Last weekend I got a chance to see some standup comedy. My hubby absolutely loves it and as a birthday gift I got him tickets to a comedy festival in town. On the first night the headliner was a comic named Gary Gulman. I recognized his name but didn’t place him right away. But as he started his set I realized he had been in an episode of my favorite podcast “the Hilarious World of Depression”. Not only AN episode, but my very favorite episode. I remembered that when I listened to that specific episode a year ago or so it had helped me immensely.
You see many of the episodes of that podcast are with people who have been through depression and anxiety but have it mostly under control. They have come out on the other side and found their ways to manage it, “like a bad back” as Andy Richter says. But when they interviewed Gary Gulman he was still struggling. He had made it through the worst of it, the rock bottom; but he was not in the clear. The episode was a little dark, but for me it was just what I needed. I needed to hear someone that had not made it all the way through. Someone that had made it through the worst but was still fighting every day to keep going on, to get out of bed, to do life. It gave me a connection and some much needed hope.
As I watched Gary’s set that night I remember feeling so fucking happy. He talked a lot about his struggles with this terrible illness. About just how bad it had gotten and at times it was a little dark. It was also both hilarious and hopeful. Because here was this guy who had gone through what I had gone through. Who had been to the depths and had made it out. But it was also realistic, and that is where the hope came from. You see he didn’t just climb out and everything was awesome. It took a lot of fucking time to be okay. It was slow, hard slog through the mud but here he was doing what he loved again. Making jokes and sharing and smiling. He was killing it.
All of this made me reflect on some stuff that I thought may help someone who is still climbing out of that hole.
It has been a year and a half since I hit rock bottom. Since I felt crushed by the hopelessness and emptiness of a two and a half year battle with major depression. Since I was ready to just give up and end it all. Recovery has been a VERY long road.
When I first started to come out of my depression there was not a lot of joy or happiness or even hope. There was just less darkness and emptiness and hopelessness. It is hard to explain. I didn’t feel as awful as I had felt for the last two and a half years but by no means was I living my best life, or even half of it to be honest. And this went on for so fucking long. The extremes of badness started to go away and I kept thinking when will I feel like my old self again? When will I be happy? When will I have another best day ever? When will I feel more than just meh? And as time went on (and on and on) I started to think that the answer would be never.
I figured that this was the new me. It wasn’t terrible. I didn’t feel as dark and void of happiness. I was able to feel some positivity but mostly I just felt “not bad”. I didn’t want to end my life anymore but to be honest I had no strong feelings about living. I was fine with living but I would have been fine with not living too. I didn’t love life or even like it really, it was just a thing that I had to go through. Every single day. Here I was still just going through the motions. As I told one friend, I didn’t really feel good or happy, I sort of topped off at “okayish”. I figured that the battle I had been through had just taken so much out of me that it had changed me forever and this was me now. And this went on for so damn long. In hindsight I didn’t feel worried about it because compared to how I had been feeling for so fucking long this was a picnic.
Then I woke up one day not too long ago and realized that over the last few weeks I had started feeling more like the old me. The me before I struggled so mightily. Before this illness took my spark. It has been nothing close to the “every day is the best day ever” Beth that I used to be, but I have noticed myself finding more joy, more appreciation, more happiness in the world around me. I find myself being less consumed by the negativity in the world and being able to draw more on the positivity of those around me. I have had glimpses of these feelings over the last year and a half but they are becoming more consistent now. They are starting to feel more normal. They are becoming life.
And it is such a fucking relief.
I don’t think I will ever be the same person I used to be. I know that what I have been through has changed me. The therapy, the meds, the past traumas that I have confronted, the relationships I have ended, the steps I have taken to be healthier; all of these things have changed me. I will never be that “silver lining”/”find the best in every situation”/”every day is sunshine and rainbows” person again. But that is okay.
This different Beth is strong. She is a survivor. She knows the world can be a dark and utterly shitty place. But she knows she can make it. She knows that there is light if you can get through the darkness.
I know I will always struggle with ups and downs and darkness, I am not naive enough to think it is all in the rearview mirror. But I have hope that it will never be as dark as it was. And that I will remember that even if it feels like forever I will eventually be in the light again and find some joy. That I will never again lose all of my hope.
If you have hit rock bottom and are making your way out of the fog I hope this helps. Remember that it takes time. Sometimes a little and sometimes so fucking much. But little by little you will make your way back to a new normal. It may not be what it used to be but it will be good. And one day you will wake up and realize that things are finally turning around. And you will be happy that you decided to stick around. I am (FINALLY) getting there and you will too.
Thank you Gary Gulman for helping me when I needed it a year ago. And thank you for helping me last week to realize that things ARE getting better. Thank you for giving me that connection. Thank you for being you. You are a fucking treasure.
Also thank you for coming out after the show to meet your fans and letting me personally thank you for kind of saving my life. And thanks for the hug. Hugs are my favorite.
To everyone out there reading this, if you need help reach out. Make a connection. Remember that it gets better. We need you here.
Love to you all. The unconditional kind.