Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The worst of times

I have had depression since high school. My first episode happened senior year. I slept and drank the year away leaving school to get my GED five units short of a diploma. It hit again almost 13 years later when I graduated from USC Law and moved to Houston. I fell into a deep black hole and almost couldn't find my way out. But I did. The third episode was after my father's death. I had moved back to the Inland Empire leaving my San Francisco law firm job and husband to finish his last year of dental school. I felt I had to come home and found work as an associate at a Riverside law firm. I cried in the shower most days hating my job and toward the end, I had no choice but to leave my law firm job to do something else. It was my job or my life. That's how it felt. That something else I found turned out to be both a job and a calling and I loved being a deputy public defender from day one.

My latest episode hit me after losing the baby I wanted so very badly after trying for many years. It was a mix of anxiety and depression, which I had never felt before. I muddled my way through the darkness. And wondered would it end. On the outside, I was good at pretending. I still went to work most days, but would have crushing anxiety driving home. It's as if I had learned a very unhealthy compartmentalism. My husband knew it was bad. I would cry in the bathtub and he would try to fix it, but some things are unfixable.

I wish I could explain how a deep depression feels. It's like being in a cave where everything is darkness and you have to feel your way around. Nothing creates happiness. Where once was joy is just emptiness.

I was lucky. I came out of it again. Back to my life and after more than a year and a half since my last episode, I see the beauty in life once again. I've been laughing more and drinking less. Food has always been a comfort, but I know that as long as I can see the light I can try and do better with my choices.

Occasionally, I still have my bad days. The night before last, I received horrible news that left me sitting alone in the dark weeping my eyes away. But in the morning, I went to work and left early to go to church. I prayed and sat staring at the stained glass windows of the church in Montclair where I had made my first communion as a young girl. It felt calm and I could finally breathe again. Then I visited my father at the cemetery down the street and when the florist handed me a freshly made bouquet of my father's favorite flowers when I had not specified any kind, I knew I was In the right place. I dug my fingers into the earth and pulled the vase out of the ground. Mud got under my fingernails. I splashed water on my shoes filling the vessel with water. And I talked to my dad and asked him to protect us. I told him we all missed him. As I drove away from the tiny cemetery, I felt some peace.

Maybe one has to strive for the light. Life is obviously not all beauty but the older I get, the more I see how we create our own happiness. And I want to be happy. I really do.

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