Tough as Nails

Photo: A Little Rusty, Maybe

I may be getting a little rusty and weathered, but I’m just happy to be aging.

I’m managing to age. I’m glad. Though I’ve never had such a deep fall into my depressive and anxious episodes as to become suicidal, I’ve had times when I feared it might be hard to keep living, instead retreating into agoraphobic hiding in perpetuity. Those times, I am so very thankful, have been rare. They’re long past, too.

A couple of months ago, though, I had the first of some subtle indications that my longtime sense of shining wellness might have some tiny cracks forming in its foundations. A creeping unease entered into my confident good cheer. When I was first diagnosed and treated back then for my anxiety and depression, I had the strange sensation of learning what it felt like for my symptoms to recede, one by one, and as they did, I realized that the way I’d felt and the whole way I’d understood myself for all of my life before then, was in large part a collection of symptoms. Underneath it all was a different, happier and healthier self I have relished getting to know as I was unmasked by this progress.

I won’t lose that self again readily. I made tracks for the doctor’s office to talk about my options, because I don’t ever want to be held prisoner in that not-me state again. We’re checking my general health, the doctor and I, and plotting a course for reinforcement of the new-and-improved me while combating those things that threaten in any small way.

My greatest reassurance comes from living with the life partner who never ceases to love and support me for better, for worse, in sickness and in health. Backing him up in the task are the many relatives and friends upon whom I also depend. But I’ve come to realize that I have another resource on which I’ll be depending in this adventure. Surprisingly, that defender is me.

See, I understand now what I didn’t and couldn’t back in the day: I could never have made it to my first depressive crash and subsequent healing if I weren’t pretty tough inside. I have always thought of myself as shy, timid and easily cowed, but the truth is that if everything that seems ordinary and normal to other people in the everyday scheme of things—meeting a new person, answering the phone, taking a class—seems infinitely harder to a person with anxiety disorder or the chemical imbalance that causes chronic depression, then I must be stronger than I thought.

I’m planning to win. I don’t expect it’ll happen overnight, let alone permanently, but with my personal army at my back and the right attitude and resources of my own, I think I have a good shot at it.

Photo: Tough as Nails

For a marshmallow, I’m actually tough as nails.

Put a Little Mustard on It

digital illustrationDespite my admiration for—nay, adoration of—color, I can be a little timid about being bold and colorful myself. Whether it stems from any inner quirk or flaw or simply is, I can’t begin to guess, but when I become aware of my fearful nature beginning to stifle other aspects of my personality I get a little irritated with my sheepish side and want to jump up on the table and do a dazzling tap-dance that ends with a spectacular back flip, splashing adrenaline into the hearts of all others present.

I don’t know how to tap dance. That kind of throws a monkey wrench into Plan A, even if I did have the remotest idea of how to do a back flip of any kind other than the I-just-got-pushed-off-a-cliff kind, and since that one ends fairly inevitably in messy death, the whole of the plan quickly loses its appeal.

But I can make artworks, and colorful ones at that, so as an acceptable Plan B I am quite often glad to whip out the spicier colors and wilder strokes of a bold design to assuage my spirits and reassure myself that I’m not entirely straightjacketed by my timidity. It’s good and wholesome to kick my own self in the pants occasionally (as well as less gymnastic, no matter how it sounds, than back-flips and tap dancing) and remember that I may be mild-mannered in general but even the quietest soul can sometimes have a momentary outburst and not only survive it but kind of relish the shock that it gives those around me who have also forgotten the possibility of my doing any such thing.