Hi I felt it so clearly a few days ago as I sat in the quiet of my studio between lessons; a heavy wet blanket settled over me from my head to my feet, leaving me feeling weighted down both physically and mentally. Depression. I know this feeling well and it always follows on the heels of too much stress and anxiety- of which there have been far too much of for far too long. I know it will pass, and I’m doing my best to keep slogging on. I feel like an actor in some ways, though; not that I don’t love what I do and always try to give my best, but I’m going about the motions of my day, smiling and trying to portray my normal, upbeat, self, all the while interacting with the world through a scrim, leaving my typically bright and happy life muted and gray.
Depression is such a sneaky illness. You are going along, proud of yourself for powering through daily life during a flipping pandemic, not realizing that you are slowly sliding into the abyss until it’s too late. Even though I have been in this cycle many times over the years, it still takes me by surprise every time. I’m used to the anxiety part; not that I handle it well, but living with anxiety has become my normal. However, it’s that void-of-color wet blanket feeling; the withdrawal from friends and family, the mental fog, the exhaustion, the losing interest in things you typically love…well, you get the idea. Definitely not my happy place.
For the longest time I felt guilty even admitting that I have depression. How could this self-proclaimed Mary Poppins, married to her soulmate, living a very happy life, me be depressed? Well, I can and I am. Those pesky chemicals in your brain get out of whack and there you are, back in the funk again. Anxiety and stress impact our bodies and our minds in such a negative way. I see my students struggling with it, colleagues, family members. We’ve all been through so much over the past couple of years…and when will the pandemic ever really end?
Some things have been going back to normal. I got to play with the Alabama Symphony for the first time in two years last week. It was amazing be be back on the stage of the Jemison Concert Hall, surrounded by incredible musicians, engulfed in the soaring sounds of a live orchestra playing for a live audience. It felt so good. I also got to record with my colleagues in the UAB Chamber Trio for a virtual conference performance. Wonderful steps back toward whatever our new normal will look like and truly a bright spot in all of this.
I am looking for all of these bright spots to help anchor me back in a good and healthy place. There are so many things to be grateful for if we only take a moment to think and be open to seeing them. It can be tough; some of the people closest to me are going through difficult times and my heart breaks that I can’t make things better for them. But…even in the midst of challenge and sorrow, there is always something we can find to hold gratitude close. Depression can make it even more challenging to find the good, but it is the key to pulling us back to the surface from the darkness.
I hope that this season of Thanksgiving and all things gratitude will pull me back to the surface. I am finally on Fall Break after a whirlwind semester and I’m making the time to think about everything that has happened the past couple of years, including all of the good. I am grateful for my sweet and gentle husband, my home and animals. I’m grateful for my dear friends who are always there for me, encircling me with their love and support. I am grateful for a career I love and students who remind me every day why I love what I do. They are such amazing young people. I am grateful for it all. As soon as this mental fog lifts and I lose the wet blanket, I’ll be able to feel all of that gratitude in technicolor. I can’t wait.