One year ago today, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room as Mom underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her brain. And while 2013 looks like it will start off on a better foot than 2012, it’s also the first time in a while where I look on the coming twelve months and am scared. Not happy, or depressed, or hopeful, or disappointed, or angry– all emotions I’ve felt in the past– but scared. Because even though the surgery was successful, and there’s been no sign of recurrence in her brain, Mom’s cancer is still at the front of our minds. The tumors in her lungs have resisted chemo so far, and she’s having radiation treatment for tumors under her skin. It’s been a rough year– full of good things, yes, but also full of scary things, and 2013 looks to be more of the same.
So with that in mind, My New Year’s Resolution Number One: Be as supportive as I can be for my family, make frequent trips back to North Carolina, and stay engaged. I have to tendency to distance myself from emotionally volatile situations. It’s a natural defensive reflex for me, but it’s caused problems in the past year, and needs to change.
I suppose that’s a heftier resolution than most people put forward, which tend to be along the lines of “lose five pounds” or “redecorate the bathroom.” But that’s the kind of year 2013 is going to be for us.
As for as myself– my own feelings and goals– I actually feel pretty good about where I am. I’ve sought treatment for some longstanding depression, and started taking Sertraline. It’s helped a lot. And to be honest, I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to general improvement in my life– enjoying work, pursuing hobbies, getting published– and how much can be attributed to the medication. Probably it’s both. The medication has helped me appreciate what I’ve accomplished, and moreover it’s prevented the sort of long-term, multi-day and sometimes even multi-week depressive episodes I used to fall into, where my whole soul just seemed to hurt, where everything felt like a weight, and I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t want to move. I still do have depressive episodes occasionally, but they’re usually sparked by something specific, and when I do have episodes, they last hours, not days.
There’s been another change, too, that’s harder to explain. As I’ve crawled up from the pits of depression– whether through my own efforts, the medication, or both– I feel, well, more like I’m somebody. I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean in actuality, like there’s a core part of my being which was missing before. This is mostly manifested in how I interact with other people. Previously, when I hung out with people, I often felt like a mirror– like I had to “reflect” the mood and the energy level and even the temperament of the people I was with. I think everybody does this to some degree, but now I feel like I’m not just reflecting. Like I have a better grip on who I am, I’m more confident and comfortable in my own skin, and rather than just trying to act like a fully functional human being I actually am a fully functional human being.
To be honest, I think part of that was reaching an acceptance that everyone else is just as messed up as I am, that everyone has their own anxieties and neuroses and weaknesses, and that even if someone acts supremely awesome and confident it’s often (maybe even usually) just a facade behind the same flawed humanity. That there are things I actually am good at, and I’m not just faking it, and my accomplishments are actually pretty darn cool. I mean, I suppose that’s odd, isn’t it? But it’s one thing to know it rationally, and another to actually feel it in your gut.
So, New Year’s Resolution Number Two: find a new talk therapist (I tried one and didn’t mesh well with him), keep taking Sertraline, and for the love of pete do not fall back into the pit. It’s only now, looking back on it, that I’m starting to feel like I know what I escaped. When I was in the midst of it, I didn’t even realize it– or at least, I didn’t realize exactly how bad it was.
So some New Year’s advice to you: if you think you might be depressed, or if you feel depressed a lot of the time, seek help. It’s not normal. And you may feel like you’re doing okay, like you can struggle through it on your own, but getting help can be the difference between climbing up a mountain with a backpack full of bricks and climbing up a mountain with no backpack at all. Sure, the first way is possible, but the second way’s gonna be a lot more enjoyable, and you’re probably going to find yourself able to climb far more mountains than you used to.
I could keep going on this, but I’m getting ready to head out for New Year’s. Maybe I’ll expound more in future blog posts. This was typed up in a bit of a rush, so I can’t even guarantee that it will make complete sense. But to sum it up, if I could have a wish for 2013, it would be that I stay on the same track I’m currently on, and that Mom gets shifted to a better track than what she’s on. And of course, I’d also wish for a wonderful 2013 for you and yours.
Thanks for reading.
Andrew S. Williams