Welcome back, everyone! Whether you are a first time reader or a seasoned veteran of Putting Down the Rope, I’m happy you’re here. This post started as a way for me to blow off some steam, and then it morphed into something beautiful and productive. I hope you get something out of it, just as I did.
To catch you all up, life has been pretty good for me over the last few months. I’ve found a group of friends I consider family here in Nashville, I have an amazing partner (who I still wake up next to feeling unbelievably lucky that I found him), I moved out of my parents’ house and now live in a part of town that I love with some really awesome roommates. Life has been good.
But we all know that mental illnesses exist, even in the happiest of times. Sasha (remember her?) has snuck her way back in and has been pointing out all of the unhappy parts of my life. Since she started doing that, all of the bad things have just seemed to pile on, one after the other, and now I find myself at the bottom of a pit, staring up at the rays of happiness that seem so far out of reach now. We all know that I write to process and vent, so here it goes…I hope you missed me.
Due to my depression, I stopped taking the medication needed to maintain the health of my liver. (For those who don’t know, I have auto-immune hepatitis, which means that my immune system really doesn’t like my liver and tries to kick it out of the Vital Organs Club.) For the last few years I have been in remission, while still requiring consistent and constant care to make sure I stay that way, as my disease is not curable. I learned last week that I am no longer in remission, and will have to have another liver biopsy to figure out the severity of my condition and decide how intense my treatment will be. Treatment that involves medication with heavy side effects…side effects that I didn’t handle too well last time I was on them.
In addition to this fun news, my boss recently informed me that, because I didn’t qualify for an intermittent leave of absence (basically designed for people with chronic health issues), anytime I call out of work due to my illness it counts against me. Which has been happening more and more because of my chronic GI issues, too. To top it off, I have a cold. Aren’t I just the picture of health?
Since I’m not able to work at my current job without being punished for having chronic illnesses, I’ve been looking for a new job. Not only that, but I have been searching for other work that will be more aligned with what I want to pursue as a long-term career. After years of tossing the idea around, I’ve finally decided that I want to pursue my dream of becoming a therapist. Which means grad school; another excessively expensive endeavor. It’s difficult to find a job in this field, however, without already having a Masters or an undergraduate background in psychology or social work. And the jobs I do find that don’t have any crazy prerequisites, I don’t land interviews for because I’m too young or don’t have enough relevant experience. After being turned down for jobs I was really excited about, my pit seemed to deepen. After all, for the longest time, my career was the root cause of my happiness. I was passionate about my work, I was ambitious, and constantly searching for the next big thing I could be a part of.
However, I do have a light down in my pit. My partner tosses matches down for me to light so I don’t feel so alone in the darkness. But I’ve realized recently how heavily I rely on those matches to provide me comfort, and it isn’t fair to expect one thing (or one person) to be the sole source of happiness in me. I used to be full of happiness, from all different sources. Whether it was theatre, writing, photography, poetry, spending time with friends, etc…I usually had at least one thing outside of my personal relationships that sparked joy in me. But moving home disrupted a lot of that happiness. I had to start over, find new friends, find a new passion. Theatre in Nashville is obviously very different than theatre in Los Angeles. Suddenly, the career path that I had been working towards since I was a kid was pulled out from under me. Suddenly, I had to find all new friends. I was used to moving and having to start over, but those transitions were often aided with school, or jobs, or a house full of 20+ roommates. I didn’t know what to do now that I was an adult living with my parents in a brand new city where I didn’t know a single person outside of my family. When I moved home and got my emergent mental health under control, I started going out to photograph local concerts and discover new bands, meeting people along the way, but not many I was keen on spending tons of time with.
And then one day I helped out a friend, someone I hadn’t gotten to know too well yet, and our friendship clicked. It took some time, but we started spending more time together. Some six months later and here we are, the best of friends, and, as it happens, very much in love. As someone with a track record for screwing up relationships, I tried vehemently not to get involved with him. But when my brain realized my heart was involved, it all went out the window. So, now I am in a relationship with the most wonderful man I have ever known.
When we first started seeing each other almost half a year after we met, my happiness was palpable. At this point I had found a couple close friends, all who noticed and pointed it out to me, but that didn’t erase my other problems. I still had no career path– I wasn’t working towards anything, and had settled on a job that I liked fine, but wasn’t a long-term career by any means– and my depression had sapped my creativity. I didn’t want to acknowledge my depression because people in happy, healthy relationships didn’t have depression…right? Yeah, everyone reading this knows just how wrong that is. But my ignorance shoved the desire to deal with my mental illness out the window. Which, as these things tend to do, came around to bite me in the ass once my partner and I decided that, for the health and strength of our relationship, we needed to spend more time away from each other to maintain our individuality outside of the relationship. I agreed, but as soon as we spent days apart, my mood dropped noticeably. I didn’t understand why, as I was 100% on board and perfectly ok with our plan. I didn’t want us to become absorbed into one another. I had always been a strong, independent person. So then why was I falling apart when I willingly spent time away from my partner?
Well, it’s hard to find your own sense of self when you still feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. I lost myself when I moved home, and when I met my partner, I hadn’t found all of myself yet. It’s a weird feeling not to have a path in life…I had one for so long until I didn’t, and only then did I realize just how much stock I had put into my career and following my dreams. Hell, I can’t complain. I did the damn thing! I got my degree in theatre, I moved all the way across the country and worked at all of the places I dreamt of working at. But dreams can change. My last job on a theatrical production was when I was the most unhealthy. I had major depression, I was self-harming, I had an eating disorder that I hadn’t addressed or even acknowledged, and I had no money. All of this had started causing burn out, and I no longer enjoyed going to work like I used to. To this day, I am unsure if I will ever work in theatre again. It was difficult for me to step away, without knowing where I was going next.
All I’ve ever known is ambition; chasing my dreams, no matter how wild, or seemingly impossible. When I had to face the fact that my dreams were fading, I had nothing to replace them with. And when I was forced to leave the state I had fallen madly in love with, I felt even more lost. While I have found my home in Nashville, I still find myself picking up the pieces of myself that broke when I fell apart two years ago.
But it’s not all bad. Sasha loves to remind me that it is, but in writing this I am confident that it’s not. After all, I’ve found a new dream. Who’s to say that I can’t pursue this dream just as fiercely and unapologetically as I did with theatre? Sure, it will be hard, but so was crawling my way into the professional theatre scene in Los Angeles! I can do this. Even when my diseases and disorders and emotions tell me that I can’t.
I am learning to spread the wealth, not put so many eggs in one basket. If I put all of my joy and happiness into my new career path, I’ll become exhausted before I know it. If I put all of my happiness into my relationship, I will become codependent (and I really love this boy, so I’m not about to screw that up). If I put all of my happiness into my friendships, I will fall apart when my friends get busy with their own lives and careers and relationships.
Life is hard as hell. We all know it. I know each and every one of you reading this has dealt with some pretty heavy stuff. Maybe you are right now. But as my mom says, things can turn on a dime and life gets better, easier. Don’t put all your stock into one aspect of your life. Feed your soul– all of it!– because your soul has many compartments!
Who knows how long or often I’ll blog…but it’s nice to know that I can always come here to process and learn more about myself (and hopefully help others who are struggling with similar issues along the way). I’ve shared a lot of my journey on this website, and I’ve worked through a lot of really difficult stuff for everyone to see. If this post does anything, I hope it reminds those who struggle with their own mental illness that even if life is going great, mental illness can creep in and try to disrupt that. Just know that it doesn’t make you weak. You are stronger than you realize. You got this.