I have been told it seems like I have my life totally together. I’m here to clear that up.
I see what you see: I’m 26, newly married, with two sweet dogs and a beautiful little home. I have a great job and space to practice my hobbies. What could be better?
Here’s what you don’t see: I take medication every day for my depression, and at various times, so has my husband. One of our dogs can’t be let off the leash or he runs away and attacks other dogs. We don’t own our home, we rent it from my in-laws. I regularly leave laundry in the washing machine and have to wash it a second (or third) time so it doesn’t smell. Sometimes my social anxiety is so crippling that I can’t even call my best friend when something goes wrong. I freeze. Some days I wake up hating my body for no real reason.
Whether you’re new to my community or you’ve been here a while, I want to take this opportunity, this new month, to introduce myself and my journey to you. It’s not an incredibly unique one. I don’t have a torrid tale that will pull you in and buy your empathy. I’m just a human, battling with depression and the realities of our world, who has found footing in my treatment methods, and I’m hoping to help others do the same. Living authentically has freed me and has given me my life back. I don’t make decisions based on other people’s reactions, concerns, or opinions anymore. Being authentic and OK with my “weirdness’ has brought unthinkable opportunities into my life, and it can for you too.
As a child, I was whimsical and odd. I spent a lot time alone or with my family, reading and creating fantasy worlds. I drew pictures and wrote stories to go along with them. I spent hours building forts from every blanket in the house, and then I would retreat within for days to read and do crafts, coming out only when required and returning the first moment could.
As a teenager, I learned to divide myself: one version of Emily remained the same, while the Emily who went to school and socialized learned to compensate in order to blend in with my peers. At school I was noted for being “wild” and “free-spirited” which confused my parents at first. It wasn’t long before I began to feel like two different people, a chameleon amongst my surroundings. I had only a few close friendships, because it seemed most people didn’t really get me. Looking back, I now know that actually, I didn’t get myself yet. This discrepancy of my identity felt magnified when I went away to boarding school. The result, or perhaps a poorly-time coincidence, was the onset of my depression before I was 16. No one would use that word with me directly until college.
After their divorce, my parents thought I was acting out, seeking attention. Really I was just trying to blend in, trying not to be the weird girl who didn’t go to parties or have sex with boys. I got sick after pushing myself too hard for a semester, and I came home from boarding school for a week to recover. In the safety of my mother’s apartment, sleeping on the sofa, I knew something had to change. I had to change. I felt like an outcast and I didn’t love myself. The only thing I was sure of was that I needed time, space, and a lot more simplicity if I was going to make it through high school. That is when I made the decision to return home from boarding school, and to start taking better care of myself.
Within a few months of being home, I found myself in my first yoga class. There was a trendy new studio in downtown Portland, Maine, and my best friend and I felt cool riding into the city together after school. It quickly became a routine for me, and I convinced my mom to start coming with me when my friend lost interest. Finding yoga changed everything for me. I found a physical place where I could go, but still feel quiet and safe in my own head space. I could move and flow in a crowded sweaty room, anonymously. I was in a public place, yet I felt sure that no one was really paying much attention to me, and if they were I simply didn’t care because it felt so good. I found the same release in that crowded room, that I had once found hidden under every blanket in my house. Yoga is my adult blanket-fort.
In college, I resorted back to my old patterns. I fell in line to fit in. I went to frat parties, joined a sorority, and continued to be mystified when the pieces just didn’t quite fit. It was after a difficult semester abroad during my junior year that I finally began to see the light. I came back from Ireland determined to reground and find balance. I leaned back into yoga a bit, and found meditation to ease the symptoms of my depression for the first time. I wrote daily, and read nightly. I began to live for myself without concern for the opinion of others, mostly out of necessity. I was protecting myself, because for the first time I had seen the true depths of my darkness, had contemplated the value of my life, and I had decided that I wanted to live.
Yoga is independent, but also communal, like me. I want to stand on my own two feet and come together in community with others to add value to my own life, not to serve others or to fulfill a social requirement. And through these subtle, simple lessons, I have learned the greatest one of all: to put myself first.
Today, my yoga practice brings clarity to my writing, movement to my body, and a level of playfulness that is often missing in the world of busy, young professionals. The movement and routine give my anxious body a task to master while my mind and spirit focus on seeing the possibilities of my reality, and cultivating creative content.
I have long felt a calling to serve others, but I thought in order to do so I had to be polished and perfect – fixed from my brokenness. But I’ve come to understand that I’m not broken. I don’t need fixing. I am whole, and beautiful, and ready for life’s great adventures. The care, focus, and attention I have put back into and onto myself, is resulting in my ability to reach and help others find their way to a life of fullness and enoughness.
Thank you for being here, for joining me. I am so grateful for your community, and I hope I can lend some light to your life through my writing.