I didn’t expect my life to look like this.
I’m frustrated by how chic it is to champion the cause of ending stigma, when the ugly realities of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are still taboo. They’re too uncomfortable, dirty and gross to talk about. Frustrated isn’t the right word. That’s too energetic. I don’t have energy. I have cheeks that are salty with dried tears and a bedside table full of empty water glasses.
I’m writing this in bed, where I’ve been for days. I can’t stop crying. Well, not for very long, at least. The slats on my cheap bed frame fell down a few days ago, and the sheets pulled up. The cat prefers the corner of the bed where the mattress is exposed, but he comes to lay on my chest every once in a while. I’m not sure how often, really, because time crawls. Or it flies. It was 10 a.m. for what felt like hours, and then it was 3:30 and all of a sudden, it’s midnight.
I’m not always a sad sack of dirty hair and messy sheets. On most days between Monday and Friday, I dance around my office in high heels or bare feet – joking with colleagues and managing a team of brilliant and keen young people, in a job that fills me with passion. After running a large meeting or a small press conference, after answering every email and after reassuring myself that none of the slowly spinning plates of that make up professional life will crash down… I go to bed. At 7 p.m., or 6 p.m. or 4 p.m. As early as I can.
I’m crushed by disappointment. Right now, but so many other times too. Sometimes, I can go to work and then ride my horse. Or sip a cocktail on a patio. Or box or spin or do anything other than lay in bed, reading the news and trying not to cry.
At times like these, I wonder what it was that turned me in to this. This girl that I don’t recognize, this young woman that I can’t see. Was it that horrible ex boyfriend? Or was it the letter I got last spring from one of the other women he was with while we lived together? No. What a self indulgent, self pitying thing to think or say or write. Only I know the real truth, and now you, reader. I’ve always been like this. Since I was a young teenager. It’s all you, GG.
Being in my head is living with an endlessly long snake that is always eating its tail. I hate myself for staying in bed, for making the choices that lead to paralyzing anxiety. The guilt of knowing that my parents worry about me bubbles up in to my throat, making it hard to catch my breath. When I’m a better version of myself, one that’s washed her hair and left the house, it’s not like this.
You know what helps in the battle against your mind? Working out. Eating vegetables. Feeling the sun on your face. These simple things that most people do every day feel completely out of reach. Ask me to run ten kilometers right now, or ask me to walk to the grocery store; both are stretch goals in a way that I can only describe as silly. Of course I can’t run 10k right now; I haven’t run in months. Of course I can’t go to the grocery store.
Is there a happy ending to this piece of memoir? No. There are only more days. I know that they won’t all be like this and I comfort myself with that inevitability. I’m a middle class white girl with a family that loves her, a good job, more beautiful friends than anyone could deserve. The world is my oyster, if only I could get dressed. I’m letting the pain, caused by nothing and everything, bleed through me and telling myself that I’ll catch an upswing soon. There is comfort in inevitability. There is an upswing coming, and I’ll catch it.
Gabrielle Gallant is a communications professional, politico and equestrian. With a warm smile and quick laugh, she’s not what most people picture when they think of mental illness. As the push to end the stigma of depression and anxiety increases, it can still be taboo to talk about what those dark moments actually look like. Gabrielle wrote this particular essay when she was “at the bottom of a well.”