I recently watched something that (forgive the schmaltz; there’s just no way around it) was life-changing. I shit you not–the sudden shift of inner balance that I felt in my gut had the same emotional substance of when learned of my pregnancies, or when I heard that my great-grandmother had passed away, or when I heard, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Moments like that–whether joyful or mournful–are pendulum pushers; all you know is that everything that follows After will make your life swing so differently that getting back to Before is impossible.
Fellow Aiming Low writer Elan Morgan, better known as Schmutzie of Schmutzie.com, shared her talk titled Self-Doubt and the Power of Personal Narrative. She’d originally presented it at the TEDxRegina conference in May, and she posted the video and her slideshow on her blog a several days ago.
It was like gravity displaced itself, and I was falling up. Gears shifted, and I swear that I could audibly hear shit clicking into place.
I watched it once. I watched it again. I watched a third time.
And then, I cried.
I’m not really an outward crier. I might get a little sobby when sadness is appropriate, but the waterworks shut themselves off a minute or two and any other tears left get shed internally.
When I say that I cried, what I mean is that I puddled into the floor and sobbed until my head hurt and my throat was raw.
But when I was done, my eyes were open and for the first time, I was able to really look at what I’d kept them closed against.
Schmutzie’s presentation outlined ten points about self-doubt, and she used herself and her own experiences as the supporting examples for those points. I’ve thought them over and through to the point that now my experiences and feelings about those ten points are clawing to get out. Introspection works like that for me; sometimes I need to get it out, step back, and see it from a distance to get more insight from what the bigger picture shows. Over the next several days, I’m going to work my way through Schmutzie’s 10 points about self-doubt.
Because I’m a gangsta, I’m starting with number 10. It’s the one that sort-of lays the groundwork for other nine. It’s the one that pushed the pendulum.
— #10: Share something with people that you’ve been afraid to say out loud. —
I think I might have a certain degree of depression. (You have no idea how long it’s taken me to type those ten little words.)
I don’t sit around weeping into my Cheerios, but there is a weight there. It’s a sort of heaviness that I feel tugging down my eyelids and kinking my shoulders. I’ve felt that for a long while, and I never really stopped to consider whether it was depression or not. Maybe the thought fluttered through from time to time, but it was never more than a fleeting consideration when I stacked up all the wrongness to figure out what’s wrong with me.
It’s like with physical aches. Two days of gastric grossness could either be just the flu (perfectly normal), or OMIGAWD, I have Ebola and I’m totally dying.
Feeling bluesy? It could either be just the (perfectly normal) stress of dealing with [insert temporary Situation X here], or WTF, Situation X was resolved weeks (or months) ago and I still feel like shit, so maybe I’m with-a-capital-D-Depressed.
Ebola and depression lived on the same planet of unlikelihood, so the idea that I might be depressed never settled in long enough to take root.
But then a couple of weeks ago, Frank and I were playing Jeopardy (as we geeks like to do) and a commercial for some random depression/anti-anxiety med came on. It was of the type where the speaker rattles off a list of symptoms: “Do you feel tired all the time, think you worry more than normal, have trouble sleeping, have feelings of guilt, blah blah blah, then you might be experiencing symptoms of depression….”
I was 100% joking when I snorted and said, “Well, hell–maybe I have depression.”
“I think maybe you do,” Frank said.
Startled by his tone of voice, I whipped my head around to look at him. By the expression on his face, I could tell that he was 100% not joking. He’s a relatively quiet man, but a smile almost always tickles his mouth and crinkles the corners of his eyes. This time, there was no humor in his furrowed eyebrows, and his stare was concerned and direct.
It might sound flaky or trite to say that his expression was piercing, but that’s exactly what it was. It stabbed through my skin, and the possibility of Depression-with-a-capital-D snaked in and curled itself around my bones.
I’ve been turning the idea around in my hands and feeling at it from every angle, and the more I work my way around it, that’s the more defined its shape is becoming. And when I look down at this pointy, angular thing I’m holding, it’s clear and shiny and bright, but it hurts my eyes and makes me squint. I’d turn away to convince myself it’s something else, but its heft and form feel too true to delude myself into thinking differently.
The word feels clunky in my mouth and is too misshapen for me to swallow completely, but I can’t deny that it is there, and I don’t know exactly what to do with it yet.
But at least I can say it even if it chokes me, and I can look at it even though I keep it at arm’s reach in my periphery.