Do I know you?

easter

Ten years ago, I woke up Easter Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina, in my boyfriend’s bed following a night of wine, cigarettes, and brilliant conversation. I woke early because I needed to get to church.

Outside, on that humid morning, a congregation across the street was just about to begin its worship. Women in flowing spring dresses and huge, Southern hats milled about with handsome, suited husbands on their arms.

I attended church that Easter with a friend of mine because my boyfriend was agnostic at best but probably more of an atheist who thought it was super weird I went to church. (I did not marry this boyfriend; I actually met my husband five months later.)

I remember feeling nothing that Sunday morning. Easter, the cornerstone of my religious beliefs, felt like just another day. I think I might have even been bored during the service. The holiday came and went with zero fanfare.

That girl I was ten years ago? She feels like someone else. That entire life feels like a life that belonged to someone else. Scrolling through those memories is akin to watching an old movie—an old movie you didn’t even like.

Ten years ago, I was really unhappy in Charleston, South Carolina, despite the beautiful architecture, charming city, and rolling beaches nearby. Despite a boyfriend who thought I was beautiful and brilliant. I know I was unhappy then, and yet, I can look back now and not feel a damn thing.

Frankly, that girl from ten years ago isn’t me. I look at her now and ask, “Do I know you?” I know we met before, but I don’t recognize her. She is another life.

We live so many lives. I’m not talking about reincarnation. Over the span of how ever many years we get on this earth, we are so many different people. For me, there is college Sara. Bartender Sara. Sara in that relationship. Sara in Charleston. Sara in Phoenix. Sara after signing her first publishing deal.

Sara today, six weeks after starting Wellbutrin.

From October 2018 to March 2019, my depression was unmanageable. I was “barely there Sara.” Sara the ghost. Sara without laughter or joy. I tried the right things. I took care of myself physically. I sought therapy. I read self-help books and prayed. Nothing worked until my therapist suggested medication—something I once promised myself I would never do again. But I took her advice and started antidepressants.

In therapy this past Thursday, my therapist and I did more socializing than delving into issues … possibly because it felt like so many of my issues had disappeared. We both agreed: although there are some circumstantial things messing with my head, I have a chemical imbalance, and the Wellbutrin has given me back my smile, my energy, and a whole lot of peace.

That girl I was in March? She seems as far away now as that miserable woman from Easter ten years ago, and I feel okay letting both of these past lives go. The symbolism might be heavy, but like Jesus, I feel reborn. Like Frankenstein’s Creature, IT’S ALIVE! I know there will still be dark days because depression is an ambitious beast that continually creeps, but even the dark days might be a bit lighter.

Sometimes, a lifestyle change is necessary, but it looks like (for me), sometimes meds are necessary, too, as is letting go of things past. Let’s see what this new version of Sara gets up to.

Writing the next chapter?

writer

Since I’m a writer, my therapist thought it would be good for me to write about my life in order to see where I am and where I need to go, considering I’ve been completely lost for a couple months now.

Fair enough. So far, I’ve written eight pages of pretty much stream-of-consciousness. Have some snippets …

(And yes, for some reason, I wrote in third person, which my brother thinks is a cop out. He thinks I’m distancing myself from myself. But I’m a writer and couldn’t help the third person POV. I swear, this even reads like a children’s book on occasion, if you discount the content.)


She gets anxiety in grocery stores. She hates grocery stores—the people and the bright lights.

She reads a lot to escape. She prefers the lives of fictional characters. She knows her friends (especially the ones with kids) think she lives a golden life. They know she has “mental health issues,” but they don’t know the reality of her mysterious misery. What does she really have to be miserable about anyway?

She relates to Tom Petty:
Every now and then I get down to the end of the day
I’ll just stop… ask myself: why I’ve done it?
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard
And nothin’ ever really seem to come from it

Sara has too many thoughts about too many things and too many opportunities that swirl around her head until she’s overwhelmed and can’t do anything.

The problem is she looks outside herself for validation, for joy, when it’s not fair to put that much pressure on the world. The world isn’t always a very nice place, so why should it be nice to her?


So, as you can see, I’ve pretty much pegged where I am RIGHT NOW. However, my therapist’s challenge was to write “The Next Chapter.” What does Sara do next? I’ve been thinking about focusing more on public speaking. Maybe returning to journalism … although I never was much of a fan of that. Finding a way to travel more. Even teaching yoga.

Yet, nothing is clear, possibly because I’m not psychic, but possibly because in the thralls of mental illness, it can be impossible to picture what it looks like on the other side of the road. I mean, how do you remember light when you’ve been in the darkness so long? How do you regain purpose, remember how to dream, imagine doing something NEW and BIG when you can barely wash the dishes without wanting to nap?

I see what my therapist is getting at. “Write your next chapter.” She’s trying to get me out of the present depression and into a future where I’m happy and healthy. Or perhaps just content. It’s okay to be content, I think. We don’t have to be smiling all the time, but we can be just … good.

I could totally type “She lived contently ever after!!!” New chapter finished! But that’s a cheat. How do I reach that contentment? It’s something I’m seriously trying to think about and actively take steps toward.

What about you? What does your next chapter look like? Step outside whatever crap you’re going through right now and try to picture what would make you happy–and how to get there.

I get scared sometimes

12

I get scared sometimes. Irrationally, stupidly scared. Morbid scared. Want some examples?

Sometimes, when my brother leaves to walk to work in the morning, I sit at my desk and tell him, over my shoulder, “Have a great day!” Then, I listen to him walk downstairs and putz around in the kitchen. I start freaking out, thinking I should have hugged him because what if he disappears on his walk to work? What if I never see him again? He lived so far away from me for so long, and we didn’t talk very often. Now, he lives with me, and I’m scared of taking it for granted. I’m scared of losing him again, so I rush down the stairs and say, “HUG DAY!” And we hug, and I tell him “Have a great day” again. He thankfully puts up with me.

Before leaving for yoga (which I do three time a week over my lunch break), I kiss my dogs. I check all the candles in my house to make sure they’re blown out because I’m convinced my house is going to burn down, and my dogs are going to die. Due to this, I even got stickers for our front and back doors so that if firemen show up, they know to rescue my children. I’ve gotten halfway down the street and turned around, convinced I forget to turn off a string of twinkle lights, which could and will somehow prove fatal to my pups.

I’ve gotten better about the Jake thing. When I first moved to Arizona to live with my then boyfriend-now husband, I felt very alone in a big city. Jake was the only person I knew. My dark, little mind was sure he was going to die in his sleep. Every night, I would wake up randomly, reach my hand out, and expect to find his body cold. Like I said, I’ve gotten better about this, but I still do it sometimes … reach that hand out and hope and pray that the love of my life is okay.

This isn’t a phobia (as far as I know). I’ve seen phobias. My girlfriend Lindsey is scared of butterflies. I thought she was sort of kidding until we visited Charleston, SC. We walked through a garden, and a couple butterflies flew by. She froze. She couldn’t even speak. We had to carry her out of there. Same with my friend Steph and snakes.

From what I’ve witnessed, phobias make you freeze; fear makes you moves. It makes you over-active as you worry about everything. Your mind races about all the things that could go wrong.

Fear is real.

Today, in fact, I came home from yoga to find Bearenheart, my oldest childhood stuffed animal, ripped to shreds on my office floor. (See picture above.) The dogs had gotten to her. Her smiling face is now distorted. Her clothes are ruined. There’s an empty hole where her teddy bear heart should be. I have a headache from crying so hard. I couldn’t stop crying.

Maybe this is a sort of phobia. Maybe my phobia is loss. I’m afraid of losing people and dogs and favorite stuffed animals. But, again, I don’t freeze when I fear loss. No, I reach out and hold and hope these things I love won’t leave me.

I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my life, but the ones that hurt the most were the ones I never saw coming–especially my Uncle Barney, who died in a hospital in Bali randomly one summer day. I remember my mom calling. She said, “We lost him,” and I didn’t understand. Was he in a maze somewhere? Lost at sea? No, WE LOST HIM.

I’m afraid the shock of loss, years old, is still with me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of that fear, so now, I hug my brother, kiss my dogs, and reach for my husband in the dark of night. And just hope the fear one day goes away.

Let’s Talk About Cutting

I want to cut my wrists. Don’t panic; it’s not a serious thing. I don’t want to kill myself, but sometimes, when I’m daydreaming, I like to think about cutting myself.

I’ve been doing it off and on in secret since eighth grade. Once I hit my upper twenties, I stopped caring if anyone noticed. Now, in my thirties, good friends know how things are going based on my Band-Aids.

Again, this isn’t a suicide thing. It’s not a “cry for help.” I don’t cut for attention. I don’t cut because I mean myself any harm. I cut because it feels good. Physical pain is better than emotional pain any day. But it very rarely comes to that anymore. Mostly, it’s just in my head. I fantasize about cutting because it calms me down.

Say I’m in a crowded room, and people are small talking around me and I’m just feeling … anxious. I zone out and picture a knife against my skin. Not cutting into my skin—just lingering above it, like a playful tickle. This is my meditation, my visualization, my Power Animal. This image calms me down and always has.

I considered getting a tattoo on my left wrist. That way, I wouldn’t cut my left wrist anymore because I wouldn’t want to ruin the ink. But then I thought, “How does ink hold up on scar tissue?”

I spoke to a group of troubled teens a couple months ago. I admitted to a room full of strangers (who possibly had more in common with me than most “adults”) that I’d been cutting for years. One of the girls asked, “How did you stop?”

Well, I didn’t want to tell her I hadn’t. Instead, I lied. I told her I channeled the yearning to cut into something else—my writing, for instance, or yoga.

But being a cutter is like being a smoker. You quit … but you never really quit.

I’m not saying this to freak out my mother or make you uncomfortable. I’m saying this to be honest. I often question God’s intentions: Why did You give me this stupid disease? Why did You do this to me? What kind of a loving god are You anyway?

See, I get sad, then I get mad. Once I’ve calmed down, I usually realize I wouldn’t be “me” without the depression. I wouldn’t be as weird or funny or oddly charming. I wouldn’t be an artist. I also wouldn’t be able to speak to troubled teen girls or write blog posts that hopefully help other people—make them feel not so alone.

Recently, when I opened up about self-harm, I brought it up, nonchalantly, with a friend of mine who shocked me by saying, “Yeah, I’ve been trying so hard not to cut lately.” Who knew? Now, I do, and now, we talk about it.

We need to talk about this stuff. In college, I hid my mental health problems. No one would ever have thought, “Wow, Sara’s a real downer.”

The older I get, the more I have learned to embrace “me,” even the psycho side of me who wants to stay in bed, never eat again, and play with knives. If anyone needs a hug, it’s her!

So seriously, I’m not trying to freak you out. I just want you to know me, and maybe someday, we can help each other. Isn’t that why we’re here anyway?