Know why most therapy sessions are 50 minutes long? Because that way there’s a 10 minute window for one patient to leave before the other patient comes.
Or at least that’s what my therapist told me when I used to be that patient — back when I rode in circles on my purple bicycle around the kibbutz — little blonde hamster in a spinning wheel that never ended until I made it stop myself.L
Actually I didn’t stop. I crashed.
I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating. I was spinning round and round.
And while the days bled into days, and my nights were spent with my eyes stretched wide open and staring at the ceiling, and I measured out the day in cups of coffee and menthol cigarettes, I asked myself:
“Where did I go?”
I had no idea – and that first question led me to look for answers and when I couldn’t find them by myself, I got help.
It’s really hard to admit that.
And it’s funny – not funny “ha ha” but funny sad – I’ve talked about having an abortion. I’ve talked about escaping an abusive ex boyfriend in college. I’ve talked about sex and drugs and the detritus of divorce, I’ve talk about that last breath my mom took when she died in my arms, but I still haven’t talked about my mind.
My mind creates stories. It sees connections between people. It lets me dream in color and in two languages. My mind lets me take my kids on adventures, and lets me seek new challenges and make new friends.
But my mind has also made me ride in circles on my bicycle, and made me forget that I need to eat and sleep, and then made it so hard for me to even get out of bed to wash my face and look at myself in the mirror.
Not that I recognised the woman with the blank and hollowed eyes staring back.
The stigma is just so freaking big – and it scares me to share this and show you my scars in the white light of the computer screen.
Sure, we joke about it – especially in the Jewish community where I come from, there are jokes about how even the therapists have therapists, but humour is the great defense mechanism, a way of shielding us from the very real pain, and the fear of admitting that we’re in pain.
But after watching too many people I love struggle, after reading too many stories about broken lives, after wondering how different it would be if we talked it more, I’ve decided: I’m fucking done pretending.
So… hi, i’m Sarah.
My favorite color is purple, I dream in two languages, I like whales and the ocean, and fog. I have two kids, and too many cats, and we live near rolling fields in the middle of Israel.
And my mind changed after my daughter was born.
It was sudden, and scary. She was all I ever wanted – but when was born (looking more like Lord Voldemort than I wanted to admit) something unfastened in me. Hormones? Chemicals? Exhaustion? But I was afraid — so, so, afraid. And sad. So, so sad.
I remember sobbing in the paediatricians office during her 2 week checkup: “I don’t want to live anymore.”
And you know what? Tom Cruise can suck it hard with his vitamins. Depression is real.
But it doesn’t have to be forever — and underneath the exhaustion and the anxiety and the sadness and that bleak forbidding sense that it will never get better, guess what? You’re still in there, and it’s going to be ok.
The brain is an organ just like any other, and sometimes it sends out signals it shouldn’t.
Just like sometimes your lungs don’t work as well as they should, or your pancreas isn’t doing it’s thing, or your kidneys need a little help, sometimes your mind does, too.
It isn’t malicious — your brain isn’t “bad” when you’re depressed. It is just that the computation is off. The synapses are off. The chemicals are off.
So, you’re off. But you’re still there — it’s still you.
This is true for all manner of mental illnesses that run the gamut.
For me, my brain made my heart race and my mind think that things would never get better – that my daughter would just stop breathing, and I would sit over her night after night and watch her chest rise and fall like the tides.
Time eked out in each breath she took — in moments I could have enjoyed but instead spent anticipating the worst.
And I got worse.
Until I started talking about it and got better.
And I’m ok now.
There are great days, and there sucky days, and then there are just… days – long or short depending on where the sun is. But each day passes — rise and fall. And nothing is forever.
It took a year of talking – a year of sadness and disruption, of upheaval and loss — moving to another country, divorce, missing family, sleepless nights, homelessness for a while… but I kept talking. Slipping out ten minutes before the hour so the next person who needed to talk wouldn’t see me — getting better, but still in secret.
I didn’t want anyone to know I was getting help.
And again: I’m ok, but the mind is dynamic. And so is life. And I know anything can tip the balance. The good news is, I know it gets better, and if it happens again, I know the twists in the road, and I know to keep on walking.
So that’s why I’m sharing this now — I think if we talk about this more with one another, we might just get through it more easily with less shame and less fear — and we won’t have to walk alone.
So: If you’re on that road and feel alone, tell someone — and if you can’t tell someone that you know in real life, tell me. I’ve been there, too.
Thanks Kovi Rose and Menachem Landau for your help with the title.