The Atomic Bomb.

This is Part II in my little I Got Fired + Swearwords story. Here is Part I.

Quick catchup: We left off when my supervisor and the company owner had just handed me my the proverbial pink slip.


Between hyperventilating breaths, I told my bosses that I couldn’t believe they were firing me because I’d been on medical leave. Amid a hurried exchange of glances, both of them quickly claimed it had nothing to do with my leave of absence. Nothing. They shook their heads determinedly, like two kindergarteners lying to the teacher about eating paste.

Of course, I think they are full of shit. And I am pretty certain that my facial expression at the time let on just as much. But I also knew there was no point in arguing. They’d certainly rehearsed what they’d planned to say to me if I questioned them anyway. There was no point in standing my ground.

Mostly, I just didn’t have that vitality left in me. I was depleted of any energy I had mustered for the day, like a burnt out light bulb hanging in the room, completely useless. Here I was, experiencing a collaborated effort to squash me run its course successfully. My soul felt crushed, and the somber cloak of dejection wrapped itself around my hunched shoulders. I knew depression was present. I’d never felt it come on so rapidly, so surely. It owned me.

In a room that was now so unwelcoming to me, so uncertain, depression felt so safe. Depression understood. It was there for me, and it was all I could rely on. In the preceding moments, I’d so swiftly been taught that I couldn’t rely on my bosses treating me with compassion. I couldn’t rely on a tacit respect of the law or even of human decency. None of that was within my grasp. I let depression stroke my head and tell me everything would be okay. I could rely on its presence.

The two men left the room, awkwardly aware that there was nothing left to say, and closed the door behind me. And I sat there, feeling like a fool. How had this happened?

Immediately after everything went down, I realized how painfully obvious it all should have been to me in the days leading up to doomsday. There we so many God damn signs: My boss was keeping me at arm’s length. No one from the management team contacted me to ask how I was doing. The email responses leading up to my final day were more and more uncertain. For once, my anxiety disorders were right. Why hadn’t I just quit while the ball was still in my court? How could I have been so stupid?

We all routinely look at signs and overreact, don’t we? Especially the anxious. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to tell myself not to jump to conclusions. Hundreds of times any given worst case scenario that I so often felt so strongly was imminent had never even happened, in the end. Like a teenager who drives like a daredevil, I began to feel immune to anything bad actually happening to me. It was always just in my head.

My headspace has never been a safe haven. Although tragedy never really struck, so many impending situations played out so catastrophically in my mind over the years that it almost didn’t matter whether something bad actually happened to me. I still go through the trauma all the time. If I were to meet someone at a bar, for instance, I’d still go through the very real experience of my friend not showing up, strangers turning and laughing at me, telling me to leave, that I didn’t belong. I’d experience it all while I sat waiting in my car, twenty minutes before I was due to walk through the doors. That’s kind of what anxiety is. It’s a bad reaction to an experience that isn’t even happening.

And so, I grew to experience that worst case scenario, but never have to live with the actual consequences. But now I know that living in the reality after the bomb goes off is just so much harder than I ever thought it could be. I’m left picking up shards of my life without a plan. I don’t know how to deal with this. What do you do when the nightmare comes true?

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Pictured: The outcome to every situation I’ve contemplated, ever.

The thing is, looking at perceived signs and overreacting is an anxiety- and depression-prisoner’s worst downfall. In therapy, one of my monster challenges was rewiring my brain to essentially not jump to a horrifying ending every time a difficult situation arose. While that is a positive thing that I still know I need to work on, and still believe in, it really didn’t help things this time around. It kind of worked against me.

I spent so much time over the past couple of months reassuring myself that the disastrous consequences I’d invented in my mind were not real possibilities. That they couldn’t possibly come to pass. I mean it when I say that I did not, for one minute, believe that I could lose my job after taking medical leave. I’d just worked far too hard training myself to be rational about it. And it left me completely unprepared for this. I’ve found myself suddenly climbing Everest wearing a pair of Chucks.

I can’t help but feel angry with myself for not listening to anxiety back at the end of September. It was telling me all of the right things, trying to protect me, and direct me toward the safest pathway. But I didn’t listen. Now I’m left doubting my ability to read the signs and act appropriately. I’ve realized that I don’t know anything.

So the last couple of weeks have been hard. Really, really hard.

A real live actual worst case scenario is so hard to deal with, because it crosses over into your physical experience. It’s so much more than simply contemplating an outcome and living it in your mind. Simply put, not only do I have to deal with the emotional issues, but now I have to deal with the physical ones. I don’t feel capable of showering, let alone accomplishing anything that would make any normal human stressed. I need to do scary things like job hunt, to appear intelligent, groomed and put-together, and capable of doing the professional job I am trained to do. And I need to accomplish small things. Today, I burst into tears while I waited in line at the post office to buy a single stamp. I’m failing badly so far.

For me, this stuff feels insurmountable.

I know it’s not healthy, but I hold so much resentment toward my ex-boss right now. Let’s face it; I have zero control over my thoughts these days. Usually, I try to take responsibility for my emotions. But I just don’t feel like I brought this on this time. I was good at my job, and acted reasonably in an effort to mend myself. I didn’t fire myself. It was all him. The humiliation and indignity he’s caused me… it just hurts so badly. I relive the meeting every single day. I can see my supervisor, eyes downcast, and hear him say “we are terminating your employment” all of the time.

Every time I go out of the house, I feel terrified that I will see him or someone from the office. I’m frightened about my future, and how I might react if things start to get intense for me again at another job. I was trusting and was so wrong once, so how can I be sure that it won’t happen again? I can’t fathom taking risks anymore.

I want to live in a different city, in a different country, and I never want to have a boss ever again. Depression and anxiety are ruling over me right now.

I just want to disappear.

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Don’t Shush Me.

The other night, I was having a much-needed glass of wine — I switched early to iced tea; I’m a bit scared of having more than a glass or two right now, lest I start gushing tears in an inappropriate setting — with the in-laws.

One of my lovely family members was recounting a story about her aging mother. Once upon a time at a graduation event, Granny had just commented on her ex-son-in-law’s lack of hair. Loudly. He was several rows away, but they could tell that he had definitely heard her. Her granddaughter turned and told her to keep it down. Exasperated, the old woman retorted, “don’t shush me!”

I have never met this old lady, but I fucking lover her. The only thing I love more than old ladies who swear is old ladies who speak their minds and demand to be heard. Maybe hurling insults isn’t the best example of this. But still. Say your words, ladies.

Several years ago, I was too timid (read: anxiety-ridden) to ask my old boss for a raise. I was too scared of a lot of things. For me, talking to any authoritative figure about anything was as terrifying as telling your dad you just dented his beloved sports car.

In my defence, that damn car was really hard to park.

It took a lot of fucking courage to get to the point where I did ask him for that raise. I researched my position online, as well as salary reports to ensure the dollar figure I wanted wasn’t outrageous. I asked friends with my job how much they made. And I didn’t just back up my argument: I groomed my mind, too. I watched some TED Talks because I am a millennial. I re-read Lean In, and flagged helpful chapters, which I read yet again the morning I had the conversation. I even went into the ladies’ room to prep: I did a power pose with a stupid grin slapped on my face while I counted to 60.

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“Sir, I’d like a 20% raise. Also, tell Judy she can’t make popcorn in the staff microwave anymore.”

I’d love to report that all of my gimmicks worked. But they did not. I was counter-offered a typical 2% cost-of-living raise. I died on the spot.

Just kidding. The thing is, I’d done a really good job of tricking myself into being ambitious and goal-driven. For the first time in my professional life, I’d been assertive, and requested what I wanted.

Despite what my anxious self told me, I did not melt on the spot and the world did not stop turning when my boss turned down my request. A crowd of peanut-eating gawkers did not appear and start cackling at me. My boss just said no. That was all that actually happened.

Now, defeat hurt. It hurt a lot, and it was hard to deal with. I won’t sugar-coat that fact. But I did recognize that I’d done the hardest part: asking. And it didn’t kill me. So I did what the average individual without soul-crushing anxiety would do: I applied for a new job elsewhere. Anxiety screamed at me not to, but I did it anyway.

Imagine how thrilled I was when I got my asking wage at Shitty Assholes Inc. (I mean, little did I know how things would turn out) and saw a real future for myself on the horizon. I was so freaking pumped. I had done the hard thing and asked for my worth, and it had actually worked. They were like, “Mm’kay. When can you start?”

Once I started at Assholes Inc., I didn’t stop negotiating. I decided ahead of time that I wanted a raise after a few months, and checked that off my list. I made myself follow through in approaching my boss when I felt under-utilized, so that I’d shed administrative tasks and further my career with them. I marched into his office when it was bonus time.

Over and over again, I was successful. It was weird. I was disappointed in a way; I would have much preferred to have been handed all of these things on a silver platter. It would have been nice to coast through life on my stunningly good looks. It was like when you start dieting and exercising and actually lose weight. Part of you is like “oh. So yer saying I can’t sit on my ass and get skinny?”

But alas; I learned that you must actually climb corporate ladders in order to get what you deserve. Sitting around waiting, whether it’s because you’re lazy and think the world owes you everything, or because you have anxiety and climbing does not come naturally to you, is probably not gonna pan out the way you want it to. You will miss out on everything.

So I did the hard, uncomfortable thing*. I didn’t let anyone shush me.

If I want even a tiny chance at getting back to where I was three months ago, I need to not shush myself. I need think critically and act accordingly. I need to be my own cheerleader. I need to keep doing the things to get back to where I used to be: the worthy, capable, efficient, and dare I say happy employee who run the world like Beyoncé.

I can appreciate that many readers could think “hey idiot! Don’t keep taking your own advice. It got you literally nowhere: (A) you didn’t get that raise from Boss #1 and (B) you got fired by Boss #2. TAKING YOUR ADVICE = NO JOB. Obviously anxiety is the clear thinker, and you are delusional. Stay in bed forever.

I agree with your logic, dear reader. Yes, I am almost certainly an idiot. I once scratched off the entire surface of an It’s My Solo Cup because I thought I’d win prize money. I am sitting here blogging because I have not worked in two months, and the only reason I am not a street person is because Boyfriend thinks I’m pretty. I love my bed more than anything and your advice is very persuasive on that basis alone.

But even today, notwithstanding the fact that someone snuck up behind me, inserted an egg-beater into my brain, and went to town with the crank, there is residual “I did that hard thing that one time!” floating around in there, intact. I wasn’t shushed then, and I won’t be shushed now.

It is a fleeting thought. And writing this post is my attempt at catching it with a net.

Because as you so astutely pointed out, I don’t have a job. And I need to go find one.

So don’t shush me.

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*that’s what she said.

My Ex-Boss Thinks “Irregardless” is a Word.

This will serve as Part I in How I Lost my Fucking Job, I guess.

My mind has settled, relatively speaking (major disclaimer there), although I am extremely susceptible to panic attacks right now. I have had several every day, all lasting a really long fucking time. Today I was trying to do the whole “5 senses” routine, but couldn’t remember what the senses are, aside from seeing. Which is the easy one. Suffice to say, it didn’t work out. And the depression? Good lord, I will write about that another day. Anyone who’s looking to fester in a pool of misery, stay tuned for that.

But tonight, I’m feeling a little feisty and a little angsty in a non-teenage way. For no good reason; I have received no good news, had not had any revelations, or experienced any profound mindful meditation sessions that have eased my tension. I’m still fucked up. But I’m in a writing mood, lucky for you.

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my boss. I scribbled his words down as he explained to me what my position would look like when I returned to work. I had asked him how hiring a second “me” would change things.

there will be changes – nothing drastic – won’t be switching my job – nothing huge

If you’ve been reading my blog, you might recall that I’d seen a job posting for my own position online part-way into my medical leave. Naturally, I panicked immensely, doused the underside of my tongue with a hit of Ativan, and connected with Work BFF to get more details about the posting. She assured me that they couldn’t possibly be replacing me; that they must be adding to my understaffed department.

I calmed down (to the best of my ability), and eventually scheduled that call with my boss. He assured me that they were only adding another member to my department – just as Work BFF said.

But my boss ex-boss is not, as it turns out, a forthright fellow. At least, not in the strictest sense.

The thing I’m having the hardest time reconciling is how blatantly he lied to me about things. Both over the phone, and over an email. Both times, he assured me they were adding to the team. That there would be no changes to my position. I believed him.

I mean it. I really truly believed him. Like, in the way a 15-year-old believes her 17-year-old boyfriend.

It made sense, especially from a legal standpoint. Because, math. I’m no mathemagician, but adding is not replacing, as far as I know. And everyone in my life – Boyfriend, family, friends, even my therapist – agreed. I guess, though, that lying over an email and even over the phone isn’t out of the realm of possibility for an executive, is it?

I spent the following days thinking and writing a lot about trusting in myself. I reminded myself that when Fear is here, I need to observe it and let it pass. Recognize that it doesn’t know the truth, and focus instead on the fact that I trust myself. Love, belonging, safety.

But this time, Fear was right. And everything I, foolhardy, had so carefully built, came crumbling down the other morning when my boss and supervisor told me my position no longer existed.

So here’s what happened, in case anyone cares (or in case I’m ever in the mood to relive a nightmare and, as usual, Netflix doesn’t have any good horror flicks on rotation).

My two superiors got straight to business when the three of us sat down at the table that morning, It was me, my supervisor, and my boss.

I noted that my supervisor looked like shit. He looked like he’d been up all night with a sobbing infant or like he’d just been dumped before prom, neither of which scenario was probable. But I honestly didn’t think much of it. It was kind of an awkward time, and he was likely worried that perhaps I’d be standoffish or have a panic attack during the meeting. And, sometimes he just looks like shit.

My boss (the CEO) looked like a dead fish: grey colouring and big dumb eyes that moved spastically. They darted from me, to my supervisor, to the table, unsure of themselves, looking for some kind of an auxiliary in anything they focused on.

He started sputtering out a few token buzz words and business idioms. He is one of those guys who tries really hard to sound like he knows what the fuck he’s talking about by saying things like “paradigm shift” and “synergy,” and is especially prone to using those words in the wrong context. And words that don’t even actually exist. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad to watch.

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I am 90% sure he once said “moo” instead of “moot.” I spent the afternoon trying to discern precisely what I’d heard.

Enough about what a dum-dum he is.

After explaining that they were doing the usual “checks and balances” (a turn of phrase I hadn’t heard since 1993), he told me that they’d hired another supervisor and that my role was no longer available.

In that moment, my brain worked more quickly than it typically does in that type of setting. I stumbled over my words, interjecting, “wait – are you guys firing me?”

Fish-eyes fixated on my supervisor, who immediately filled in the gap and did the dirty work for him like an ever-loyal henchman.

“We are terminating your employment.”

For a nanosecond, it felt like someone sped up the track like in one of those dub-step songs right before the beat drops (*I do not recommend relying on my understanding of musical vernacular). I know that sounds contradictory. But for that fraction of a moment, my mind raced around every corner of itself like a pinball, searching for some way to truly cipher what had just occurred. Somewhere in there, my Ego was shouting “No no no no no” all the while, just in case I thought this was a positive situation. Was this even real?

This was supposed to be my first day back in the office. Not my last.

But then the beat did drop. My supervisor slid a manilla envelope across the table like a tiny bald mob boss, which I grasped with trembling fingers. I felt all of the blood drain from my body and my beating heart somehow maneuver itself up and into my throat as I clumsily opened the envelope. All I saw on the letter was a dollar figure, which I immediately recognized as severance pay.

And suddenly, I was Taylor Swift at the Grammys (you know the one).

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Pity.

It’s been a couple days since I was terminated. During that time I’ve cried a lot, medicated, and hidden in my bed. My brain is not currently a place I want to be in. I have felt a multitude of feelings and emotions in the past day. Feel free to choose any synonym for “sad” and I can assure you I have felt it. But in the end, all I feel is numb. Losing my job has put me right back into the deepest crevice my depression has to offer me. I’ve never felt it this badly before. The despair, the guilt, the shame, the fear – none of it can hold a candle to the nothingness. The emptiness. I’m afraid of my own heart right now.

I tried to overcome it today, I really did. I told myself that I was in charge of my own emotions. That I could choose to be okay with the way things panned out. So I went to the grocery store. I made dinner. I laughed while watching The Office. But as soon as it was over, I was right back in the middle of my head again. It’s not somewhere I want to be. I want to turn out the light, and just stop feeling. I want these feelings to stop. I feel like depression is a disease tattooed all over my body and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. It’s spreading. I has already enveloped everything I know. Every thought, every feeling, every idea I have.

That first night as I lay in my bed and told myself not to take another sleeping pill, I just gave in. My depression gets to win, at least tonight.

I never, ever thought this would be me. But is that even the truth? I should have seen it coming, shouldn’t I?

Letting people go is something my organization has done many times. It’s somewhat habitual, actually. The words “termination” are words I’ve personally written in many letters to unsuspecting employees during my career there. I always felt sick doing it. Did my employer ever think about how easily they choose to fire people? How it affects these people? What is it about them that makes them come to the conclusion that severing ties with a living, breathing human being is a better idea than trying to work it out, give warnings or second chances? Work on the person rather than replacing him or her? Or is my employer’s quest for gold just too intoxicating? The prospect of walking down that path they’ve cleared for themselves must be much easier than walking up a mountain road to fix a problem. Do they know that the organization is known as the company “where [redacted job title]s go to die”? You can insert three or four specific job titles in there. Mine too, I guess.

And while I’ve now lumped myself into that group of those who were doomed, I can’t help but take a disparate view and say to myself that “I am different than all of them.”

Because I never fucked up on the job. I had glowing reviews. They gave me raises when I requested them. They praised my work, and even flaunted their achievements to their rivals while giving me due credit. More than once, they told me that certain projects were in the best shape they’d ever seen.

But they fired me anyway. I went on an anxiety- and depression-induced medical leave of absence, and the day they told me was my first day back in the office, they fired me. They replaced me. They lied to me when we discussed my return to work plan. They had a minion lie to me, too.

Aside from how abject my mind is, and how wronged I feel, I feel sorry for them. If there is one emotion I feel from the bottom of what’s left of my heart’s ability to feel, it’s pity.

My boss is a kid. His dad created this company, not him. He never had to work from the ground up. He was given opportunities to succeed that millions of people would never have been given. Deep down, I know he knows his privilege and advantage in life.

The next day, when I came to pick up my things, I noticed that he avoided eye contact. He shot the shit with a random dude and excused himself to make a “conference call.” But I know his game. And I feel bad for him. Because he’s playing the “fake it till you make it” game. And it’s not working. He hasn’t enough experience to face things and man up.

The worst part is that he is playing that game with peoples’ lives. He has taught me nothing but the fact that mental health stigma is still very real, and that people who try to get better are going to end up fucked over. 

That’s the golden rule in action, isn’t it.

This post is a mess. I’m sorry. But my mind is a mess, too.

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Numb.

I’ve just been fired.

After being on medical leave for 6-7 weeks, instead of my first day back being my first day back, they fired me. I’ve never been fired before.

They’re supposed to give me my job back after a medical leave of absence. This is the premise on which I’ve been doing my therapy; this is the basis on which I’ve been psyching myself out: my goal has been “return to work.”

I didn’t have a plan for “get fired” even in the abstract. I never thought it was even a possibility.

But here I am.

I’m no longer on medical leave. I’ve been fired.

I feel like a massive truck just came out of nowhere and smashed any possible mental wellbeing I had cultivated over the past few weeks. All the hard work I did – smashed without any regard for how hard it was did me to accomplish.

I’m back at square one – but lower. At least before, I had a job to return to. I took solace in that. It was comforting.

Now I feel at a complete loss – what do I do? What is my plan? My Ego was right all along – I had reason to listen to Fear and heed its warning. Am I wrong?

I don’t have the energy to think about any of that right now.

All I know to be true is that today, I was fired

And I cannot help but feel that my mental health is the reason.

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The Depression Maze.

Having depression is like being stuck in a maze that has no exit.

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Like this, but with less meaning.

You don’t ask to be there, and you don’t necessarily realize that you’re even in it. It’s often a slow-boil scenario where you slowly begin to detect that you’re not where you used to be. You keep turning a corner to get somewhere new, to make sense of things. But there is no point. You never make the correct turn into a field of flowers where unicorns prance around beneath a rainbowed sky. You’re stuck.

Several years ago, I noticed I was in the depression maze and that I’d been wandering around it for an indeterminate amount of time.

When I first became aware that I was in this maze, I kind of looked around and it became apparent that although I’d been meandering left and right for months, I didn’t actually understand what my goal was. Like, aren’t you supposed to enter a maze intentionally, with a purpose? To reach the exit on the other side? Or to reach the middle and win a prize? With blatant disregard for my need for clarity and purpose, the depression maze did not provide me with an answer. I was just kind of there.

The depression maze has zero objective. You don’t even get to meet David Bowie.

Despite this, I decided to look at my circumstances so that I could evaluate and plan a course of action. I noticed a major shift within myself: a few months earlier, I’d written “I just love life!” on my Facebook info page. But depression had crept up behind me very slowly, wrapped its arms around me undetected, and stripped me of all energy and motivation. Over time, things for me had just kind of become devoid of meaning. I no longer had interest in doing things or being around people. I was kind of sad, bored, and uninterested in life. In the months preceding, all I accomplished was watching every episode of Lost on Netflix. Where was that girl I used to be? Well, she was lost in a fucking depression maze.

Naturally, when I first began to realize that I might be depressed, my course of action was to wallow in it like a real sonofabitch. I mean it. I really took advantage of the situation and indulged in every trite ‘depression activity’ that crossed my mind. These activities were easy and required little energy.

I began each day by curling up in a little ball revelling in my stoicism. I moped around and stopped using my smile muscles, and spent more and more time at home alone. I turned down plans that would make me happy, and stopped reading and exercising. I no longer wore makeup or got dressed on weekends, instead staying in bed until noon. Or later. I fantasized about living in a mental institution where there were no stressors, and no expectations. Just PJs, slippers, and prescription drugs.

And I cried. I cried a lot. I cried hysterically, and quietly, and dramatically in the shower. Crying was all I had to hold on to. It was the only way I felt like I was experiencing emotion. Crying = Sad. Right? Sitting in my closet crying really hit the spot. I would consciously think to myself “Look at how sad I am. This is so sad. I am hiding in my closet crying, all by myself, and it is just so sad. I could be in a movie about depression right now.

But veritably, sadness isn’t really a good representation of what depression feels like. Feeling sad is more of a nice side effect than anything. Because for me, depression was the absence of feeling. I didn’t care about anything, and I didn’t feel compassion for myself or anyone else. I didn’t feel sad; I felt empty. And I wanted to keep it that way.

I recall my sister coming over and writing a very inspiring letter to me about self-love and self-care. But I folded it up and put it away in my nightstand. I didn’t want to experience self-love. I wanted to be left alone, crying and eating my cup-a-noodles in bed without interruption.

That was the most fucked up part of depression. I wanted to feel like this. If something that could potentially bring joy or change came about, I gave it a dirty look and rejected it. I didn’t even doubt the love people in my life had for me, I simply didn’t care about it. Nothing mattered anymore. Even when my cat came running up to greet me with little meows, purrs, and head-bumps, I somewhat resented him for trying to change my mood.

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Not today, fuck-face.

Truthfully, immersing yourself completely in a sea of melancholy is very satisfying – to a point. Everyone basks in that pity party once or twice in their life. But I had taken it to another level. As I became more and more detached, it all began to feel very frightening when I recognized that I didn’t want to live anymore.

To be clear, I did not want to kill myself. I just didn’t want to be alive. I wanted to just sort of disappear, stop being, hit my off button. I was exhausted, and this depression maze had proven to have not only no significance, but no escape. Wanting to be not-alive scared me. Sleep was my only avoidance strategy, and it wasn’t working. There was no end to this existence in sight.

At one point or another, depression, for many of us, morphs into a real problem. It starts out like a limp. You can function like this, limping around for weeks, still able to do all the normal stuff in life: you can still manage to get to work, buy groceries, and, uh, bathe. But eventually it can become a full-blown broken leg. And you can’t carry on like that without some kind of intervention. You need medical care, a cast and crutches, and a way to heal.

One particularly dark day, I had been in bed crying for hours. Nothing had triggered it. I was just laying there detached and pathetic, indiscriminately emptying my tear ducts into my pillow. I hadn’t showered or dressed in several days. I hadn’t been able to drag myself to work that day, and this intensified my feelings. Or not-feelings. I wasn’t sure if this meant I was getting closer to the point of wanting to end my life. Depression had morphed into a tangible problem. It was very disturbing.

This hollow mental existence was now threatening my physical existence. It went beyond an aversion to showering: it was jeopardizing my job and my life. It was one thing to take morbid pleasure in the experience in my pretty apartment, knowing that I did have a life to return to, even if only in theory. It would be another thing entirely to wallow in my parents’ basement, unemployed and futureless. It would be even worse if I became suicidal. I was a tiny step away from hitting rock bottom.

But I noticed a glimmer of hope in that.

Now, I still didn’t want to get better. I was still messed up about that. But I’d arrived at this groundbreaking cognizance that I didn’t want things to get worse. I knew that I wouldn’t take my own life at this moment, but there was no way to magically cease to exist. This was as far as I wanted it to go. I didn’t want to lose everything in life I’d worked for, and I knew that feeding my depression was leading dangerously close to just that. The things people respected me for, and the things I was proud of – they’d be gone, irrevocably. I realized that I’d found a secret trap door in the depression maze.

It was a sobering moment, and without allowing myself to move past this realization and think worse of it, I called my mom.

Removing myself from that deep level of depression didn’t happen overnight. It involved going through that trap door, which was mortifying and daunting, and wandering uphill and down through another maze. It was painful. But pain is good. Pain isn’t nothing. It kept me going.

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To an extent, I am still in the maze. But in this other maze, there are doors. There are opportunities. There are people I can talk to, doctors and therapists. There is medication. There are friends and family members who listen and don’t judge.

It’s hard work, and it’s ongoing. I have ups and downs. But I try very hard not to lose sight on that glimmer of hope, even on the days when I feel hopeless and don’t want to feel good.

There is time. There is love. There is healing.

There is another door to walk through.

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Out of the Woodwork.

You know how when you buy a new car, it seems that suddenly, everywhere you look, that same car is there? It’s strange, but as soon as you slapped your insurance sticker on the licence plate, you realize that you’re not the only one who had your idea.

You probably chose this car because it’s unique. Maybe it’s flashy, or maybe it’s understated – either way, you chose it because it’s uncommon on some level. You’re exceptional and not like everyone else, so you chose that car to parallel that.

But it turns out that you’re not the only one with that car after all. There are tons of other people just like you, who didn’t choose a Mazda 3. Those fuckers.

As soon as you think you’re the only one, others like you come out of the woodwork.

Same goes for mental health issues. You think you’re the only one, but the reality is that you just weren’t paying attention. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of people out there just like you. You just have to be deep within it to notice the numbers.

Damn, girl.

I felt very alone before I started writing here a month ago. It’s just as well that I have social anxiety, because misery hates company anyway. But as I delved deeper into this online world, I learned a lot. If I look up the hashtag “anxiety” on my blog reader, I find hundreds of blogs on the subject. In fact, it’s hard to keep up with them all! And when I started my Instagram account? I was blown away with how many similar accounts are out there. Mental health warriors like me are out there – they’re everywhere. Maybe they’re in the deep end of the anxiety pool like I am. Its omnipresence is overwhelming and interlaces itself into every aspect of their lives. Some just throw out a #panicattack after an acute flare-up. But look for it, and you find that people everywhere are struggling. They’re everywhere.

Recently I learned that my go-to esthetician wasn’t working full time anymore. We aren’t friends per se; since I’ve been seeing her for years, we do have a bit of a relationship. We have chatted about our personal lives a fair bit and I do think she thinks of me as more than just a client.

But her new schedule struck me as odd because she was previously a cyborg who was working 15-hour days and had a management role in the salon. My mental health radar was beeping.

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I thought I’d drop her a text. Just in case something was up. If nothing else – was she working elsewhere? My eyebrows are very important to me.

When this girl text me back, I learned I had been right: she was working part time due to work stress and burn out. I obviously will not get into her story here, because it’s not mine to share.

I offered her my words of support and told her if she ever needed it, I can be a good listener. She thanked me politely and graciously.

When my appointment time finally rolled around, I was a little nervous to see her face to face. I was freaking out that I had overstepped a boundary. Who am I to barge into her life, assuming she’s not happy or something is wrong? Did I make her uncomfortable? Did I make it awkward? Would I need to find a new eyebrow girl?!?

My need for great eyebrows is apparently stronger than my anxiety.

Once we were alone, I timidly asked her how it was going. A nice, gentle, normal conversation opener. She also took the safe route and asked me a similar question. I realized quickly that this was 50/50. How could I expect her to feel safe if I lied and told her life was great and everything was “fine”? If that’s how I would proceed, she would surely follow my lead and the mere exchange of pleasantries would be the extent of our conversation. There’d be no depth. We’d do nothing but grimace behind our masks and add to the stigma that the tough shit in life is something to be ashamed of. That we need to convince everyone that everything is fine. That talking and being real is not okay.

That’s not real life. I wanted her to feel safe. I wanted her to feel normal, and not alone. So instead of telling her things were “fine”, I took the first scary step forward and told her things were going okay….. but that I was off work and on stress leave so things were not perfect.

At least I got to do this while laying on a table with my eyes closed. Which was awesome since eye contact is fucking impossible for me.

To my relief, she took the same scary step and opened up. She spoke about what she was going through too. I think perhaps it evoked a sense of relief for her as well. Our conversation was not long, but we both rattled off such a mirror image of thoughts that it actually made me smile. We even tentatively made plans to get together for coffee or wine and have a real girl date.

I was on a mission for the greater good and her wellbeing. But an amazing side effect was that I ended up feeling better about myself. I hope she did, too, but it made me realize I am not the only one in my life going through tough times. We all know your 20s are for learning and making mistakes, but apparently your 30s are for falling on your ass. And if you’re brave enough, talking about it. Opening up about it. And that can lead to healing and growth.

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