It’s my 29th birthday today. It’s my birthday right now on the East Coast. Wow. I am really happy to be here.
A few months ago, I didn’t plan on seeing this day. I was in the deepest, darkest place in my head and my heart and I couldn’t escape. It felt like my personality was an ice cube melting in a warm can of soda. I’ve always had a gravity to me, and the knowledge that my happiness is different (less) than other people’s happiness, but this was worse than anything I’d experienced thus far. I was drowning. There was an anchor of sadness attached to me, dragging me under water no matter how hard I tried to swim.
I pushed everyone away and locked myself in my apartment and inside my head. I stopped returning texts, phone calls,emails and I swore up and down that I was fine, but I could barely get out of bed. I put on a brave face and went to work; work has been one of the only things in life I’ve been able to count on and something that makes up part of my identity.On the weekends I had a hard time getting out of bed and showering. If I accomplished the shower, I probably didn’t have any energy left over to do anything else.
“I’m so tired. I just want to sleep”
I just wanted to close my eyes and escape. I hid the depth of my sadness from everyone, ashamed that I couldn’t pull myself together and too proud to ask for help. I’ve overcome so many things in my life. I couldn’t fathom that this was an exception to the rule, but things got out of hand in January. The sadness was unmanageable. The anchors were trying to take me away. One night, I found myself writing goodbye letters to my friends and family and thinking about my exit plan. I was planning the goodbye posts on my digital properties and setting them up to go live after I would already be gone. Dead. That night changed my life. I made an appointment with my doctor the next day. I got about five words in before I started crying. He put his arm around me.
“Everything is going to be okay,” he said.
He asked me how long I’d been feeling this way. Then he asked why I waited so long to get help. If I had cancer, I wouldn’t be ashamed to get chemotherapy. In fact, I’d probably be racing other patients down the hospital hallways to try to get there first. I don’t know why I let myself deal with depression for so long. There is nothing shameful about my faulty neurobiology. Soon after seeing my doctor, I started reaching out to friends and I had a very honest conversation with my father. Telling my story helped so much. Saying everything aloud made it very real, very scary, very sad. Writing it down and sharing it is beyond terrifying.
I feel so much better now and I am so incredibly happy that the anchors didn’t drag me under. I am so happy to still be alive. Because nautical terminology kept creeping into my vernacular throughout my struggle, I decided to get an anchor tattoed on me. I chose the design one night with my best friend, L. She has a great eye for things and the Sailor Jerry anchor struck a cord with me. Once I chose the design, getting the tattoo became a persistent, nagging thought in my mind. One Saturday morning, I tweeted about wanting to get a tattoo. A few minutes later, my friend M dm’d me a photo of a girl.
Art gallery opening? I asked.
I think I want to get that tattoo today.
Look at my last tweet.
We had never. Ever. Ever in the history of our friendship ever discussed tattoos, especially not about her wanting one. The Universe was saying “Go. Now.” I’m not usually a believer in cosmic connections. in fact, I have an aversion to putting labels of significance on things-too many previous false positive results, but I’ll make an exception for this instance. It was walk-in day at Chameleon tattoo shop in Harvard Square. I emailed the design to myself, hopped in my car, raced over to Lower Allston, parked my car and as soon as I got out of the car, M sent me a message.
I have an appointment soon.
I walked as fast to get to her, afraid that I would miss her appointment. When I got to the tattoo shop, she looked calm and poised, which is kind of her thing-she has a gracefulness and beauty about her that I aspire to. It was her first tattoo, and it felt really special to share that moment with her. We already have a special closeness, a secret handshake; we’ve both experienced an emotional pain that few people understand. I stood in the doorway and watched her get tattooed. A memory was made-a happy one, a moment to celebrate survival. No, a moment to celebrate living.
I went after M and got the anchor on my left side-so it would stay close to my heart. My tattoo artist, John, was wonderful-I was in a lot of pain and he kept me laughing. It healed comfortably and quickly, but it felt weird having it on only . I immediately wanted to balance out the left side with a complementary anchor on the right side-I hate asymmetrical things. Tattoo fever was surely in the air. My friend, G, mentioned wanting a tattoo, but wasn’t sure what. Throughout the week, we talked about things that have shaped who we are today.
If you think about something every day, why not have a visual representation of it?
I’m a big believer in getting tattoes with meaning behind them. You might be the only person who knows what your tattoo means. That’s okay. G started working on a design. We set a time to meet on Saturday and when the time came, I picked him up and we made our way to Harvard Square. We put our names down on the waiting list. They called us a couple of hours later for our appointments. When it was my turn, he sat next to the table and kept me company. The second anchor hurt more than the first and I tried to focus on anything but the pain. The room was silent except for Florence And The Machine playing on John’s iPod. Out of all the things I’ve been through, physical pain, while uncomfortable, is the most tolerable. Out of nowhere, John broke the silence.
You have a very intense silence about you.
If he only knew.
G rubbed my leg when he could tell I was really hurting-he understood what I was feeling and I didn’t have to say a word. It wasn’t surprising-despite the fact that we’re practically strangers (if you judged our friendship by its duration), but we finish each other’s sentences, run into each other randomly on the street, and frequently message each other at the same exact time. In those moments where I feel strangely connected to people and silently understood, I’m so incredibly grateful to still be here.
I know my struggle isn’t over-I’m not foolish, but now I know how to ask for help and I’m surrounded by the most beautiful, caring, understanding, and supportive people. I have more than I could have ever dreamed of. I feel so blessed to have more than I need and to have friends who are my compasses, my North Stars, my lighthouses, and my life preservers. I don’t feel like I’m lost at sea anymore. I feel like I’m the captain of my own ship. No matter how hard the anchors pull at me, I will not sink.
Happy birthday to me.