Waking Up

by Kourtney Leibman

I've been asleep for awhile. Years, I think. 

Not literally - I've been working and going out and watching Netflix and making a life like everyone else, but I wasn't present for a lot of it.

I have Major Depressive Disorder, and although I'd sought treatment and kept regular therapy appointments and took medication, part of me was missing.

I struggled with severe lack of focus, memory problems, insomnia, hypersomnia, apathy, feelings of worthlessness and extremely low self-esteem. 

In May of this year (2018), I felt myself begin to wake up. I have enjoyed listening to music and just being present in some beautiful moments with my family without trying to force myself to care (or put on a good show of caring), or, even more challenging, trying to hide the intense emotional pain that sometimes threatened to completely suffocate me.

I've worked really hard for someone who has apparently been asleep, but it's the only analogy that really describes the feeling of one day waking up and looking forward to the day ahead of you when for years, you dreaded so many of the moments ahead of you.

The work has been grueling. It's amounted to a part-time job, in terms of time spent and gasoline burned. But instead of earning money, I spend it on copays and deductibles and medications, and earn recovery.

Writing is something that has always been healing and eye-opening for me. While I haven't read a book for fun in ages, I have gotten back to writing. It reminds me of happier days in college, when I was reading and writing and focusing on the words that so many dead people had thought and managed to get out of their heads before these instances of brilliance were sealed away forever by death. That was a time when I studied words and stories and wrote essays and research papers and short stories in return for grades and recognition. It was a time when I had no idea how far down my depression could go - I still didn't understand that I had an illness and needed more than attitude adjustments and fun nights out with friends.

In the almost decade since college, I sank deeper and deeper, but it was slow enough that alarms didn't sound until after my mom died, and the pain and grief prompted me to reach for hands to hold and shoulders on which to lean.

The daily struggle of life's countless details became harder and harder. I noticed, but thought it was just part of getting older and gaining more responsibilities.

Then I began to sleep whenever I could. I slept on lunch breaks, I slept in my car if I arrived early to an appointment, I slept until the last possible second in the mornings and rushed off to work unshowered and bleary-eyed, longing to be unconscious again, with my blankets pulled up over my head.

I think the hypersomnia was the last warning sign before things became really serious. 

But, after two rounds of intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), hundreds of therapy appointments, lots of medication changes and adjustments, and unwavering support and encouragement from family and several friends, I think I'm really, truly, finally awake. At least, I hope so. And even allowing myself to be hopeful pretty much proves that I'm awake. Finally.

I'm trying to make up for lost time and hoping that people can understand the context in which I may have disappointed or not followed through on obligations, both personal and professional, and that they can forgive me for not communicating better how deeply I was struggling.

Every single day that I wake up and easily feel gratitude for my life is a gift.

I'm awake.

...I’d forgotten how to daydream
So consumed with the wrong things,
But in the dark, I realized this life is short
And deep down, I’m still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild,
I can’t lose hope -
What’s left of my heart’s still made of gold.
And I know that I’m still fucked up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are.
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can’t go on
Hold tight, sweetheart...
— Kesha, "Rainbow"