, as it once did.
  • I began to plan social activities with acquaintances.  My counselor made me do at least one social activity a week, not counting anything I did with my boyfriend.  I had to at least give an old friend a call.  Now I'm very excited about my recent connections with the Steel City Steam Society, and I hope that will lead to some terrific and much-needed social interaction with like-minded people.
  • I began to exercise again.  Once upon a time I was a devout Roman Catholic.  Lent was always a serious deal to me.  Despite changes in my views about how religion should be practiced, I still believe that each religious institution should be honored by its followers and those who do not follow them (as long as that institution does not hurt anyone by its actions).  That means that as a "bad Catholic," I still felt obligated to honor the fasts of the Lenten season.  So for Lent I made myself give up "being lazy."  That meant that I had to run five times a week.  It didn't matter how long or for how many miles I ran, as long as I ran at least 20 minutes.  I figured that it would be more effective than a New Year's Resolution because I do take Lent, as a religious practice, seriously.  I only failed in my obligation one week, where I ran three days instead of five.  But by the time Easter came around I was stronger and more energetic, which has led me to continue running about three to five times a week.
  • I began to work on my fiction writing again.  This one is a very recent development that came up within the past few weeks, so let's hope I can maintain it.
It all didn't happen at once.  I was still severely depressed for months after last July's blackness.  The cloud only began to lift a little in February, and gradually dissipated over the next several months as I struggled with my own identity apart from my family and my sense of uncertainty and stability about my professional future.  But getting my own place and doing my own thing has convinced me that I can meet my own physical needs, and my continued desire for independence assures me that I don't need anyone else's approval in order to be a member of society.

Granted, things will never be perfect.  I get cases of the blues.  But I no longer mind getting up in the mornings.  My days are productive, and I am, for the first time in five years, truly happy.


  1. I'm so glad you decided to keep going! Your an amazingly talented writer, I really enjoy your blog. Hopefully this year is even better for you.

  2. @ Ms. Lou. Thank you for your kind words. I hope this year is better too. It has already started out pretty amazingly so far. :)