Why I’m Grateful for My Years of Depression and Anxiety – and Cheesy Music

 In Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety suck. And I also love and respect them. A lot.

I can say this cause mental health issues and I go waaaaaaaaay back. My history includes years of intense depression and anxiety, a 17-year eating disorder, and two hospitalizations. I have never made an effort to hide these things from family and friends (and on more than one occasion, a mortified stranger). Outside support is the reason that I am still here.

(That, and an inappropriate sense of humor that lives to find funny in the darkest moments of life. Do you know what it’s like to eat three meals a day with 30 women who have eating disorders? It’s poignant, sad, uplifting, and absurdly comic all at once. But that is for another day.)

I don’t live with depression and anxiety anymore. I gave them the boot several years ago, right after I kicked out my eating disorder. Ok, that’s not true at all.

I didn’t kick them out. For many, many, many years, I begged and pleaded for them to go. I would rant and rave, telling them that they couldn’t stay, that they were shitty houseguests and that I was tired – so insanely tired – of putting up with their antics.

I would leave in the morning, emboldened by a shower and some cute jewelry, hopeful that they would find new lodging. And each day, I would return home to find them doubled down on the sofa, kicking back with a beer, and giving me the middle finger.

It sucked.

Big time.

Sometimes they showed up at work and made it so that I couldn’t even get myself home.

On more than one occasion, I would sit down on a curb or park bench in the big city and call one of a handful of dear friends to ask her to come get me, make me feel safe, and take me home. (You all know who you are – I promised you my firstborn and I’m still waiting for you to come get him. No, seriously. COME GET HIM.)

While all of this mental un-wellness was going on, people around me were saying, “You’re so personable! You have it so together! You counsel other people!”

And they were also saying, “Cheer up – it gets better.”

They meant well.

But the thing is, sometimes it gets better and sometimes it doesn’t. Depression and anxiety left the building for me only very slowly – one footstep at a time. It was a painfully slow, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process.

While medication and therapy were integral, the real stuff of healing didn’t come from what I did to treat the depression and anxiety explicitly. In my experience, those things can only do so much.

The true healing began when I asked what it was that I really wanted to do with my life and my relationships and myself. And then allowing myself to begin to do those things, one baby step at a time.

Healing happened when I took little steps to stop pushing down who I really am and started taking risks to just be my own damn self in this world.

(Note: while shaming me about the above history simply isn’t possible, I do not feel the same about the following piece of information, so please be gentle.)

Sometimes, when I need to cry, I listen to pop music of the inspirational type. It’s often what works best, and you take what you can get, people.

We’re talking Rachel Platten’s Fight Song or basically anything from anyone who has ever been on the Voice. (Or the blind auditions themselves. Jesus – the blind auditions!)

Which is why the other day, I was listening to Jordan Smith’s “Stand in the Light” and crying like a baby.

(Gentle. Please be gentle.)

The line that gets me every time is, “The greatest risk we’ll take is by far to stand in the light and be seen as we are.”

Yeah, I know. But that’s basically it, isn’t it?

I’ve decided that if I’m going to be too much, I might as well be too much Gail.

I’m kinda over anyone telling me how I should be in the world. That I’m too much – too loud, too broke, too fat, too sensitive, too opinionated, too blah, blah, blah.

This does not mean that my life is now perfect. Since I’ve started living this way, I’ve had to hide under the covers more than once, I’ve experienced melt-downs, I’ve binged-ate potato chips by the bag at times. I’ve had to sit with some really hard feelings that come up.

And I still talk negatively to myself. All the time.

BUT I don’t experience depression and anxiety anymore.

Which brings me back to my original statement – while depression and anxiety suck, I also love that they were a part of my life for so long.

I love them because in them I found my power.

I found my purpose and a way to help others.

And I found my truth in life – which is that we can really only ever be who we are. And the sooner we realize this and get on with it, the sooner our lives – and the world – can stop being such a freakin’ mess.

Maybe there is something that has been whispering at you – big or small – about the truth of your life. Something you would do if you didn’t give a rat’s tutu about what other people think. Or just knew it would all be okay.

Today, I encourage you to take one small step in that direction.

Let’s do it together, shall we?

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