I’ve never been been someone that’s been good at small talk. I’ve always preferred to get straight to the issue at hand in order to have a meaningful exchange. So, rather than easing you into this post I’m simply going to dive in and tell you what’s been going on with me for the last eight or so months. Let’s get into it, shall we?
So, let’s rewind all the way back to the time I was in Israel/Palestine (Nov-Dec 2016). As many of you have been able to gather, the time spent in that beautiful land was life changing. It was there that I had felt true peace, calmness of spirit, joy and meaning in my life for the first time in nearly five years. When I returned stateside I didn’t so much experience culture shock as I did a sort of re-entry into misery. I realized how badly my health (mentally, emotionally and physically) had degraded due to the unrelenting stress that I experienced from my long-term job; how alone I felt as a non-violent activist in my city where my friends were mostly folks who endorsed violent means; how devalued I felt as a human being having to work with an ex that both verbally abused and emotionally manipulated me on a daily basis – no matter how hard I tried to avoid them – and how hopeless I felt that any of this would change.
Upon return I sank into an awful, dark depression which I thought to be situational and would recover from within a few weeks. This didn’t happen – as the weeks went on, I spiraled ever further down into the blackness of a depressive episode. My work days were consumed with trying to NOT to breakdown into tears at my desk, my nights spent waking up from nightmares, and my days off were spent isolating myself from everyone and everything that I loved. In a moment of clarity I was able to recognize that something was terribly wrong with me, and that I needed to see my health care professional immediately. I set up an appointment and two weeks later was prescribed Welbutrin to see if that would help pull me up. It did, it lifted me up out of the endless pit that had been consuming all my light – for that I will be forever grateful.
That being said, there’s more to depression than simply feeling like shit all the time. Feeling like shit is one thing – feeling apathetic about EVERYTHING is another. Being sad is easy, comparatively. Imagine not caring anything all about anything at all. It’s mind numbing…soul crushing. You just …make movements throughout the day knowing that you’ll get through the day, but that it’s not going to be any better tomorrow. At frequent intervals over the last eight months I wondered if the medication was harming me more than helping me, but I was unwilling to stop taking it because I was afraid of slipping back into the mire I had clawed my way out of … so, on it went.
During that time I was writing a lot about my experiences in Palestine. My normal, healthy way of processing my world is to write about but this time around it ended up hurting me – driving me deeper into misery, pain and trauma. This is when I began to diversify my blog posts – hoping that the lighthearted material would buoy me up so that I could continue to write what mattered. As you noticed, this didn’t work either. So, around May I decided that the best thing that I could do would be to simply take a break. Read and write nothing about Israel/Palestine, social justice, faith, etc.
In some small sense, this did work. It restored my faith that good will triumph, but it did nothing to heal a very wounded and ragged spirit. So, I kept swallowing anti-depressants hoping for the best. With a little joy, I accepted the invitation to come to CPT’s (Christian Peacemaker Teams) training in Chicago in July [this is the group that I went to Israel/Palestine with], but wondered if – in my apathetic state – if it would do any good for me. The day before I left (July 12th), I told my partner that I wasn’t sure if this was going to be good or not, and if it isn’t then I would turn around and head home. It took all my partner’s strength to send my on my way, making me promise to give the training a week before making any decision to come home. I made the promise, and I drove off into the sunrise.
I arrived in Chicago on July 13th at 3:30 pm – the day before my birthday – and was greeted by two brothers at the CPT office. I was exhausted after 12 hours of driving, felt disgusting from sweating, still apathetic from the meds, and generally weary of everything at this point. I’m afraid I didn’t make much of an impression. I expected communal housing, 13 hours days, intense conversation – I even expected that I, the social butterfly that I am, would isolate myself and not make friends. What I didn’t expect in the 31 days to follow were some of the most intense, challenging, exciting, and healing experiences I’ve ever had. The group bonded rapidly and deeply, and I made friends that I will know and love for the rest of my life.
During those days not only did I feel peace and joy, but also safe to make decisions that I needed. I left a job that I hated only to find a new, incredible one. I left and apartment that I was utterly exasperated with only to purchase my very first home. And the most important… I left behind the depression meds. We are 5 weeks since I swallowed the last one and I am filled with joy, gratitude, peace, humor, energy, and love. I am the best I have been in five years!
I want to thank everyone that’s stuck with me through this, sent messages of love and hope, and have generally dealt with my silence. Thank you all.