“The greatest expression of rebellion is joy.” -Joss Whedon
Getting out of bed this morning is a struggle. Everything feels tender and sore, both physically and emotionally, and part of me tries again to convince the other part of me that it would be so much better to stay under the covers all day. I’ve become adept at wallowing for a while, then telling that stay-in-the-bed voice, “back off, we’re doing this!”
Sometimes I question my decision to stop taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
7 years ago, I was a new mom, struggling with finances, my new role, and juggling the many things that working moms balance. During my pregnancy, and under the care of my doctor, I stopped taking medication for depression and anxiety. After a tearful visit with my doctor several weeks postpartum, I walked out with a new prescription for an antidepressant and immediately had it filled at the pharmacy. I started taking it that night, but for the first time in years, I became inconsistent with my medication, and after a few months, I decided to stop taking it completely. I do occasionally miss the almost instant calming effect of the anxiety medication. I don’t miss the side-effects and the near-apathy that seemed to take over after a while on antidepressants.
But back to my present morning with my over-active inner monologue.
I get up, and functioning on autopilot, I get the coffee brewing, and get on with all the regular morning tasks.
My mind races and my thought process goes something like this: “Am I okay? Are these body aches symptoms, or am I just getting old? Geez, I’m getting close to 40. Do I need to schedule an appointment somewhere? Would it be worth the money? It’s ridiculous I have to consider money when I’m trying to make health care decisions. Maybe I should have kept that job that had insurance. No, it’s not normal to cry every day on the way to work, I’m glad I moved on. I love my job now. I still had a huge deductible anyway. Ugh. Insurance. That place was making me sick. I was miserable. And I was on medication then. Am I doing the right thing? I do have to be careful. Am I being honest enough with anyone or with myself about how I’m feeling? Have I been isolating and closing myself off? I know I need the people I’m close with to reality check me when my thinking is out of whack. Yeah, my anxiety is a little amped up today, but I still think I’m okay. Breathe. My depression isn’t back. I’m good.”
I wonder if I’m lying to myself. I hope not. I don’t want to become very sick again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate for mental health care. I believe in therapy; I believe in medicine. I’ve had lots of both. I remember with clarity when I realized that I must finally have the correct therapy and medication in the correct dose. Things felt…different. The heaviness that had been a part of the core of my existence since I was a child was gone. It was like I was seeing more of life’s picture, and no longer only a sliver tunneled out carefully to avoid the fear, darkness, and chaos. Back then, I would occasionally figuratively poke around in my head and heart to test, to see if the despair was hiding.
I think about my first therapist and how I stared at his pretty shoes the first time I told someone honestly about the thoughts in my head and the overwhelming feelings in my heart. I think about how I almost stopped talking when I saw his foot twitching, moving from side to side, faster and faster, as I finally let my guard down about my childhood and the sexual abuse that was haunting me to the point distraction and misery. I was so scared. I didn’t stop talking, though. I wanted so desperately to get well. I wish today that I could remember his face or even his name; I only remember his shoes. Although I didn’t find whole wellness while speaking to him, he started me on my path and did help me to find the part of myself brave enough to begin speaking my truths out loud.
But back to today, my morning, my joy and my rebellion.
Today, I am fat and nearly 40.
I’ve always been fat, but not always nearly 40, so it seems that another layer of rules and expectations has been externally imposed on me about what I should be doing, about where I should be in life, and even about what I should be wearing.
Nearly every morning I decide how rebellious I have the courage to be. Do I dare to dress for my own joy? Horizontal stripes? Above the knee skirt? Colorful leggings? Pouffy tulle? Sparkly eyeliner? Bright lips? Visible belly outline?
As a teenager and young adult, I often dressed to hide, to disappear – oversized clothes, dark and neutral colors. Don’t look at me; don’t touch me; don’t see me. As my mental health improved, I began occasionally incorporating pretty jewelry, flashy shoes and bags, and graphic tees. I didn’t connect my fashion choices with my emotional well-being at the time but looking back, I can see it – I can see me gradually becoming me again.
I believe that, for me, my outer expression, how I choose to embellish the body that allows my Me Energy to physically travel this Universe, is directly related to my mental and emotional well being.
I choose my pouffy tulle skirt, my graphic fandom tee shirt, and my ass-kicking boots. I put on tons of black sparkly eyeliner and silver eyeshadow.
Today, I am here, I am me, and I am joyful.
Andrea works in the field of addiction recovery. She lives in the south with her amazing daughter, patient husband, and the bossiest dachshund known to man. She writes about her experiences with anxiety, depression, trauma, and her path to recovery.