After battling horrible clinical depression for almost a year, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve cried. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts for about a month. My new medication regimen- Brintellex, Seroquel, Lamictal, & Kolonopin has helped but there were/ are so many other things that contributed to restoring me to sanity.
Just to recap: My depression got really bad this year after a trauma and I was in and out of the hospital in Brooklyn and Kingston, NY with suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression etc. No one could get my meds right. I was doing everything I knew to do to get out of it but it wasn’t happening. I had to sell my dog walking business because I couldn’t run it anymore. After several years of talking about it, my husband and I decided (backs against the wall) to move full time to upstate New York.
After 15 years of calling Brooklyn home I couldn’t handle it anymore, though it felt like I couldn’t handle life anywhere. For four months I went down to Florida to stay with my family. I was in and out of the hospital- meds, ECT, etc to no avail. When I got out of the hospital the last time it was so hard to stay in the day. I constantly thought about the past, what I’d lost or given up- my business and my home in NYC. There was also fear of the future- when would my memory come back after the ECT, when would the depression end, how/ when would I work again, how would I make a living in Catskill, NY?
The ECT and depression shattered my confidence. I was afraid to drive, sometimes afraid to leave the house. I had to force myself to get out of bed and shower. Every day I prayed, sometimes yelling at God to help me, and not understanding why he wouldn’t. But I was lucky. I was in the hospital with a lot of homeless people who had the same struggles with mental illness and alcoholism that I’ve had over the years. The only difference between me and them is that I have a supportive family and friends. I tried to be grateful for having a roof over my head, heat, and food.
Walking the dogs was the one thing that I could stay present doing. I forced myself to run with Izzy, my parent high-energy dog. I was in therapy twice a week, which was good. I finally found a meds doctor that could handle me. He said I was hard to treat because most doctors saw how upset I was and just kept throwing meds at me with all their side effects, instead of keeping me on only a few things and giving the meds time to work. I just thought if I found the right doctor and meds I’d be ok, but it was more than that. I was also in an outpatient program that was kind of bullshit, so I decided to go to noon AA meetings and walk dogs at a local shelter instead. It helped to work with the dogs and remember my trainings skills, especially helping a shy one who needed extra help.
I tried to look at things with a positive attitude even though I didn’t feel it. My dad was having heart issues and I got to spend more time with him and my mom than I had before I moved out years before. The people in AA in Florida saved me- I got sober there 19 years earlier and I still knew and kept in touch with the women who sobered me up. They were there for me again calling and praying for me, meeting up with me at meetings and dragging me to church. One woman started to call me every morning to pray with me. I found a few friends who had been through ECT and talked to them a lot for reassurance that I would get better.
Eventually, even though I wasn’t 100% better it seemed like things were starting to lift a bit so after Thanksgiving my mom and I drove back up to Catskill, NY to the small cottage we rent where my husband Dennis had moved our stuff into. Half of our stuff was in a storage unit as well. Dennis was still in Brooklyn staying at a friend’s apartment and finishing up his job. He magically got a new job in Albany in his field and was working both jobs for a few weeks until he could come upstate full time. He had only gotten his license the summer before, so he also had to buy his first car. I don’t know how he had the strength to get through it all on his own, though he did have help and support from a few friends.
After a two-day drive my mom and I arrived at the cottage. Dennis hadn’t had time to unpack much since he’d only been up a few days. We opened the door and saw all the boxes and all our stuff strewn about and I burst into tears. The feeling of loss of my old life was excruciating. I didn’t want to leave Brooklyn and give up my business but it was killing me and I was letting it. I worked 24×7 just to afford it and after years of that and dealing with the noise, crowds, gentrification, etc. it became impossible to sustain. My mom and I spent the next few days unpacking, organizing, and getting rid of stuff. I cried a lot. I still felt suicidal at times. I still wondered if I’d ever be “normal” again. I was afraid I wouldn’t and this might be the best it would get for me, crying and struggling everyday.
Dennis arrived that weekend to start our life full time upstate. It was so good to see him after four months of being apart. I still don’t know how I got so lucky to have such a wonderful, strong, and supportive husband. After a few more days, he started his new job and my mom left to go back to Florida. I felt alone and afraid. I spent time switching my pet Susie’s Pet Care web profile to upstate boarding and training. I started to get calls for boarding with the holidays coming up.
It is good to get work, but I can’t charge what I did in Brooklyn up here, so I’m not making as much which worries me even though it’s not as expensive up here. I have a therapist and psychiatrist up here from the time I spent in the hospital in Kingston over the summer, so I saw them. I started going to a lot of meetings up here and getting more connected. People started to invite me places and offer support. Sometimes, I’d go 3-4 days without crying. The suicidal thoughts started to subside somewhat. I got a small Christmas tree and decorated the front of the cottage with lights and wreaths.
It has been an agonizingly slow process but I’m starting to be able to stay in the day more. I have time, which is something I never had in Brooklyn. I took a sewing lesson and am learning to sew dog coats, collars, bandanas, and bed covers. I’m getting better at it so I decided to open an Etsy store appropriately called Dogerties. Besides boarding and training dogs I figure maybe I can make a little money sewing dog stuff too. I’d like to find a groomer I can apprentice with to learn grooming as well. Hell, maybe someday I’ll open a dog shop where there’s also grooming and training. I’ll do that when things slow down with the boarding. I’ve had 4 dogs here a lot due to the holidays, which keeps me pretty busy.
We’re also looking for a house up here. Our landlords want to turn our place into an Airbnb rental sometime this year. I spend a lot of time online looking at houses and doing what I call “stalking houses” where I drive by to check it out and sometimes get out and sneak around checking it out. It’s pretty amazing what you can afford up here for less than what Brooklyn costs. We want a place with a bit more space and a bit of land for the dogs to run on. I don’t want to open a kennel but I do want to keep boarding a few dogs at home. We’re also looking for a place that might have an extra apartment or building to do an Airbnb rental to make some extra money.
I’m grateful Dennis has a full-time job and I made a little money selling the business. It takes some of the pressure of earning money off. In NYC there was always a ton of pressure to run on the treadmill of constantly working and going out. I’m starting to have some acceptance around what happened and where we’re at now. Sometimes it feels like I just woke up and my old life was gone and I started this new life and was not sure I liked it. I miss my friends and sometimes I miss the city, but I think a lot of what I miss is the ego-trip I had about living in NYC and making a lot of money and going out a lot to museums, shows etc. though most of the time I just worked.
Upstate so far, and I hope it stays this way, there’s been time to enjoy the quiet life, though there is a lot going on here in the arts and music between Woodstock, Saugerties, Catskill, Kingston, and Hudson. Shit Dan Deacon and Cibo Motto played BSP in Kingston last year, I actually played their O-positive festival a few years ago. I have time to take hikes with the dogs, sew, write, do volunteer work with Saugerties Animal Shelter & Ulster County SPCA and hopefully start playing music again. People have had me over to their houses to hang out—which never happened much in the city. There’s a feeling of community I’m starting to get here that I don’t think I had in Brooklyn. Friendships were more frenzied in the city and often it was hard to make plans and actually see friends because of the unending busyness and exhaustion. I get to actually spend time with my husband instead of feeling like we’re roommates crossing paths between work and other commitments.
I don’t want to jinx it, but I feel like I lost everything, but somehow got myself and what was really important in life back. Sometimes I’m scared I’ll get sick again or that I’m somehow missing out by not being in the city. But for today, it’s noon and I have four dogs asleep on the couch as I write this in my pajamas drinking coffee. Tonight is New Years Eve and I’ll be grabbing dinner with some friends and speaking at a meeting. It’ll be low-key and I’m cool with that. Here’s to 2016—
I made it through 2015 by the skin of my teeth, but I made it, and feel like I can finally exhale.