Last night, I went to a vegan Filipino pop-up dinner by Chef Coco with the grad school friend I visited last year in the Philippines. So delicious! (Note: I am not vegan or even vegetarian.) Incidentally, it’s about one year after my/our trip! (click on for photos and the real point of this post)
After dinner, I took a Lyft home, and I’m only being slightly overdramatic when I say that it was life-changing. The driver, an animated guy around my age, said he was going to go for a run after giving me a ride, which blew my mind because it was already 9pm, and I have the sleeping habits of an old person. By the end of this 15-20 minute ride, he’d told me that after his knee injury, he’d experienced multiple losses–deaths in the family–and it had been a really challenging year for him. He credited his recovery to his super-fit friend who kicked his ass at biking around, which then pushed him to get back into running and to start doing squats regularly, which really helped with any knee and back pain.
This morning, I got up at 6, went for a 40 minute run, went to lab, and went to Bodypump afterwards (a fantastic weight training class at my gym). I am hoping that this marks some sort of turning point.
The truth is that I’ve been pretty depressed this past year (or like, all of my life, because all writers are probably kind of depressed at baseline), after my own minor knee injury got me out of the habit just long enough for the existential sadness to kick in and keep me from having the energy to get back into regular exercise after my knee got better. I had kept it at bay for so long, even after my mother died, by setting all these goals for myself and running every day and maintaining some level of hope that my situation (and I) would keep improving. And even by turning all my negativity into anger instead of melancholy–at least anger has energy to it.
Last year, I just hit a wall. I’d reached a lot of the goals I’d set for myself, and suddenly I didn’t have any goals I wanted to reach that didn’t feel either insignificant or impossible. I was so terribly unhappy, nearing Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar unhappy, and like Esther Greenwood, I didn’t have that much support from people I knew because no one knows or talks about mental health. I started getting self-conscious and paranoid that everyone hated and looked down on me, cried a lot over minor things, withdrew from all my friends and fitness classes and even the most minor social interactions, got rid of all of my colorful clothing, tucked away my unused container of pain medication from my surgery in a secret spot I hoped I’d forget–you know, all the classic symptoms, which I objectively recognized because I used to be a peer counselor and because about 50% of grad students suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
So I got help, with some prodding from my grief counselor. The past few months, I’ve been slowly getting better, with occasional setbacks. But I think this Lyft driver and that strange intimacy bred by these carshare apps were the last push I needed to start getting my life back. So thank you, Lyft driver, and thank you for the suggestion of Chicano Batman. (So glad I openly proclaim weird things, such as how Latin American Pop is the best Spotify playlist ever.)
Today, I feel mostly great, which is the best I’ve felt in a painfully long time.
My psych major friend told me that the most helpful thing to say to someone struggling with mental health issues is that it doesn’t have to be like this. Yeah, that’s the whole basis of the “it gets better” campaign, but you should also know that the way it gets better doesn’t just have to be years of silent suffering and then a sudden epiphany. Often, it gets better with counseling and medication and lifestyle changes.
Also, finally, a few photos from my trip last month, though many more are on my Flickr account (see right).