What Depression Taught Me Last Year

Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona has two hiking trails: Cholla and Echo Canyon.

Cholla’s subtle ascent makes it a great option for less experienced hikers or hungover mornings. Conversely, Echo includes steep inclines and provides an undeniably better ass workout. However, the advanced workout is not the only reason why I often chose Echo during my time in the desert.

Though there is a point along the Echo hike that requires climbing a steep slab of rock, similar to Spiderman scaling skyscrapers in Lululemon sweats, there is also a long aluminum railing that can be used to pull you up.

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Meanwhile on Cholla, a patch of the trail exists near the top where there is nothing on either side of you to offer support. It feels as if you’re teetering on a mound of rocks at 2,700 feet above sea level where one false slip of your SmartWater might send you over the edge.

On my hands and knees I typically begin to whimper, slightly panic and consider scooting on my butt back down to the summit below.

Do I even care to make it to the top?

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What Would I Do If I Was Fully Powerful?

On August 22, 2015 as I was looking for a place to live in LA, questioning my career and feeling lost, my friend sent me the following list of questions in an email.

Four months later, in December of 2015, I finally responded.

Hi Lauren,

I’m still struggling to answer these questions. I don’t know if maybe I need to just “live the questions” like that Rainer Maria Rilke quote you gave me on a card one time, but here it goes:

What am I fearful of?

Not having the means to do what I want/need

What am I really fearful of?

Not having the resources – time and money and inspiration – to do what makes me feel fulfilled

Who would I need to be/what would I need to do to be truly fulfilled if nothing else around me changed?

Write and create art

What am I seeking?

Comfort and well-being

What would I do if I was fully powerful (no fear)?

Confront issues, be calm

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Feeling Powerless

Without consciously knowing it, 2016 was spent selfishly living these questions in an attempt to provide better answers.

  • I lived them straight into those fears as I quit my job and depleted my resources.
  • I lived them through a series of trials and errors, from walking dogs to rejections by part-time entry-level jobs. European Wax Center didn’t even want me at the front desk. “But I’ve been getting Brazilians for 10 years…”
  • I lived them all the way to that point in the path that scares the shit out of me as I looked in all directions for aid, feeling as if I was one slip away from completely falling off.

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But like the Cholla hiking trail, the descent into depression was so gradual that I didn’t realize I had reached that dreaded spot until reading through my leopard print journal from the year:

August 31, 2016.

Tomorrow is September 1st.

August was one of the longest months of my life. Each day I needed to make $100, and each day I fell short.

Depression sunk in. Loneliness took hold.

On nearly every day I have wished for a different life, yearning for stability and comfort, grasping for something familiar and friendly…

The entries continue on this slippery slope, describing each step forward that was quickly met with two steps back as I slid down loose gravel. Reaching the top felt like an endless endeavor, and in the absence of stability, I desperately wished for a quick escape.

I wanted to send out an SOS, like frantically waving my neon sports bra in the air. I needed a helicopter to lift me off. Or a way to magically teleport to the top of the mountain. Or a muscley man to throw me over his shoulder. Maybe if I just sprained my ankle… but what about my shitty insurance?

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The Only Way Through the Rough Patches

“Remember when I was going through that really rough time?” my friend, Angela, asked after patiently listening to the depressing details my latest job rejections, stack of bills and dog walking horror stories. “And you made me that Vision Board and sent me all those inspirational quotes?”

“Ohhh yeah. I feel so dumb now, Ang,” I admitted. “How could I think a fucking Vision Board could solve all of your problems?”

“It didn’t need to though. You know what I learned is the only way out of these situations?” Angela asked.

“What?”

“You crawl.”

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What Depression Taught Me In 2016

The paths we take towards emotional distress are varied. Some of us, like me, delusionally decide to go hiking by ourselves without the necessary resources, like proper hiking shoes and/or medical insurance. Others aren’t given a choice and unfairly experience unforeseen obstacles, like job loss, illness or a broken heart.

However, the way that we move past them is the same. And it’s not a sprint. Or a miracle.

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On New Year’s Eve Day I hosted my own personal bathroom dance party where I drank 7-Eleven champagne, curled my hair and danced to long forgotten hip hop in preparation for the evening. The year was ending with a new job I love, an awesome roommate and just enough disposable income to Uber to Hollywood.

I was happy. And I was even happy on the first day of 2017 when I discovered that I had accidentally lost my money and apartment keys on the dance floor. Because what I realized while living Lauren’s questions this year is that my answers to them were right all along.

What would I do if I was fully powerful (no fear)? 
Confront issues, be calm

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My sideview mirror is still taped to my car with a hub cap sitting in my backseat that needs to be put back on. I’m still slowly repaying friends and family who were so graciously there to hold my hand over the slippery gravel. My barren living room still lacks half the furniture on my wish list. And there’s an extra 10 pounds of depression weight to be shed.

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However, I’m chipping away at them in the same way that I fought my initial anxiety towards replacing my credit cards and keys last week:  By confronting them. And more calmly.

Somehow I feel a little more powerful despite my most humbling year to date. Because if 2016 taught me anything, it’s how to crawl.


Thank you to my friends and family! I would be lost without you.

 

2 Replies to "What Depression Taught Me Last Year"

  • comment-avatar
    Aneeqa January 22, 2017 (1:54 pm)

    Great writing! And even greater message! Definitely bookmarking this one. Happy 2017!

    • comment-avatar
      Annie January 24, 2017 (8:18 pm)

      Thank you Aneeqa! Hope 2017 to you too! xo

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