When MEL asked me to write an essay about what I’m leaving behind in 2016, I was like, Omg thank yewwww! What a great opportunity for self-reflection! There are so many things I want to leave behind. Where do I begin? How will I boil it down to just one?
At first, I thought I’d write about leaving bad financial habits behind. I used to think my fiscal irresponsibility was simply a result of being a free-spirited Gemini. At 32, my assets include all three of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks, one of which is signed, and an Apple watch.
However, the moment I started thinking about my money problems, I began feeling extremely triggered, craving a glass of wine or perhaps something stronger. This made me think of another thing I could write about leaving behind: drugs and alcohol, but I don’t want to leave them behind, and I’m just trying to live my truth here.
As I thought more and more about the variety of things I would like left in 2016 (straight white men, Instagram models, my compulsive obsession with the Daily Mail) one very real thing that I’ve been trying to “leave behind” to no avail kept echoing in my mind: Depression.
A wise sage (Kylie Jenner) said that 2016 would be “the year of realizing stuff,” and this year I realized that I’ve been “depressed” for a long, long time. I put “depressed” in quotes because I am self-diagnosing, so who knows! In any case, something has been off for a while, and I’m finally starting to do something about it.
I haven’t been to a therapist in at least 10 years, but I feel pretty confident that what I’ve been experiencing is classic depression. Like, when I wake up and am inexplicably sad… that’s depression, right? Or when I start to think about the future and am overcome with bone-chilling anxiety until I’m just like, “I’m just going to put myself down for a nap.” Or when I get a deep urge to eat my feelings in the most expensive way possible and order Mozza 2 Go via Postmates, buy a $20 bottle of wine and throw myself a dinner party for one. Or when I feel too overwhelmed to do anything positive for myself, so I miss deadlines and stop exercising and am so mad at myself for being a fuck-up that I rage out on the people I’m closest to. At this point, I hope all these things are depression-related because otherwise I’m just a bitch with a semipermanent case of the Sunday Scaries.
These bad periods come in waves. I’ll be fine for a while, and things will be going smoothly, then I’ll wake up one morning with a deep case of The Sads, hating everything about myself and my life, and nothing I do makes me feel better. I start to sleep more and eat more, and I start wearing my hair up because I’m not washing it. If you ever see me outside of a workout class and my hair is in a bun or a ponytail, you should probably consider 5150-ing me, because things are not going well.
Instead of getting help during these horrible moments, I’ve isolated myself, waiting for the darkness to pass. When it finally does (sometimes it’s a few days, sometimes a week or two) I re-emerge full of lols, as though nothing ever happened, hoping that’s the last time I’ll ever feel like pure garbage.
I’ve spent years ignoring these spells, hoping they will just go away completely if I exercise a ton, eat more salads or start journaling. Spoiler alert: Journaling doesn’t get rid of your feelings, it makes you confront them. Salads are also a slippery slope. A great salad can be a very effective Band-Aid for The Sads, but a bad one might cause irreparable damage to your mental health. Trust. Sometimes I wish I could just throw it all away and develop a wild drug problem to distract myself, but I’ve been down the road of self-medicating as a teen and all that got me was sent away to therapeutic boarding school with a bad cocaine allergy. Also I can’t afford chic drugs.
For the longest time, I thought depression consisted of staring out windows, long walks in gardens and writing wistful letters to distant relatives, all the while getting thinner and thinner and looking more beautiful by the second, like Nicole Kidman in The Hours. And now I’m realizing it’s not like that at all. For me, it’s paralysis. It’s a dark voice constantly plaguing me with negative self-talk. This voice tells me I’m worthless. That I’ll never be successful. That I’m a failure. And even though these statements are categorically untrue, the voice starts to become so powerful that it starts to win. And then I’m left with the inability to finish what I start, the inability to motivate and an overall general stasis. I become the physical embodiment of going nowhere fast. I become Ponytail Lara.
Shockingly, dealing with my issues by ignoring them has done absolutely nothing to resolve them, and now these moments are happening more and more often. The only upside of this influx of awfulness is that I’m at a point where I can finally say I’m over it. I can’t be Ponytail Lara anymore!
I wish I could leave my depression (or whatever is going on) in 2016, but something tells me that’s not how this shit works. So I guess I’m just going to own it. Accept that there’s something wrong and try to fix it instead of ignoring it. I’ll probably get a therapist and talk to her about it. And hopefully by the end of 2017 I’ll be writing an essay about something ridiculous that I’d like to leave behind, like straight white men, or Instagram models, or my John Mayer Google Alert.