Coincidence that May—my birthday month—is also Mental Health Month?
I prefer to believe not.
And earlier this May, when I turned 44, I gave myself a present that I wouldn't have thought possible six months ago—or six years ago.
What did I give myself—or put under my skin?
Partly inspired by the Project Semicolon; partly inspired by the fact that the semicolon is my truly favorite, favorite, favorite punctuation mark; partly inspired by the fact that I wanted to remind myself that no matter how dark things may seem at this exact moment, the sun will always rise again tomorrow.
About eight months ago, I changed my meds. For nearly nine years, I stayed on the exact same anti-depressant prescription I went on when my son (now 10) was one year old. Although we moved and I changed doctors more than once, I kept the same thing mostly out of fear: if I changed it, and I felt worse, I wasn't sure what I would do.
A trusted mentor finally convinced me to see a psychiatrist—something else I feared, since I was sure my (mild to moderate) depression didn't need more than my primary care doc could handle—and we worked together to find a better solution.
I can't tell you how light I feel. I can't believe this is how "normal" people feel all the time. I went back to the psychiatrist a few months after adjusting things, and I shared that sentiment. "Is this how I was supposed to feel all along?" I can't really remember her exact answer, but I do remember her saying that once the depression wanes and you start to feel balanced, a grieving period for what you have lost is entirely possible and normal.
I lived for nine years thinking that the best that I could hope for was to feel not so dreary on a good day. I lived under muddy water for nearly a decade, not seeing anything clearly and wondering when I would finally just run out of breath. I can't believe I did that to myself. So I grieved for all aspects of those hard years--and then I got just naturally over it.
Because I am so glad I am still here. With my head out of the water, my eyes clear, and my lungs full. If it took a nine-year journey to get to this point, so be it. Sometimes I seriously have to pinch myself that I am able to have perspective on how awful I felt, and how not normal that was.
I also grieved the 50K this weekend that I did not start. I got up at 5:15 am on Saturday, race day, to put on my #BAMNR shirt, ride my bike—conveniently, when I put my arms in my bike's aerobars, all I see is l:ight—shed a few tears, and send my pals running Superior good vibes.
Then I got on with my weekend and didn't mourn the 50K, something I am not sure I would've be able to do even a year ago. I genuinely enjoyed myself. I went the Girls on the Run final 5K, which I would've missed had I been doing an ultra. I wore my pink Tough Girl Tutu and my big clompy boot and worked harder cheering than I would've if I had run.
And today, the day I would've been flying home with 50K of satisfaction, I rototilled like a mother on a small piece of our backyard. Ever since I've had kids, I've wanted my own garden. But I never had the energy to even know where to start.
My mom met me this morning, and gave me some beginner guidance. It's not going to be anything fancy, or high maintenance (is that a gardening oxymoron?), anything that will wow any landscapers. (In fact, it's going to be this pre-planned garden from High Country Gardens. Yay for easy choices and pollinators!)
My garden is just going a place that I've created and nurtured, where flowers grow year after year, no matter how long the winter or how cloudy the sky.
P.S. Obviously, the right meds are just part of the solution. While I feel more balanced, I still need to be uber diligent about self care, including eight+ hours of sleep nightly; less sugar; healthy, nutrient-dense foods; my (sputtering) meditation practice; regular sweat even when I can't run, and a few minutes of gratitude before my work day starts.
P.S. #2 If you need help finding a mental health specialist, here are some helpful tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.