Four years ago I was trying to figure out what to do for Wes’ birthday. From early on in our relationship, I had wanted to take him away on a ski vacation. This was not because I like skiing…quite to the contrary. Wes took me skiing once and what resulted was a day long blooper reel of me falling on my face, my skis flying off my feet skidding across the mountain, and impressive amounts of me rolling around in the snow like some kind of beached whale who fell out of the sky only to find itself in the wrong habitat.
Needless to say, it was not something that I wanted to particularly do again. But I wanted Wes to get to do it, but ski vacations in places like Vermont are very expensive. So four years ago I was clicking around on Craigslist and I happened upon an ad for rental of a little 3 bedroom ski chalet in the Poconos only 10 minutes or so from Jack Frost…and it was $300 for the weekend…in January. This is, I am pretty sure, quite unheard of. And thus a tradition was born. We invited a bunch of friends and had a party weekend. There’s karaoke, a fireplace, copious amounts of booze and food. It is theoretically a really good time.
And for many, it has been. For me, however, it has most often been somewhat of a nightmare.
If you have been reading my entries here and at my old blog, you are aware of my journey to mental health. One of the things I have touched on a lot is that up until recently, I just thought that all my problems were philosophical. I think that this is a good place to start when trying to improve yourself emotionally, but, as you have read, I eventually zeroed in on a seemingly chemical problem as well. So you can imagine that with my particular set of challenges, hosting a weekend long party sequestered in the mountains when you struggle with generalized anxiety, depression, and an unrelenting need to take care of people and make everybody happy could be a recipe for disaster.
On the bright side, my issues rarely affected anyone else horribly during the weekend. Obviously, the people close to me cared and were bothered by it…and it certainly drove me crazy to be such a mess when we were trying to celebrate Wes’ birthday. The first year happened to be the first year I really started to work to tackle my problems in earnest. It’s not that I wasn’t working on it before that, but it was that year that I wished to make big strides to be happier because I was so tired of being miserable. The first year at the chalet was rough and I fell apart multiple times. The second year was better, but still tough. The third year was almost perfect except for some unexpected drama that sucked royally. I am able to look at last year in two parts, pre and post drama and more objectively see that overall, it was a big improvement over previous years. Each year I made adjustments from what I had learned the previous year and enjoyed more of the party. I like upward trends like that.
And here we are at year number four and we’re getting ready to head back up there this coming weekend and for the first time since the tradition’s beginning, I am looking really forward to it without a care in the world. I’m actually excited about it!
I have been wanting to do some sort of 2012 In Review kind of post, but as opposed to previous years where I have various events that I can point to as Important and Worth Enumerating, 2012 feels like an entire devoted to process.
Obviously there were a few Big Deals. Arcati Crisis began a recording project of Herculean proportions. Shaun and Ginny got married and then a few months later, they moved in with Wes, Jessie and me. I stood up for myself in ways that I never have before. But honestly, it is pretty hard for me come up with a list of the significant because this was the year my mental health became something that I had to deal with in a very big way.
For years I had been dealing with the philosophical: What is it about X situation that bothers me? Why does it bother me? Is this the best way to think about it? What can I do to improve the situation and my reaction to this particular stimulus? Why am I so insecure? Why do I yearn for the things I do from people? All these and many other burning questions preoccupied most of my thinking.
And it was really great stuff I was doing. I made a lot of progress and I can honestly say that my general happiness increased the more I handled things like this head on. But then I noticed that while my thinking had become considerably more rational and productive, my reactions to things were not…or at least, not to my liking. It was a daily fight to keep my mind from going to dark and destructive places and much of my time was spent just trying to avoid total meltdowns. And though I could say rational things to myself, things I knew to be true, I couldn’t quiet the other voice. A good day was one in which I could feel the anxiety and depression bubbling under the surface, but felt able to keep it at bay.
It was in 2012 that I allowed myself the possibility that additional measures were required to give all this philosophical work I’ve been doing a chance to be the predominant driver of my mind. And though I have been depressed and full of anxiety for years, I finally decided to try therapy and medication.
And now at about the 6 week mark of taking Zoloft, I can say with a beaming grin that I am doing really well. I have never felt this good for as long as I can remember. I don’t wakeup anxious and sad anymore. I begin each day at a delightful level of OK and generally maintain that level, even if faced with something stressful. Of course I still get upset about things here and there, but I get upset, deal with them and then I’m done with it. I don’t tear myself apart for my imperfections. I actually have the ability to move on from things. I don’t stew so much and I don’t spiral nearly as often. And the best part is that I have such increased interest in my life. I am more creative, more productive, and just plain happier.
I admit that when I first got my prescription, I felt like I was giving up on myself because it was a point of pride that I was able to make so much mental progress through hard work and commitment to a general goal of happiness and stability. When I started taking it, I was afraid that I was going to get lazy and look at it like some kind of magic pill. There were moments when I did think that…mainly after moments of disappointment when I felt that the pill had failed me when I got really upset about something. But eventually its effects evened out and what I was left with was, well, me.
It was not until I had achieved this general feeling of being alright that I realized how much of a goal that had been. It seems so simple…all I want is to be alright. Being alright means that I can look at my life and see how amazing it is, how much fun it is, and how rewarding it is. Some people worry that medication will strip away the parts of them that they like, right along with the parts they don’t. I can understand that fear, as I shared it. But all I can say is that I have gotten incredibly lucky here and this treatment pretty much exorcised a nagging demon that kept me from being the person that I knew, deep down, I was. And now I can see that all the work I did, the life philosophies I adopted in the time leading up to this, are there, ensconced, and effective. I have not lost the flexibility required for continued growth…I believe it has increased.
So here’s to a new year. May it be one unobsessed with emotional process. May that process be simply engrained and positive. May the accomplishments be viewed with joy and humility and may the setbacks be seen as mere hiccups on the road to a life less ordinary. May we have health, luck, and love.
And if you have embarked on a similar journey, keep trying but always remember to try hardest to by kind to yourself. That is the thing that is often the hardest for me. And know that you are not alone. This is a journey that ends only when we ourselves end, but it is a trip that is worth it.
In other words, bring it on 2013!