A New Woman Walks The Earth
I wake up. The room is cold and my sheets are white. I think he is beside me; he is beside me, asleep. It’s Winter.
I’ve just had a dream, a gorgeous and terrifying dream. In this dream, I’m alone, walking through a crystal sea; shards of pure white quartz surround me like an ocean. The sky is dark. There is no one else in the world.
I roll out of bed and head to the kitchen to make tea. Even though I am small, so so small, living here in this apartment with the man I love and our friend, our roomie, something loud inside me knows what this dream means.
I have no idea what’s to come, the demons I will need to face. Shit is yet to hit the fan. I don’t think I will ever need to be alone again, though in truth I feel more alone living here than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
But this dream that has come to me makes me some sort of promise, equally dangerous and enchanting. The dream whispers, there is a sea of hope and light, Alyssa. It’s all yours. You just need to walk it.
But there is also something crazy scary in this promise: I’m alone. I don’t think I can find all this goodness on my own, with all this emptiness in me, that I can never seem to escape.
I want to disappear. I want to disappear from all this pain and all this sadness, but I have no idea how, and it’s killing me, tearing me apart menacingly, piece by piece.
My depression has followed me around like a slinking tiger for over half my life.
Enormous and frightening, sexily alluring, it has pulled me in; a soft body to curl into that has whispered, “you’re safe here, you’re safe from all of them”; safe from a world that never made any sense. A world that felt out of my control and scarily apart from me. A world wholly outside, that I could never seem to touch or own, or figure out how to be part of.
It’s origins unknown; was I depressed before my dad died? I remember being withdrawn as a kid. But I think the grief that hit my family after he passed, that we were never allowed to feel or communicate, locked something tremendous up inside of me. But it also undid me whole, and I wouldn’t understand this until a decade later. There is no way to know that you are in pieces, that your life is in pieces, at age twelve.
I created different expressions for my torn up-ness. It didn’t feel so serious. At thirteen my Mom took me to a nutritionist to lose weight and I found a way to abuse food and my body: a promise I made to myself to be a better, more lovable person. I abused drugs: a promise to be more acceptable to others, so I could find a way to accept myself.
When I was kicked out at fifteen, my depression was there. She was always there. She was the only one who knew. She was the only one in the world who could hold all the pain and sadness and deep, deep aloneness that I felt and didn’t know how to feel. Like a true true friend who holds you still in the darkest night, like you’re not even there, so you don’t have to be there, when everything is so impossible, so impossibly blue, you might lose yourself forever if you just let go.
He is gone and my undoneness is a sweater unravelling between my fingertips. Our room, which I have to leave, now that he’s left me, is blank and empty. I’ve torn everything up, everything beautiful that I’ve ever made him.
He says that my pain is too much for him. I believe him with all my heart. There is something inherently wrong with me, it’s always been wrong with me, and I have no idea how to fix it.
I sit on the sofa. An intake form for a psychiatrist sits on the wooden coffee table we made together. Everything's a mess. Will I need medication? Does he not want to be with someone who needs to see a psychiatrist? Is this my fault? How am I ever going to get better? Does better even exist?
But I need help, that much is clear. It is dark, dark, dark where I sit and I cannot get up. I don’t want to get up, and that is truly, deeply terrifying.
But then I find her. I don’t know how I find her, but I do, she is on my computer screen. She is a doctor from New York. She is a she. A psychiatrist, medical school graduate and everything. She is saying all these things about depression, anxiety, mood disorders, that I have never heard before.
She is almost making my depression sound like it’s a… a good thing?!
Her name is Kelly Brogan. She is author of A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives.
She says that depression is an indication that there is something off balance; it’s a sign, it’s a calling.
She speaks to me.
She says that symptoms can be healed through diet and nutrition, proper supplementation. She encourages feeling. She blatantly and peacefully fights the pharmaceutical approach to treating depression with medication and shows slews of studies that prove medication is not the answer, it’s never been the answer. The solution is something the individual holds.
She believes in women. She believes in woman’s extraordinary capacity to heal and transform. She is pro women, pro emotion, and completely anti establishment.
I don’t know what to do, but I begin to listen to her, because something inside me needs to believe her-- and kind of, already, does.
A world is proven to be false and I’m blast into reality, forced to sink or swim, on my own.
I start seeing my psychiatrist. She is helpful. She shows me different things about myself and about my family. But I am altogether broken up and years of torment snakes out of me. No one can make it better. Old childhood wounds that need to be felt. I practice yoga like a religion and mourn and become again and again and again.
I obsess about what’s wrong with me, how I ruined the relationship and how there is nothing I can do to fix it. How if I could only make it better, everything would be ok. I desperately need everything to be ok again.
At the yoga studio I begin to meet women. These women don’t know that there is something wrong with me. It’s almost like they like me. They are certainly too cool to be friends with me, so I hide. I continue smoking cigarettes and eating one brownie a day, nothing else. My depression and heartbreak envelop me. I blame myself.
But something keeps calling me. An alternative. She comes to me in the form of these other women, and something in myself recognizes and knows the truth, that the truth is in being with these women.
Like Kelly Brogan, and like my inspiring yoga teacher who speaks directly to my heart when she announces in class:
“There is nothing that needs to be fixed. Emotions are meant to be felt and loved and accepted and released. There is nothing to be fixed.”
It occurs to me for the first time in my life that I do not need to be fixed. Maybe I never needed to be fixed, by my Mom, doctors, drugs, friends, partners.
Something is blossoming in me and in my surroundings as I allow myself to feel. I begin to accept myself. I even begin to feel love for myself. It’s all encompassing in its glimpses. It is still challenging to face life as me, on my own. I still do not know how to get out of bed on most days, and I hide in a gaunt figure, and do not realize how hurt I feel until I am still. But I am becoming.
I become sober. I stop drinking and smoking. I travel. I make a home for myself. I stop talking to my Mother, a symbolic cord cutting. I keep around people who love and accept me for who I am, who would never want me to be any different. I am humbled and unexpectedly grateful that this kind of relationship between two people even exists.
Good things begin to drop out of the sky like medicine. Pain, pain, pain, so much pain, but all of that is medicine too. I find all the things that I need, and things find me in unexpected ways. I change my diet to follow Kelly Brogan’s guidelines, eliminating sugar, gluten, and dairy. I feel different. I begin to express myself again, my true self, with acting, art, and writing. I feel like me. I’ve never felt like me so fully and proudly.
I didn’t know living could be like this. For the first time in my life I am glad to be alive.
We sit in a circle. The retreat is over. Twenty beautiful women and our two Goddess instructors. We take turns speaking our truth. We’ve just spent the weekend looking at ourselves, discovering who we are, and where we are headed in our lives.
It’s my turn to share. I am terrified. I don’t know why. I should be better now. I got everything out that I needed to over the weekend. Still my body shakes. I start crying, knowing I have nothing good to say to all of these amazing women who are looking at me, my teachers.
The instructor stops the circle and says, “Alyssa, come into the centre of the circle.”
I know what is coming. It takes every ounce of me to move into the centre. I feel every step. All the women in the room follow. I don’t deserve this attention. I don’t deserve this love. Please don’t make me do this.
I do reluctantly and I cry and my body shakes and trembles involuntary, years of pent up fear and terror pouring out of me, being seen by all. It is painful and I don’t know what to do to be inside my body, to stay here.
“Keep your eyes open. Look around you.” Says the instructor, forcefully.
I open my eyes.
Twenty two loving women surround me, their hands on me, and look at me with unconditional love.
I am in my most vulnerable state and no one is pulling away from me, no one is blaming me. No one is asking me to be anything else, other than who and what I am in the moment.
It changes my insides. I am rearranged with flowers and wholeness and goodness.
I am me again.
People will tell you things about yourself that are wholly untrue and wholly believable and it is your job, your assignment, to say, fuck you.
No one knows shit about your truth. No one can tell you shit about yourself. You are a ray of light, a peach of goodness from the branch of life. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
And those Motherfuckers who think they know, who tell you that they know, have the answer for you, wrote the bible, story, did the illustration, built the conservation site for you, please say to them (if it floats your boat):
I don’t need you.
I see you. I think you are beautiful.
But fuck you.
It was a pleasure knowing you.
Peace, you beautiful creatures.