I consider March 20 to be my "rebirthday" because March 20, 2013, was the day I checked myself into the hospital. It marked the beginning of getting unstuck from the negative, destructive thought patterns and paralyzing fears that made my life feel so difficult. It was a dramatic change from how I'd lived up to that point.
Lately, I've been listening to the Alice Cooper song "I'm Eighteen," which always reminds me of being 17 (lol) and working on a research paper on the Vietnam War. That year (junior year) was my favorite year of high school, probably because it was so routine. I had two years under my belt and knew what to expect behind the doors at SHA. My homework was always done, my uniform always ready. Outside of school, I had created a safe, solitary bubble of classic rock, homework, and hockey games on TV.
That bubble had to pop at graduation, but I formed another in college, and yet another in grad school. School was great--it gave my anxious mind something to focus on, gifted me a group of potential friends, and allowed me to create my own schedule. March 2013, a few months after finishing grad school, marked the first time I'd really struck out on my own--taking a full time job in my field, even though it came with no safety net of friends and was far from home. For the first time, I really had to face my anxiety and lack of control and make a choice: flee (through suicide or avoidance) or deal with it.
I broke down in 2.5 weeks.
Going inpatient was possibly the scariest decision I've ever made. While waiting in the ER, a big part of me wanted to bolt. I'd made it through 26 semi-turbulent years before; eventually, I'd get back into a routine and feel ok, right?
But that sickening thought was what pushed me to check myself in: I was just muddling through. Riding the waves from high to low and back again, unceasing, unquestioned. What kind of life is that? No wonder an "out" looked so appealing.
Inpatient didn't "fix" me, of course (clearly!). It just put me on the right road of actual therapy, not bullshit 30 minute sessions with a psychiatrist. Admitting I had a problem meant that I could stop pretending I was fine to the people closest to me. I could start working on my issues, rather than covering them up. But it's still tough. This year in particular has not been easy, mostly because living at home means I can barely get around without a car (as compared to city living). Feeling trapped and isolated is not great on the ol' depression/anxiety, and neither is a four-hour-a-day commute. But I'm working through it with my ever-valiant therapist, and I start exposure therapy next month for a HUGE fear of mine (and a key to increased independence): driving.
And in the spirit of doing something scary and new on March 20, today, I fly to Chicago to visit my high school BFF Timmi (ok that part is awesome, not scary lol) and to go to the Hay House Writers' Workshop this weekend. Alone! Writing! New city! STRANGER DANGER!! But facing fears and truly LIVING honors my rebirthday. I'm 28 now, and I still don't know what I want, and I still default to avoidance and wide-eyed Pusheen face more than I'd like, but at least I'm trying things and showing up to life instead of hiding all the time. <3