Similar to that ‘When I lose these last 10 pounds everything in my life is going to be perfect’ line of thinking I try not to employ, right before circumstances in my life dramatically change I always seem to think ‘Adios depression! Now that I’m shaking off that job/relationship/situation my brain is going to work the way it’s supposed to again! My future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades!’
LOL guess what. Despite therapy, medication, and family history, I still don’t seem to have figured out that my brain just doesn’t work well, no matter what the situation, it/I just find something else over which to smother myself in my overwhelming signature blend of 99% depression and 51% anxiety (I always give 150%, no matter what!). I’ve been in this body with these same issues my entire life, and yet this somehow shocks me every. single. time. The funny (?, heh) thing is that I can recognize when I *should* be happy. I can see it, point it out and name it like a constellation in a galaxy far away, I just can’t grab it and force it into myself, no matter how hard I try.
Until recently, I was in a stressful, full-time-plus job for quite a while at a beauty brand I believed in, rising up the ranks from entry level management to being moved cross country to open and general manage an entirely new location – a job I’d guess some would be overjoyed to have – but I walked away from it. I needed to, because the longer I was there and the more responsibility I was given, the further I drifted from my personal projects, my passions. I completely stopped writing and performing music, I wasn’t making anything, I hadn’t read a book for fun or volunteered or danced in years, I could hardly keep blogging. I would get home and be too fried to light up the fire necessary for me to create, but as other creative types know, if you leave that flame unkindled for too long, you start to become, well, ill with the blockage of your creative energies – sick and tired and down and, if you’re like me, increasingly inconsolable. You’ve GOT to get. it. out. and there’s only one way to do it. The problem is that it takes so so so so so much for anyone to get to that place at all, let alone a depressive, thinking-at-the-speed-of-sloth bitch like me, to find a groove and really get going and making, that I just couldn’t. So I didn’t. And I paid the price.
I knew what I needed to do after a while, but pulling the plug wasn’t easy, especially when I had a job title to be proud of for the first time in my life. There is *no* shame in bartending, waiting tables, working retail, or any similar vocation, but after 15 years of working at jobs most people look down their noses at, it felt superficially wonderful to be able to proudly name my job title out loud for the first time. Have you ever noticed how the first thing people ask upon meeting you is ‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a waitress.’
Spending my life trying desperately not to care what other people think hasn’t gotten me very far, obviously, because the lure of a better-sounding title, the thought that my parents wouldn’t have to admit to their friends that their daughter was asking people ‘Would you like fries with that?’ for a living, that I could make my family, shit, my husband proud (although they have always been nothing but supportive of me no matter what I do, again, my brain is shitty), turned my head. Turned it so far, in fact, that I was able to ignore the creeping, deepening depression that I’d had a semblance of a handle on when I was waiting tables (but a ‘real job’ was going to make my depression go away, right?) and keep on keeping on at a position that kept me from my passions, because I was too proud to suck it up and sling liquor to support doing what I love. Admittedly, it’s just as easy to get sucked into a ‘joe job’ and lose sight of why you’re waiting those tables in the first place, booze a little too much with your coworkers after your shift, take a few extra shifts here and there and find yourself just as tapped out as you can with a full time corporate job, and at least with a ‘real’ job there’s a salary, 401k, health insurance, a few paid vacation days, et cetera (Well, not the one I had – but most of them). But after years of trying both tracks, neither of them were working, clearly.
So I left. I left hoping to see brighter mornings, to wake up with anything other than a stomach full of dread and the deep yearning to stay right where I was, motionless and silent, all day. Because if I don’t get out of bed, I can’t do anything, which means I won’t have the chance to let anyone down, to fuck anything up, to *not* do the things I know I need to do as I’ve been doing for years. My bedroom has always been my sanctuary, my safe space from the world and its expectations on me, real or imagined, and I was hoping that stepping away from this facade of a job and freeing myself up to do what I love would help me need that safety less. Hoping that joy would find me, that the creative process would wake me up out of this complacent haze. That the depression would ease its grip on me.
GUESS WHAT. Free of that job, I’m now stricken with panic at every turn, my own boss in my own world, every dollar that does (or doesn’t) come in on my shoulders. Every day I don’t sell a million dollars worth of jewelry, write the great American novel, and record and perform the Pitchfork-perfect album of my dreams, I go to bed feeling an utter failure. That may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. These days, my anxiety triggers my gag reflex to the point where I walk around constantly nauseated. I am forever apologizing to my husband for being a jobless loser. ‘WHAT WILL HAPPEN TOMORROW?’, I think. ‘HOW WILL WE PAY THE RENT? WILL WE EVER HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE? WHY AM I NOT AT A REGULAR JOB LIKE A NORMAL ASS HUMAN? Why do I/my brain have to make everything SO FUCKING HARD? I’m not happy waiting tables. I’m not happy in a corporate job, although a salary and benefits would have helped. WHEN AM I HAPPY?!’ Sure, making jewelry and writing is amazing, but GURL YOU GOTTA MAKE SOME CHEDDAR, and until those things do that, you’ve got to figure out a way to eke out a living at a bar or something, you self-absorbed, lazy, special-snowflake millennial.
There’s another line of thinking in this issue, the only one I hadn’t tried yet, that the only way you’ll make a living at doing what you love is when you don’t have a choice, when there’s no fallback plan in place, when you’re forced to *shudder* HUSTLE (I hate that word, the instant guilt and anxiety it triggers in me, and the people who invoke it in millennial pink helvetica and messy script filled instagram #inspo posts) and MAKE IT HAPPEN. My college program was ALL ABOUT this line of thinking, and had musical theater been my true passion, I’m sure that waiting tables wouldn’t have kept me from so many auditions, just as my mentor had warned. I have a friend who’s always done life this way, who is somehow able to ride the waves in life with cool and calm, and pay the bills while working his ass off only doing the thing he loves. Plenty of people don’t understand this way of life, the uncertainty, the lack of a company matching his retirement plan contributions, but I do. I do and I admire him so deeply for sticking to his guns and doing exactly what he wants, no matter what. So much so that I’m now jobless and freelancing and freaking out and IN THE #HUSTLE. I’m like my courageous badass friend, on the tightrope without a net, but where he looks like the coolest, chillest dude ever riding a fixie to gigs, I’m short of breath and schvitzy on the couch in my Target size large yoga pants obsessing over SEO. My topknot (and my life) is not disheveled in a cute way, it’s just fucking messy.
Yes, I realize in writing this out how ridiculous it all seems. I’m never happy. I’m always stressed. I make things much harder than they need to be. I don’t need to do something crazy and special for a living, I can just be a normal person with a normal job and a happy life. But when you are who you are, you can fight it as much as you want (I should know), but you’re still you at the end of the day, wanting the same things, and I don’t think I am the only one who is aching if I’m not working toward your passions. I want to create, I want to innovate, I want to express myself and use my specific talents to create a life I love to live, a life with some peace in it. A life that with the right amount of medication (thank you, Wellbutrin) combined with the right amount of doing what I love, free of as much bullshit as possible, can make my brain SLOW its ROLL. I want to open my eyes in the morning without bring overwhelmed with terror as I have for the last 15 years, perhaps even with a modicum of – dare I say it – joy? I’m not sure that what I’m trying now will get me there, but I *do* know that the paths I’ve tried before haven’t, so common sense would suggest that anything else would be worth a shot at joy. So with my husband’s support and a never ending to-do list that is up to me and only me to tackle (gahhhhhhh), a shot is what I’m giving it.
And for those who don’t get anything that I just said, who would (and do) say to me or behind my back to get a ‘real’ job, that these things are just pastimes and hobbies, that what I need to be worrying about is buying a house and building my retirement and having kids, that I’m making this shit way too seriously, I would ask, how much time and energy do you spend on your kids? Because children aren’t in the plans for us, but being artists IS. What I create is my child. Writing and singing and making come from me. They are my life and my blood, and they need to be nurtured, with my Commodore 64 of a brain in a MacBook Pro world. If they aren’t, they will die, and I would surely go with them. Some let artistic endeavors fall to the wayside when they have children, because being a parent is that important to them, and no one questions that. When I even imply that my desire to raise kids falls to the wayside when it comes to my desire to create, I am looked at askance. There are people who make it all work, being an artist and having a full time job with benefits and raising children, and damn, more power to those superpeople – but I am not one of them, and I know myself and my shit brain that tries its hardest to fuck with everything I try to do enough to know that. What I make is my life. I’m willing to sacrifice, to work day and night for it, and if I fail, I fail. If my depression eats me alive, at least I died in the battle for the things I love.
So yep. I’m scared, as my brain almost always. makes sure I am. But I’m fighting now.
Did I mention depression is a bitch?