Sunday, November 21, 2010

in tears

I have been crying.

A lot.

Like, more than I have in years.

I've been crying at unexpected moments, and expected ones. I have been leaking tears everywhere.

It feels, in a word, amazing.

About ten years ago, as a brand new mother, I found myself falling into a depressive illness so pervasive I actually felt almost nothing. The only emotion I felt consciously was a paralysing anxiety—the kind where you never, ever sleep, because if you do, you might miss the moment you are needed. I slept in half hour bursts for about 2 hours a night.

Somehow, I survived a year like this.

A year into my son's beautiful new life I was stick thin, sleepless, hopeless, and entirely derailed. I couldn't imagine things would ever get better, and I couldn't see a way through. Those days were unbearably dark.

I felt frozen. Trapped. And I almost never cried.

People I love helped me seek help. And three counsellors and two specialist doctors later, I finally agreed to go on medication.

And I thought, How has it come to this? Who am I, and who will I be after I take this small, white pill? How can life ever, ever be different from this inescapable dark?

I began my journey to wellness with those small, white pills. That crazy ragged edge of anxiety was smoothed, just a little, just enough, so that I could sleep.

I slept.

I slept.

I began to see a counsellor regularly. I began to exercise. We moved from the US to Australia to be closer to my family. I began to spend more days wanting to be around than not. I took those small, white pills and began to save my own life.

I took those pills for almost 9 years.

In that time were moments of enormous beauty. In that time were relapses of depression.

I gave birth to my girl. I walked the dog to the beach and watched him lap creek water along the way. I planted a peach tree and watched it grow tall. And once I was completely undone by seeing a friend's cat killed by a car. Life was complicated and life was hard, and glorious, all once.

And through it all, I still almost never cried.

And then, I decided I was ready to stop taking my small, white pills.

I spent a year and a half weaning myself from my already low dose…a long time…spent waiting to be ready…waiting to feel I could go out into the world on my own. Eight months ago, I took my last pill.

And a curious thing began to happen.

I started to cry.

I don't know when I first noticed it; perhaps a song here, or a kind word there, a sappy moment in a dvd, but I realised I was leaking. More and more often. Plus there were those regular hard moments, when I realised I was having a good bawl; tears actually flowing out. Pouring out, coming out in droves.

It felt extraordinary.

Six months ago, someone said things to me that I found hard to hear. I cried and cried the sorrow and anger out. I cried off and on for a week.

A month ago, I cried because a friend gave me a book, a special book she had bought for my girl. I cried at her kitchen table for her simple, kind act.

And just this week, I have cried (sobbed actually), at a concert I went to with my mum. Lost it (lost it!) watching the end of Toy Story 3 with the kids. And on Friday I listened to a lovely woman sing a jazz song she wrote for her son. Cried and cried.

Quietly and with so much gratitude.

Because I feel everything now. I feel depths of joy, depths of sadness. I worry, I laugh. I fret and feel unhinged and I marvel at birds swooping the high hollows of the sky.

I feel it all.

And the gift given to me by those small, white pills, was they helped me to this place. This place of freedom. Of life. Of being.

I cry and my heart creaks.

I cry and I'm alive.

I cry with love. I cry with gratitude.

I cry because life is extraordinary.


  1. I remember what Roseanne Barr said YEARS ago about anti-anxiety meds. She said they kept her 'even' 'balanced'. There were no HIGHS or LOWS. But then she decided, what is life without those intense emotions? So she stopped taking them.

    Steel Magnolia quote I have always loved, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion". Enjoy your crying. :)

  2. I hear you loud and clear. Am facing my own tears recently. Don't want to take the pills again either. Thanks so much for sharing such a personal thing.

  3. Helena - you are such a beautiful person.

  4. Thank you, guys, so much :) It's such a personal journey, isn't it? Like, I am so grateful to feel what I feel now. And so grateful I had help to get to this place. Both things necessary; both things my saving grace.

  5. Helena, This is a beautifully honest post.

  6. I remember this happening to me after I stopped taking meds, too, and being so extraordinarily surprised to have myself back. All of myself. It's quite something to feel everything and also see beauty and hope through tears. It's a huge gift.

  7. I can so identify. When my second child was born I started suffering from depression and anxiety. The anxiety was so bad that I started having physical symptoms and really thought something life threatening was wrong with me. After many doctors visits they diagnosed me and put me on medication. I too was on the medication for 2-3 years and it helped me through all the rough spots. I have been medication free for about 8 years and life is good. I do credit God with alot of my transformation. So glad that you feel good and are experiencing life now.

  8. this is a beautiful post
    ... I too remember times when I did not cry ..
    and then I too remember when I learned that I CAN open to tears ... my friends called it "a gift of tears" .. and so it is indeed .... a gift


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.