I had an epiphany.
No, wait, please don’t go! I promise it’s not as lame as it sounds.
Last week, I got on a plane and flew hundreds of miles to see 15 people I’ve known via World of Warcraft for just shy of two years. As someone who struggles with social anxiety, it was terrifying and exhilarating.
But my epiphany began on the plane, specifically when it first started to move away from the gate, and my carefully crafted facade of calm shattered into a million shards. We were merely taxiing through LAX and I felt like I was about to have a heart attack as the stewardesses were finishing up their safety routine. My face had that queasy, loose feeling you get when you know all the blood’s been drained out of it.
I was at a crossroads.
As I clutched my armrest, wondering idly if I’d get tackled by an air marshal if my panic broke and I started screaming hysterically during takeoff, I thought of the night before, when I was laying in bed waiting to fall asleep. I’d felt…nothing. Not scared. Not excited. Not hopeful or worried. Like so many days when you live with major depressive disorder, I was experiencing simple existence in its most beige, bland incarnation.
And it occurred to me, as that plane wove its careful way through the maze of runways…that even being terrified was better than that feeling of nothingness.
Depression and anxiety have been facets of my life as long as I can really remember, so I have no solid recollection of what it’s like to have one and not the other. But in that moment, it seemed like my anxiety was akin to a dog that’s never taken out for walks. When it sneaks out the door, it loses all control and runs wild, staying out of reach for fear that capture means a return to it benevolent prison. Even though I know logically that anxiety doesn’t work that way, part of me still clings to the idea that the anxiety part of my personality is the part of me that can’t calm down when it briefly escapes the depression jail cell.
I had two choices, sitting in my seat in a super-discount airplane the size of a sardine can. I could whimper and fret and be miserable as that plane took off, or I could embrace the too-fast pounding of my heart in my chest. Somehow, I chose the latter. I swear I’m the last person to subscribe to that “power of positive thought” crap, but I spent the whole wind-up to take-off repeating over and over in my mind how fun and exciting it all was. I thought of flyboy pilots and dragon riders and starfighters and how they must crave that surge of adrenaline on takeoff. I made myself come as close to enjoying it as I could.
I feel like I’m obligated to make an effort to word my thoughts so they don’t come across as a cliche, but I honestly don’t know how, so I’m not going to worry about it. Simply, on that plane ride, I thought to myself for the first time in so very long, “It really is good to be alive. This? This feels great. I feel like a person today.” I was almost crying, the feeling was so intense.
And the funny thing was, I wasn’t even remotely “cured” of my anxiety. I still felt it. I just…felt it somewhat differently.
The trip ended after a few short days, but I don’t want to give up that feeling of elation. I don’t want to lay in bed and feel nothing. I don’t want my adventures to be once every few years; I don’t want them to be minor blips on my radar that begin to slip away so shortly after experiencing them.
My followers might be confused by the title of this blog. I originally launched as Red Tulips and Yellow Wallpaper, a cliche and self-pitying homage to other stories about women struggling through mental health issues. While I know the lows and depressive episodes are a part of my life, I decided to rename the blog as part of a commitment to taking a more proactive and positive approach to tackling my health problems. Here’s to the beginning of new adventures.