I used to sit on the bus and stare at the back of the seat in front of me. It was dark green and had lines running through it. I remember the light filtering through the window, passing above my knees in a streak. I was five, and I was newly aware of mindfulness. “Now is now”, I repeated to myself. My mind was blown – almost to a dissociative level – time seemed to stand still when I thought that now was truly now, and there would never be another moment like it.
I wasn’t really aware of my uniqueness until I grew older, and realized all of my friends watched shows I never did, and did sports, and were just KIDS. Most of my teenage years were spent going to stores with my mother and Nana, checking out in my head, living in a fantasy world, perhaps because reality was too hard. Who knows. All I knew growing up is that gratitude didn’t help me – it made me feel guilty, because I knew I had privilege and had some nice things but it just didn’t register.
As I got older and went to college and grad school and self-medicated with alcohol and restriction of food, I wasn’t aware that I was wearing a different pair of glasses than everyone else. I wore dark, shaded sunglasses, while the rest of you wore regular near-sighted glasses. You could see things as they were, the good and the bad. But I could only see the bad. Everything had a dark shade to it. And the thing is, I thought this was completely normal. I thought everyone laid in bed for hours on end and cried everyday and had fights with their friends because of it. So when I saw peers moving on and having successful relationships and having confidence I began to be bewildered. Why couldn’t I get it? In fact, a friend in grad school once remarked, “Amanda, I will be so happy the day that you say things are just “good”.”
10 years later, with 7 years of sobriety, individual and couples therapy, self-help groups, and medication, things still seem darker than I believe they do for most. And let it be known I’m not negating “regular” people’s troubles or moods. Everything everyone feels is valid. However, I’m a sensitive soul, in all meanings of the word. If I don’t get the right amount of sleep, my depression is triggered. If I don’t exercise (which is a natural antidepressant), I run the risk of having a worse day. This can get tricky when it comes to the eating disorder, because I also can’t get into repetitive, joyless exercise that I only do for my waistline.
When I have normal events in my life happen, I only see the bad. For example, when my daughter was born, everything seemed tortuous, because I wasn’t sleeping which triggered my depression which also made it impossible to exercise because who can or should exercise on 2 hours of sleep anyway? I could see she was beautiful, but couldn’t enjoy it. When it comes to being married, my dark sunglasses show me only the fights, the unnaturalness of staying with one person the rest of your life.
And when Robin Williams committed suicide? I got it. I wouldn’t ever do it, because I have a beautiful daughter to take care of, but I got it. When life’s stress piles up over those dark sunglasses, it can seem like too much to stay here.
Do you see how it is chronic? Well-managed but still chronic. Easily affected by any little change. And isn’t simply cured by a walk in the woods.
Don’t get me wrong – things are WAY better. I get to help people with the same problems every day at my job, and I consider myself to be somewhat of an emotions ninja, someone who can, on a good day, utilize my drive to master any shots depression takes at me. And I’m a really good interpreter. When my daughter asks me questions about emotions, I know what to say. I know what to say in a current world full of people who call emotional souls “snowflakes”. Which is sad, because emotions are directly connected to our medical health. Why do you think married couples die so close together, so often?
Here’s how I try to live my life. I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color, super poor, or LGBTQ. So I don’t try to tell those people what their perspective should be. Because I’m not them, and I simply don’t know. But I do know something about mental health, and eating disorders, and alcoholism. So listen up. This shit can’t be cured by just a walk in the woods.