Coming Home… To Everything I left Behind

When my final plane landed in my hometown (Nashville, Tennessee), I was exhausted. From Ireland, Caroline and I had flown from Dublin back to Iceland, from there to Detroit, and from there to Nashville. It was a long tiring experience in general heightened by Caroline’s fear of flying and even further heightened by the fact that we were flying “home”. Our trip was over. I had eight U.S. Dollars in my bank account, and my backpack was considerably lighter than it was when I left yet I felt heavier somehow. When my mother ran to me in the airport parking lot, my vision felt fuzzy and my mind disoriented. Which was a big big change from the over all clarity and awareness I had felt during my trip. I was glad to sleep somewhere familiar and comfortable for the first time in a long time, but I still had the urge to refold and pack my day clothes into my backpack after I pulled my pajamas out. I almost took my hostel flip flops with me to the shower, and I warily deleted my “hostel check-out time” alarm on my phone. I didn’t know how to answer people’s questions about my trip..

I mean…

“How was it?”

Really?

I felt overwhelmed and weirdly uncomfortable in my own home and how the hell am I supposed to answer that question anyways?

“It was amazing.”

That seemed to suffice.

Every time I started to tell a story that felt intensely personal and important to me I was interrupted with comments like “But, you saw the Eiffel Tower right?”
Or even worse, I would realize that my stories were only interesting at the time, and not effectively told in person. Even worse still, was when people didn’t seem to believe them.

“Oh, Rachel, that’s crazy… So you won’t believe what Katie said to me the other day.”
I care as much about the drama between you and Katie as you do about whose motorcycle I rode on in Morocco. Part of the joy of my trip was being separate from these types of interactions. There was this sudden awkward divide between me before the trip and me after.

Everything was just as I left it, and that was the problem.

I felt as though I had changed and had years worth of eye-opening-life-changing experiences while only a measly four insignificant months had past back home. How was I supposed to just fall back into the swing of things? I felt rejuvenated and reborn. I could not just go back to my old job, and stay in the same place I felt so desperate to run from. So after a couple months of regrouping, I ran again. This time back to my home before my home in Nashville. I returned to the city where I went to college. The place where I got my first apartment, lost my virginity, and made my first real-lifelong-friends. This place was Birmingham, Alabama.

I moved in with my best friend and his boyfriend in a popular downtown area, which was convenient as I didn’t plan on repurchasing a car. I got a job at the same location I had worked when I had lived there before. It was the same location, but it was a different restaurant than the one it had been before. At least something had changed. For awhile, it was good. It was overwhelmingly comfortable to be around my friends again. It was nice to be making real money again.

But I was still living in the South. A place my eighteen year old self naively promised to leave behind for ever… almost a decade ago. I was still working really hard for little money, and too soon the dissatisfaction began to creep back in.

I could go back to school I guess but… my trip abroad had ended too soon. My feet itched, my mind wandered, and my mouth watered. I started and finished my online TEFL program and I applied for a few jobs abroad. They all required a college degree or at least teaching experience, of which I had neither. It was so frustrating. How is someone with a degree in business more qualified than I am to teach English?

I started looking into volunteer teaching jobs to gain the experience I needed to get paid to work abroad. I finally found an opportunity in India. India has always been the holy grail for me travel wise. It is the place most different from home that I know of (besides the middle east ((specifically Pakistan)) which I am not legally allowed to travel in the current political climate), and I have always been fascinated by its culture. Perfect.

The only problem was… I was still broke. And now I had bills to pay. I decided February 2017 was enough time to save the money I needed to fulfill my new dream.

February is so far away from now, I can hardly stand it.

I try to look to it as my northern star and I promise myself that time will fly by as it always does… But my efforts are not enough to stave off the oncoming depression.

Depression runs in my family. It is hard to explain with words the difference between being in a bad mood and being depressed to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I hear people at work, all the time, complain about the “overwhelming Alabama heat,” the “long, slow work days,” which then yield low tips. The “little sleep due to roommates, children etc…

” Oh, I’m so depressed, how do you stay so happy and positive all the time?”

…If only they knew.

Depression just generally makes everything feel awful. (And even these words can’t accurately describe the hopelessness of it all.) I don’t know what depression is like for everybody, but for me it is just a general dull ache that yields no possible solution to any problem.

Basically, it doesn’t matter how I spin it, rationalize it, meditate on it, when I am in the throws of depression, I am miserable and chemically cannot look forward to anything but death (aka sweet relief of this hell called life).

Luckily, it is not in my nature to be suicidal. I cannot even, in my worst moments, do that to those I love or to those who love me (Especially my mother). Also, “luckily”, I have experienced depression enough times in my semi-short life to know that it does end even though it feels like it never will.

The downside to depression, besides the feeling itself, is that I have little control over how strong it is or how long it lasts. I cannot meditate, medicate, or positive-think it away.

It is in a sense beyond me, though it is me. It may be my body’s chemicals and my brain thinking the thoughts and feeling the emotions, but I am not the one in control.

It’s like trying to fix a virus on a computer without any technological knowledge. I have physical control over the keyboard and mouse, but the virus is somewhere on the inside in a place far beyond my capability to find… let alone fix.

Another personal downside to depression, at least for me, is that it is so far opposite of my core personality. It is difficult for me to understand, and therefore, virtually impossible for my coworkers and even my close friends.

It’s like one day I wake up and my brain has been rewired.

I do not ever want to be a negative force on my peers, so I try to fake it. But, even that is hard. I cannot remember exactly how I act when I am not depressed, because I do not generally monitor my actions or mannerisms. I’m just me.

When I am depressed I quickly realize that I am not the shy antisocial person I feel that I am, because every human interaction that I have takes effort. And, the amount of human interactions I have, suddenly feels overwhelming.

When I am depressed not only does being this way feel unnatural but also overwhelming. Listening to people’s woes or trying to make them smile feels like a huge task especially considering I can’t even accomplish that for myself at the moment. I feel awkward, put on the spot, and even sometimes taken advantage of.

Why do I always have to be the cheerful one? Why should I always be the one who lets every negative thing roll off my back if no one else is even willing to put forth the smallest bit of effort to do the same?

Why do I go to work early to make sure that I have time to greet every single employee that works there? Not even just to say “Hi,” but to sincerely ask them how they are, and about they’re families and such. Most of them can’t even understand English. Why, do I put so much effort into people who show complete disinterest in me until I know their whole life story, and virtual strangers come to me with their problems?

Because I like being liked.

I like being happy. I like choosing to make the best of things. When people are down, whether I know their name or not, I take it personally. I put it on myself to do what I can to make at least one measly, work shift as upbeat as it can be. That’s what brings me day-to-day joy. It’s what makes me feel accomplished. It may seem meaningless in a practical sense, and maybe it is. But it feels important at the time…

And more than that, it feels good. Like, so good.

Many people even find it odd when they first meet or work with me. They sometimes vocally wonder what my ulterior motives are. Alas, my motive is embarrassingly transparent… I just want to live for the little things, not with silly encouraging Instagram memes but with actual action, and I do it with vigor.

Unless (or until), I am depressed.

This sudden and abrupt change in thinking and behavior can cause me to react to petty comments or actions which I am otherwise proud of being able to ignore. Exhibiting that kind of behavior then tends to yield surprise and confusion to the people around me.

“Guess you’re not really the nice girl you pretend to be,” is the general response

…which hurts my feelings.

Though I know that rationally it shouldn’t.

Am not entitled to the same negative emotions as my peers? Am I not even MORE entitled to them because I do my best to suppress them and be my best self? I admit, I don’t know if these are rational thoughts. Rationality went out the window the morning I opened my eyes to a gray world that is so different from the colorful one it was when I went to sleep.

Because I am depressed… This is depression.

It’s unexplainable, undefinable, and indescribable. It is more than these words, and it is worse than their meaning. Not because it is bigger, more explosive, and all encompassing but instead because it is the opposite. It is not a quick flashing overwhelming pain but a dull seeping underwhelming pain. Which, believe it or not, is worse. And if you have ever been depressed you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t ever been clinically depressed, you probably don’t. Which sucks. You probably think that you know what it’s like, because we all have feelings and low moments and depression can seem really similar. But they are different. Because one feels like the end of the world, but ends with typical cheesy, heartwarming events, while the other doesn’t.

The only thing I can do when my chemistry goes haywire and tears are my automatic reply to every stimulant is to find “the light”.

Depression, for me, is like blurred vision. If I can concentrate on just one thing and get it into focus the rest of reality will eventually also come into focus.

Right now, my sights are set on India and India alone. It may not be fun in the mean time, but it’s bearable, it’s hopefully strengthening, and it’s reality. It’s my reality.

I have debated over and over whether or not to post this, because I don’t want to bring anyone down. But also because there are still many misconceptions and stigmas about mental illness and I don’t want to be judged. Then I remembered that this place (my blog) is a judgement free zone. That’s why I created it initially. That’s why I still write on here. I cannot enforce people not to judge what I write, but I can choose not to care.

And so can you, Internet. I know my experiences with depression may differ from yours, but just know that you are not alone.

You are not crazy…

And it will end.

(As always)

Until next time…

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