>> 13 May 2016
I don't really know how to start this post other than to say that last fall was the worst 20-week period of my life. In August, I returned from Timor to a mountain range of responsibilities to overcome in a terribly short period of time. The short story is that I did it, but to get there I sacrificed every shred of my physical and mental health. I was already a broken mess, but for those 20 weeks, I was a machine- I worked all day, 6.5 days a week. I took Friday nights off to paint until I was too roaring drunk to hold a paintbrush, then Saturday mornings I got up and went to the library and got back to work. I developed several strange health issues. My sleeping became erratic. I had mostly-weekly panic attacks, but the only one that stands out in my mind was the one from the previous post- the day in the stairwell, where I clung to myself and keened because I'd never felt a pain like that before. Two different doctors diagnosed me with depression. If I had been able to muster up an emotional response, I probably would have laughed and said, 'no kidding'. My therapist insisted that I spend more time with friends, away from school. I insisted that he was delusional.
At the end of it all, near the summit of my final mountain, an academic bomb was dropped on me that made all my madness utterly worthless. It took me 6 weeks to fully process what happened and another 12-18 weeks to come to terms with it. As I sit here writing this, it has now been 6 months, and I am finally, finally, almost ok. I've started working on the dissertation, really working. I am enjoying it, most of the time. I've almost decided that I won't quit my program.
After Christmas this year, I bought myself a FitBit and I am more than a little surprised by how fiercely I love it. I never saw depression coming, but it came for me and it destroyed me. Now that I'm back in Hawaii and alone again, I still feel it in the corners of my mind, waiting for me to give up. The FitBit is like a tiny talisman keeping it away. When I have a bad writing day and start, too easily, down the spiral of self-hate and doubt, the FitBit reminds me to get some fresh air. I've thrown myself into running with an obsession that I didn't think I was capable of. I actually have a gym friend.
Last week I hurt my knee, and I've been trying to slowly work back up to where I was without re-injury. Tonight I left the gym crying because I couldn't stand the pain long enough to run. All I could think was "Without this, what do I have left? I can't do this dissertation, I can't paint any more, and now I can't even run." I worked myself into a pretty good little fit, and then my FitBit buzzed and made a smiley face at me because I met my step goal. I can't explain it, but somehow this thing pulls me back from the edge and convinces me time and again that I am enough. Stop crying. There are no shortcuts. You are enough.