This week, I’m packing up my apartment of firsts. First time living alone. First big furniture purchase. First time leaving a job. First time I admitted to being truly lost. And while my divorce was being finalized at the very end of 2011, in this apartment, I said for the first time, “I need help”.
When I hit what people call “rock bottom”, I flopped around in that ugly emotional state for quite some time. A good part of year, to be vague. During this time, I was three parts overwhelmed, terrified, and devastated: Overwhelmed with a plethora of conflicting emotions (which I later learned were real feelings), terrified of the amount of work it would take to understand them, and devastated I had treated people closest to me so poorly. And then, I decided I needed to peel myself off the floor, and do something about it.
So I sent myself to therapy, and built a home to ward off the bad feelings. The darkness of depression. The deafening sound of anxiety. And the shame that followed my Adult ADD diagnosis in July of 2012. Ironically, once my home was comfy and safe and made perfect for a time of healing and self-discovery, the idea of actually living in it, alone with me, myself, and this now self-aware person, scared the shit out of me.
My friend Collin Hughes shot these images in May of 2012, when I was hovering just above what felt like my lowest point. Wit & Delight had started to gain a broader readership, and everything looked shiny and perfect from the outside. But for those who knew me, or met me in person, even the friends I made via the interwebs, knew things were far from good. They were patient and kind as I spilled my guts (and many times got flat-out drunk) over beers and dinners across the country that summer, from NYC to Palm Springs, San Francisco and Napa, Pacific Grove and Minneapolis/St. Paul. I spent my weeknights alone in my kitchen, whipping up meals for one, crying to Neko Case. Basically, I went Bridget Jones on y’all and I was owning it. With this support system and some QT with myself, I started to gain confidence (the real kind) in the person I had learned I’d become. Being on my own was starting to have more pros than cons, and suddenly, it was THE BEST THING EVER.
Rebuilding after a setback takes time, and to be truthful, I’ll always struggle with anxiety and compulsivity. It’s in my DNA, part of who I am, a defining and sometimes lovable antihero in My Story. Through accepting imperfection and “weaknesses”, inner peace has finally trumped my life-long companion, Anxiety.
That’s my story of firsts. The important stuff I didn’t want to share with you last year because I was scared of sharing something REAL that I have FEELINGS about, because I hadn’t quite processed it all, and because I was scared of what The Internet would say in response to my said vulnerability. But you know what? Fuck that business. I hope that sharing an abbreviated story of firsts (derived from a much longer and messier one) touches at least one person who struggles with anxiety, ADHD/ADD, or depression. I spend less time alone these days, but I learned, through spectacular failure, that taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for the people you love.
So, in closing, here’s an abbreviated list of truths, lessons, and cliches I learned in this, my beautiful apartment of firsts:
- Being alone is good for you.
- Happiness is elusive, and peacefulness is underrated.
- A long run is an effective medication for many mental afflictions. And a good substitute for Adderall.
- Accepting you need help is healthier than denying it, but it hurts more. A lot more.
- Trust your gut and listen to your heart, especially if you don’t like what they’re saying.
- Be good to yourself and you’ll be good to others.
- Forgive. It’s good for your heart.
- Forgive yourself, too.
- Love manifests itself in many different ways.
- Know what you need, and know how (and when) to ask for it.
- If people tell you you’re crazy for trying, you’re most likely on to something.
- Your weakness can be your strength, but only if you know how to use it.
- It isn’t over until you’re dead.