More Than Ships Passing In the Night

Month: June, 2014

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Cheesy bagels are the best. They are my reason for getting up in the morning. They are the thought that comforts me when I fall asleep. They are my ultimate downfall. I’ve never loved anything as much as I’ve loved a cheese bagel. Except maybe coffee.

Last night, I fell asleep. I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation over text with a friend. I fell asleep and forgot to take my contacts out. This morning, I thought, “Why do my eyes feel so gunky? So goopy? Why can I read the shampoo labels across the bathroom without having to squint? Oh. Wait a minute…”

I had strange dreams all night. I have strange dreams every night. If I could remember the vivid details as clearly upon waking, I could have a blog completely dedicated to posting about the dreams that I have. I can’t remember the last time I had a restful night of sleep. See, my dreams are super complicated: there are always multiple story lines happening and there are always a lot of people from various areas (and eras) of my life. And sometimes there are characters from shows, movies, and books that show up as well. For example, last night I’m pretty sure that there was a brief nod to “The Little Mermaid” in my dream, because I definitely remember that the sun was setting, and it was the third day, and the darn prince still didn’t recognize her (or maybe she was me? I can’t remember if I was in third-person or first-person at this point) and everything was going to be ruined!!! It was heart-breakingly intense.

Anyway, all of that to say, I woke up exhausted. I wake up exhausted every morning. My dream life is way busier and more active and more exciting and more intense than my real life. Christopher Nolan should make a movie about me.

Between that and the fact that the past few days have either involved waking up very early or doing a lot of “working hard” things (like helping someone pack up their apartment), I’m dragging a little bit today. Or a lot. I’m not sure. I think if I was more awake I might be able to gauge it better.

Also, why does Facebook keep asking me for my number and my relationship status? GO AWAY FACEBOOK. I’m just not that into you.

Also, my stats counter tells me that someone from Belgium is viewing my blog. That’s cool. I’m not sure if I know anyone in Belgium. I’m trying to think. Hi Belgian person! Thanks for reading! Eh… merci beaucoup pour fais lire mon, euh, blog. I don’t think I said that right. Je suis desoleee – je ne parle francais tres bien. J’ai etudie la francais quand j’ai assiste a l’universite, mais il a fait sept ans que j’ai pris un cours de francais. Something like that. And I definitely used Google Translate to help me with that last phrase. And I don’t know how to do all of the accents with my keyboard, so…yeah. This is embarrassing.

Sigh.

I’m so tired. I seriously feel like death right now. But I changed the header photo on my blog this morning! I took this latest picture when I was in Kaua’i three years ago. Life was so  much simpler then. I miss Kaua’i so much. I used to think that Hawaii vacations were overrated (having never been on one). Then, I experienced it for myself and now I’ve seen the light. I’ve never loved anything more than the experience of sitting on my lanai, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out over the ocean. Unless there was a cheese bagel involved. OH MY GOSH. Coffee and a cheese bagel on a lanai looking out over the ocean on the south side of Kaua’i. DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT?

The answer is no.

Also, I’m getting the urge to get crafty again. You know what I want to make? A wine bottle lamp. Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? It’s not original, not one bit. I was looking at them on Etsy and then I was like “Why the knick-knack would I pay $30 for this when I could probably make one myself?!” Same thing with mason jars and LED lights. I’m watching a YouTube video about it right now. I’ve never been so fascinated with drill bits before!!! O.M.G. HOW IS HE DOING THAT WITHOUT SHATTERING THE GLASS??? THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING I’VE EVER SEEN!!!

I just found tutorials for eight different wine bottle lighting ideas:

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Jean-yes.

Now I just need to figure out a way to get a lot of empty wine bottles.

Heh. Heh. Heh.

I’M OFF THE GRID.

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I’M GOING OFF THE GRID!!!!

Today I have decided that taking the GRE is overrated. Going to grad school is overrated. Having a fulfilling career? Also overrated.

New game plan:

Instead of wasting my time trying to reeducate myself on graphing functions, determining quotients, and the Pythagorean Theorem (which took me several attempts just to spell correctly), I have come up with a better use of my time:

 

You know that scene in “Thirteen Going On Thirty,” when Jennifer Garner’s character rescues a tame work party from being a complete disaster by getting everyone to do the Thriller dance?

 

THAT IS MY MISSION.

“I’m studying to take the GRE” = BORING.

“I can bust out Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance at parties” = AWESOME.

This is the new me:

 

(Except that this clip cuts her off before she says “A.M.” which is, of course, the punch line of the statement.)

Yup, me and Jess. We’re off the grid.

Life is a highway?

On Tuesday, we had a half-day staff retreat at work.

Part of the retreat involved an HR presentation on change & transition. It hit really close to home. Like, to the point where my co-worker leaned over and whispered, “Is he talking just to you? Do you think the rest of us should leave?”

I mean, just so we’re clear, there were PowerPoint slides in the presentation that contained the following information:

Phases of Transition:

  • Endings: loss, letting go, closure, saying good-bye
  • Neutral Zone: in-between time, chaos, the wilderness
  • New Beginnings: being “with it,” new chapter, renewal

And also this,

Loss and Endings: Make Sure That…

  • You understand what is ending and what is not
  • You feel that endings are seen and acknowledged
  • You’ve removed things that would allow people to hold onto the past
  • People around you understand that you may need to do some grieving
  • Use symbolism and ceremony to mark a break and show that today is really different

And also this,

Dealing with Neutral Zone

  • Encourage experimenting and risk taking
  • Study the situation and temporary solutions
  • Expose people to diverse perspectives
  • Encourage and reward creative techniques
  • Engage in learning
  • Explore options

And, finally, THIS,

7 Principles of Transition Management

  • You have to end before you begin
  • Between end and beginning, there is a hiatus
  • Hiatus can be creative
  • Transition is developmental
  • Transition is a source of renewal
  • People go through transitions at different speeds
  • Most individuals are running a “transition deficit”

Even now, as I think back on that presentation, I’m still wondering to myself: “Was that presentation about the changes in our workplace or about working through an unwanted break-up?”

It seriously felt like the presenter knew what had happened to me and had tailored his presentation to my specific situation.

This made the experiential activities a little bit difficult.

For example, one activity involved selecting a photograph from a pile of photos – one that we felt best described where we were at personally in the overall transition process. At first, I selected a photo of an astronaut floating in space – alone in the darkness, with the earth in the distance.

Then, another photograph caught my eye:

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I think highways are fascinating. There’s a sort of industrial, concrete, city beauty to them.

I also have recurring dreams about driving on a very dangerous highway into a very dangerous place. I don’t know what it means, but I’ve definitely had that dream more than once.

So, the image resonated with me on a few different levels. It represented the chaos that I was feeling internally, the uncertainty of which direction I was heading, the fundamental need to keep moving forward, and the unanswered question of whether I would be driving alone or not. If life is a highway, as they say, it feels like I’m stuck in traffic right now and my GPS just stopped working.

Plus, I just liked the picture.

Once we had chosen our pictures, we then had to get into groups of four – with people that we don’t normally talk to (“breaking down silos” was another theme of the retreat) – and share what our photo represented to us. And I’m still wondering to myself, “Am I supposed to share about my personal life here? Or just how I feel in relation to work?” But everyone else was talking about work stuff because, you know, it’s a staff retreat. So, I told them I picked the photograph because it represented the changes and uncertainty in my office division as well as not knowing exactly what direction we were headed in, and still discovering where we fit into the overall scheme of things.

Something like that.

Similarly, the presenter had put up a big sheet of paper on the wall with the “Phases of Transition” depicted as a graph. Everyone was given an orange dot sticker to place on the graph where they estimated themselves to be in the phases. Again, I had trouble separating my workplace mentality from, well, the rest of my life. So, when I put my orange dot sticker somewhere in between the “Endings” phase and the “Neutral Zone,” it is entirely possible that this choice had nothing to do with how I felt about work.

Really, isn’t it all interconnected anyway? What is happening in my personal life will inevitably influence my perception of my work life. So maybe my feelings toward the changes in my workplace are reflective of my feelings toward the changes in  my personal life. Or maybe my lack of feelings toward my workplace are indicative that all of my emotional energy and attention is currently focused elsewhere.

It’s been a rough week and not for any particular external reason, which is frustrating. It’s easier to reach out for support when you can cite something concrete as the cause of whatever you are feeling. But when all you can honestly say is, “I just feel more sad/confused/angry/lonely/whatever today,” it’s a little bit harder to own your feelings. Especially when you’ve hit that point where Everyone Else expects you to be moving on by now because, for heaven’s sake, he broke up with you almost three months ago. Why are you still trying to figure it out?

Or at least, you’ve convinced yourself that this is what they’re thinking, even if they’re not saying it to your face.

I think there must be a phase where it gets more difficult before it gets better. When you first have to deal with a change, there is almost this automatic reactionary coping mechanism that kicks in, after the initial shock subsides. “I’m dealing with it. I’m working through it. LOOK AT ME COPING. I’M SO HEALTHY. IN FACT I’M THRIVING RIGHT NOW.” And then that eventually wears off and you’re left wondering why you’re still having a hard time with the whole thing.

Amirite?

And then, or so I’m told, it eventually gets better. But it takes time. But not a set amount of time. It’s different for everyone. So, in the meantime, I just keep slogging forward, a little bit on autopilot right now, trusting the people around me – like the HR presenter – who tell me, “What you’re experiencing is normal. The only way to get through it is to go through it.” Time goes by and even a day that feels tortuously long is still just another day.

Besides, I’m used to being stuck in bad traffic – it happens every day during my commute to and from work. You just have to keep breathing, keep talking yourself down, and wait it out.

Another Pasadena adventure: Huntington Gardens

On Sunday, we went to Huntington Gardens. I hadn’t been there since I was in college, so it was fun to rediscover it. I now have a new fascination with Chinese gardens.

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The Children’s Garden was also for the young at heart.

My brother-in-law is sprinkling rocks into the metal grate: it makes a beautiful, musical sound, like wind chimes on steroids.

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Sometimes when I feel like acting out, I go beyond the “Staff Only” sign.

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Then we all hugged a tree. Well, they hugged the tree. I took pictures.

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I guess I was feeling rebellious today. Please note the chain fence in the foreground.

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Trespassing on the mausoleum.

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Such a rebel.

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Dad was being a free spirit.

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Traipsing down the path.

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Sasquatch’s ancestor.

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The “Terrace of the Jade Mirror” – the round gates represent the full moon, which is often symbolized by a white jade mirror in Chinese literature.

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And I was just ornery today.

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Balance.

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Brother-in-law communing with the rock that looked like Admiral Acbar’s head.

It’s a trap.

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Searching for the Wish Fish.

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The Wish Fish: if you catch it, it will grant you a wish.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Old Pasadena adventure: the Norton Simon Museum

Today we went to the Norton Simon Museum of Art.

I might have mentioned before that I have a low saturation point when it comes to museums. I love the idea, but I have to go through them quickly, otherwise I get easily bored/tired/overstimulated/grumpy. I’m totally there for the visual component – if I try to read every single informative plaque for every single painting, I’m over it in, like, five minutes. But if I can just breeze through the galleries and look at all of the cool pictures and not feel obligated to stare thoughtfully at the paintings/sculptures/pictures/etc that really don’t interest me, then it’s all good.

So, the following photos represent a brief tour of the Norton Simon Museum: Kattiewampus-style.

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I like to commune with the art – it helps me appreciate it.

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They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

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Van Gogh painting. Portrait of a man, or something like that. I liked the colors.

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Classic Degas: dancers doing dance-y things.

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Awesome abstract art canvas that covered the entire wall.

I don’t remember the name of the artist.

This is awkward.

Sam Francis.

Whew. I feel better now.

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Contemplating the giant abstract paintings.

I love me some abstract modern art!

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With my seestor.

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Sculpture gardens: the tree that looked like a person.

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It’s totally Sasquatch, right?!

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Seestor, Moum, and me.

Yes, I call my mother “Moum”. For explanation, see here.

If that explanation didn’t make sense to you, that’s okay.

Moum understands me.

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Possibly my favorite sculpture in the gardens.

Such expression.

Also, possibly the only sculpture that wasn’t a nude woman who appeared to be losing her balance.

It was kind of a theme.

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Clearly, I’ve reached my saturation point.

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Behaving.

Because I love my seestor and my moum.

I had a great time, though. While I poke fun at myself because of my own inability to appreciate art museums to their fullest extent, I still enjoyed the Norton Simon and would definitely go back.

Reunited and it feels so good!

“Parking in L.A. is like… a unicorn.”

I’m visiting my sister and brother-in-law this weekend, and my sister said that tonight. I thought it was brilliantly (and hilariously) apropos. Think about it. If you’ve ever lived in Los Angeles, you know she speaks the truth.

Something about the back of my head (or, that one time I was Miley Cyrus’ doppelganger)

Many of you may remember a certain blog post I wrote a little over a year ago about an undergrad student who tried to hit on me while I was on my lunch break.

Well, it would appear that my life is just one big series of history repeating itself, because it happened to me again yesterday.

I was on my lunch break. I had opted to take a walk around the perimeter of campus instead of going to the gym, because I felt that I could use some sunshine and fresh air to lift my spirits.

I had circumnavigated the campus and was cutting back across to head over to the on-campus grocery store to buy lunch. I heard the familiar, unwelcome sound of skateboard wheels approaching from behind. I have a very specific loathing of skateboards on campus, but I’ll save that for another blog post. It sounded like the skateboarder was coming up directly behind me, which annoyed me. I can’t see you which means you need to go around me and not expect me to move out of the way for you.

The skateboarder came up alongside me; I could hear him talking: “That hair, though!”

Then I realized he was talking to me.

He was calling me Miley Cyrus and making it sound like he had come a long way just to meet me.

It was bizarre from the start.

So then, this guy proceeds to stand there and talk with me. The conversation was so random and disjointed that there is no way I can do it justice, so I’ll just relay some of the highlights.

Like how the conversation pretty much started with him wanting to know if I would perform CPR on him if I found him lying on the side of the road.

I told him I would get a medical professional to do it.

Or how he freaked out over my eyes: “THOSE EYES!!!” First the hair, then the eyes.

Or how he was trying to get me to admit that I had sensed his presence, to which I reminded him that I heard him coming up behind me on his skateboard. He really wanted it to be more psychic than that.

Him: “Are you spiritual?”

Me: “Well, I’m a Christian.”

Him: “So, do you do, like… yoga?”

Me: “I took a yoga class once, it was fun.”

Him: “So, do you like… meditate and stuff?”

Me: “I pray. It’s kind of similar.”

Or how he was asking me about whether or not I was a student here.

Me: “No, I work here.”

Him: “You seem pretty young! Are you a genius?”

Me: “I’m twenty-five…”

Him: “So, you’re a genius! Are you done already? Did you already graduate?”

Me: “I graduated three years ago.”

Him: “So you were like twenty-two when you graduated. You ARE a genius!”

Me: “No… not really. But that’s sweet of you to say.”

And then there was the part where he started asking me about my love life: “So, who’s the lucky guy?”

Me: <laughs uncomfortably>

Him: “AWWWHHHHH – you hesitated! There was hesitation! Don’t make him up now!”

Me: “I’m not making anybody up… there is no lucky guy.”

And then he started asking me if this had ever happened before. I told him it had – about a year ago.

I can’t really explain how the conversation jumped from one topic to the next, because there wasn’t a lot of coherency or logical progression to it (I think it is legitimately possible that he might have been high). But he apparently noticed my upper arms because he started asking me if I lifted. I said no. Did I bench? No. So, then he wanted to show me his biceps, and by “show” I actually mean that he wanted me to feel his biceps. I said no thanks. So, then he reached out and felt mine. Which freaked me out a little bit, so I took a step back. Did I mention that he was standing, oh, maybe 12 inches away from me during the entire conversation?

Anyway, then he starts asking me about what I do at the university, and am I really on my lunch break, and do I really want to go back to work or would I rather go on an adventure. I eighty-sixed the adventure offer, but he was persistent: “I really want to hang out with you so bad. Can we hang out later?”

Me: <smiling but firm> “No, sorry.”

He was amazed that I was flat-out rejecting his offer. Apparently I was breaking his heart. I told him he would get over it. He said he needed to go find the friend that he was apparently meeting on campus (did he even go here? Who knows!) and cry on his shoulder.

Him: <spreading his arms for a hug> “So, is this it, then? Should we say good-bye forever?”

Me: <taking a few more steps back> “Yeah, I think that would be good.”

Him: “I love you.”

Me: “Okay, I’m going now.”

Actually, we then got on the subject of my blog and I told him I was going to write a blog post about our encounter, and asked if that was okay. He said yes, and continued to walk with me part of the way to the grocery store, making up all kinds of information about his “travel blog” that he wanted me to mention in my post.

Finally, we went our separate ways.

For the record, my re-telling of this story does not nearly capture the full effect of the weirdness or the randomness. It is but a taste of the strangeness of yesterday’s encounter.

To be clear, because I decided to just walk around campus, I didn’t even bother changing into workout clothes. Instead, I just put on my tennis shoes and stayed in my regular work outfit. In other words, I looked kind of goofy. In other words, I really have no idea why I caught his attention. And I say that not out of false modesty, but because it really is odd to me that this has happened twice now.

Case in point:

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Trying to capture the full effect

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Don’t be judging my cankles now!

I mean, really. What is it with guys coming up from behind me and then acting like they’re doing me a favor by hitting on me? Is the back of my head really that ridiculous?

Party animal

My parents are out of town right now visiting my brother and sister-in-law. It’s 9 pm on a Friday night, I’ve got the house to myself (well, myself + grandparents in their “wing” + cats), and what wild and crazy things have I done since I got home?

Fed the cats.

Made dinner (frozen dumplings and a bagged salad. I know what you’re thinking: “Calm down, Katie. Don’t get TOO crazy on us!”).

Watched an episode of “Black Box.”

Washed dishes.

Studied for the GRE (for reals. So, I get nerd points for that, even if I’m rapidly losing style points).

Cleaned the sink.

I’m planning to conclude my evening with another episode of “Black Box,” accompanied by Oreos. I might even put chocolate frosting on them. You know, because I’m kind of a party animal.

It might get weird.

But don’t you worry – I won’t forget to scoop out the cats’ litter box before I go to bed. Which, if all goes smoothly, will probably have happened by 10:30.

I mean, who am I kidding.

Animal triangle

 

Segues are not my forte

Dear everyone: thank you so much for your kind responses to my last post. I had many reservations about actually publishing it, but your receptivity has been overwhelmingly validating. Thank you.

I now have no idea how to move forward with blogging because I don’t know what should follow that post. More candid sharing? Something silly? A random photo series? Nothing feels right. So, for my segue post, here is a dance:

 

This is another favorite from Dancing With the Stars. I have mixed feelings about this song. I find it catchy, but when I pay attention to the lyrics, I’m like, “Eh… hmm. Huh. Interesting. So what exactly is he getting at?”

But the way the dancers interpreted the song really touched me, because – if you haven’t already figured it out by now – I’m all about people overcoming obstacles to be together. Plus, I see several possible interpretations in the choreography, all of which are interesting to me, and I love it when there are layers of meaning in art.

Prozac poster child

This blog challenges me to find the delicate balance between being my authentic self (writing honestly about where I’m at in life), and not over-sharing. This is especially challenging given that our lives are a series of interactions with the world around us. To tell my story is, inevitably, to tell my version of others’ stories as well. I aim to be sensitive about what I write when it concerns someone else. There have even been cases where I’ve asked permission from people before writing about them in a post, just to be safe. I would never want anyone unpleasantly caught off guard if they happen to be referenced in a blog post. That being said, it’s tough to find that balance sometimes.

Especially in those instances when the only person I need to ask permission from is myself. When I’m choosing to share things about myself on my blog, there’s often that nagging fear wondering “Is this too much information?” I’m afraid that what I share about myself won’t be well-received. The more vulnerable I am with what I write, the greater the fear of rejection. The problem is, I don’t always have the best filter. Hence my concern about inadvertently over-sharing. In light of that, I’ve had it in mind to write this post for awhile now. Since I’ve been getting a little more up close and personal on this blog anyway, I figure I might as well take the risk. Especially because I feel very strongly about this issue, as it hits very close to home for me. So, this post is part expository, part defense, and part… something else. I don’t know what. TMI, probably.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time – at least since I was ten years old, if not before then. Up until recently, my struggle was largely unidentified and untreated. The general message that I received was that my moods were unfair to other people and that I just needed to make an effort and try harder to be happier. Sometimes I would think that I was doing a pretty good job, only to be completely discouraged by the recurring observation, “You just don’t seem very happy…”

I think my depression and anxiety were probably aggravated by a lot of social factors from my childhood. It’s only been in the past month or so that I’ve really started to understand (via therapy) how certain patterns growing up continually reinforced my fears of being forgettable, disliked, and unwelcome. People joke a lot about the stigmas and stereotypes associated with what you learn about yourself in therapy, so I realize that I’m basically just setting myself up to be mocked. But even though I was aware that I, like every other person, had experienced my share of painful social experiences growing up, I hadn’t fully comprehended the depth or significance of how those had affected my perception of who I am now, or how those had influenced my beliefs about what I need in order to be happy. In other words, there were patterns of thought ingrained so deeply that in order to deal with my emotional issues and really begin healing, I needed to address the broader dilemma of the lies that I had bought into about myself.

Of course, like I said, it wasn’t until the past month or so that I really hit upon that realization. And prior to that, it is only in the past couple of years that I’ve really started to acknowledge my depression and anxiety for what it is, and to actively pursue treatment.

The turning point came in March 2012. I was living in L.A. at the time, it was my first year out of college, and I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Long story short, I had something that resembled an emotional and almost mental breakdown and felt completely out of control. When I tried to hurt myself, in a desperately misguided attempt to feel some sort of control, I realized that I needed help. For the first time, I sought out professional medical help and reported the growing list of symptoms that I had been convinced would go away on their own if I just tried hard enough. The doctor offered to prescribe an antidepressant, but I declined. I felt that there was a stigma associated with antidepressants, and I didn’t want to go on medication. I was afraid that I would lose myself if I did – that I would become a different person. Taking antidepressants seemed akin to admitting defeat – admitting that I wasn’t strong enough as a person to handle this on my own.

The doctor also referred me to the mental health department to pursue psychological or psychiatric services. I made a few attempts to contact them, but ran into the bureaucratic run-around of automated voice messages, and eventually gave up. I started to feel better and decided that maybe I wasn’t as bad off as I had thought.

It wasn’t until a year later, in March 2013, after moving back home, starting a new job, failing at several attempts to restart a relationship that meant everything to me, and basically hitting a wall with the whole “moving forward” part of my life, that I decided to actively pursue counseling. I was skeptical, because I had only had one previous experience with counseling: when I attended counseling through the university counseling center during my junior year of college. The experience had not been particularly great or beneficial, primarily because I don’t think my counselor and I were a good match. But in March 2013, when I couldn’t seem to move forward on my own and I was at the end of my rope, I decided to give it another shot.

I have been with my counselor for a year and three months now. Last month, she relocated further away and I’ve begun commuting over an hour to our sessions, just so I can continue to work with her. It is so worth it. Going to counseling has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself, and I am so grateful for the ways that my counselor has worked with me over the past year.

It was actually my counselor who finally persuaded me to try an antidepressant.

In October 2013, I went through a really rough time. All of the progress that I had made thus far was somehow not enough to get me over the emotional hurdles that I was facing at the time. Again, I felt like I was at the end of my rope. I felt like I had tried everything. I had a supportive family, a good community of friends, I was involved in my church, I had plenty of routine and structure in my life, I had a healthy diet, I was taking B vitamins and multivitamins, I was exercising 4-5 times a week, I was going to counseling. I was doing everything I could think of to manage my depression and anxiety, and yet it wasn’t enough. My counselor suggested trying an antidepressant. Her take on the situation was that I was going through an unusually difficult time and that an antidepressant could be a useful buoy during this time and help moderate my emotions enough so that I wouldn’t go under completely.

I considered her advice. I talked to my sister, who is a nurse, about her opinion of antidepressants. She gave me this helpful insight: mental and emotional illnesses are just that – an illness. Just as one does not choose to come down with strep throat, or diabetes, or cancer, so one does not choose to be mentally or emotionally ill. Telling a person who is dealing with a mental or emotional illness to “just try harder” is like telling a sick person to “just get better”.

There are physical and chemical processes that contribute to mental and emotional illness: parts of the brain that are overactive, thus preventing certain processes from operating as normal. The manifestations of this are the symptoms we associate with anxiety and depression. A person dealing with these is literally trapped in their head. They are, in a sense, incapable of stabilizing by their own efforts because the brain processes that produce feelings of happiness, peace, contentment, satisfaction, etc. simply aren’t working.

So, on the recommendation of my counselor, I contacted my doctor, who prescribed Prozac for me. I hesitated and cringed internally. Getting to the point of being willing to try an antidepressant had been difficult enough for me. My doctor had just put me on the most stereotypical antidepressant available. I felt like I was becoming just another statistic. I guess it’s a testimony to how bad things were at the time that I decided to go for it anyway.

I was afraid that the Prozac would cause me to flat-line emotionally – that it would dull my emotions so that I would be neither happy nor sad but just… neutral. Instead, I discovered that I did not feel neutralized at all. In fact, I actually felt stabilized. I still experienced a full range of emotions, but I felt like I was experiencing them in more healthy doses, rather than extreme highs and lows. My emotional baseline felt more stable. In a way, it was a very subtle change. I didn’t feel like I had suddenly turned into a different person. Instead, I felt like I had regained the capacity to be myself again. I was no longer a shell of a person, controlled by unpredictable emotions. My emotions were under control: I felt calmer, more clear-headed, and stronger.

An antidepressant doesn’t create false or fake feelings of happiness. Rather, it sends signals to the brain that enable the brain processes that aren’t working correctly to start working the way they are supposed to. When those processes start to operate normally, a person can then become responsive to all of the other treatment that wasn’t quite working before.

That was my experience. And for awhile, it really did make a difference. I saw improvement not only in my personal well-being, but also in my relationships with other people. I decided that Prozac was a good thing, in spite of all the cliches and stereotypes and stigmas that pop culture often attached to it. It has become just one of many components in the way that I manage my depression and anxiety. It is not fool-proof. I’ve already run into issues with the medication losing effectiveness during times of high stress and needing to adjust my dosage. It is also not something that I want to stay on forever. My counselor has told me that it is sometimes possible to train one’s brain through using an antidepressant. The antidepressant “models” to the brain how its processes are supposed to be working, and the brain is eventually able to keep imitating those processes on its own, without the help of the antidepressant.

I’m hopeful that someday I will be able to stop relying on Prozac to stabilize my emotional baseline. But regardless of what happens down the road, I am thankful for the effects that it has had in managing my depression and anxiety right now. Depression and anxiety are no joke. If untreated, they can severely impede one’s ability to function. I know this because I have experienced it first-hand, and I experienced it for too many years without really understanding it or doing anything about it.

If you know someone who is dealing with depression and anxiety, please be sensitive to their struggle and don’t dismiss it as them just needing to “try harder.” And if you know someone who is actively seeking to manage their depression and anxiety through counseling and/or medication, please do not make them feel ashamed for doing what they need to do. Shaming (not to mention rejecting) someone for trying to deal with their emotional issues is perhaps worse than shaming them for the issues themselves. It’s not kind. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

On behalf of everyone out there struggling to bring their symptoms under control and trying everything they can to get better and truly heal: we are strong. Strength is not defined by not having issues, because the truth is that everyone has issues. Strength is defined by choosing to deal with your issues. It is defined by taking steps toward healing, even when those around you are trivializing your experiences, or judging you, or even rejecting you for what you’re going through.

I am strong because I got out of bed this morning. I am strong because I got ready for work, and sat in traffic, and got to my desk, and started working. I am strong because I took my medication this morning, even though every time I take that bottle out of my purse, it reminds me that I am broken. I am strong because I keep trying to smile, even when I don’t feel like smiling. I am strong because I tell people that I feel “alright” when they ask how I’m doing, instead of pretending that I feel better than that. I am strong because, in my weakness, I pray, “God, help me. I can’t do this today,” and God is my strength.

Don’t give in, don’t give up.