Waking the next day after a very fitful night's sleep, I felt an undercurrent of anxiety in the pit of my stomach and worse yet, zero appetite the entire day. Me? Not hungry? Something has GOT to be wrong with me. I don't miss a meal. Ever. I chided myself by saying, "What have you got to be upset or anxious about anyway? You are living the dream, girl! Get a grip!" I forced myself to keep busy, trying in vain to will away or ignore the waves of anxiety that were threatening to wash over me. Drown me. Nothing I tried worked. I tried the meditation techniques I had learned the past fall when I first got to Chiang Mai and I got so freaked out any time that I sat still that I could only find some semblance of relief from pacing, pacing, pacing. It was torture, plain and simple. And it lasted day after day after day. The sense of despair within was growing in leaps and bounds. I wasn't able to eat, I wasn't sleeping, and I was crying off and on all day long. Poor Randy was so worried, yet so very supportive and loving through it all. But, I could see that he didn't understand how I felt and he had seen me with the blues before, but never like this. I couldn't describe to him exactly how I felt. I felt so alone and helpless and like I would never be able to access my happiness again.
I had no idea how this all even began. It felt like I was suddenly ambushed. I thought I had handled the transition from working to not working like a pro. Sure, I had some nagging feelings of boredom or discontent here and there, but so does anyone, working or not. I was becoming less enchanted with Thailand, I started staying in the condo more than I went out, I started saying no to invitations and isolating myself. I just chose to push those feelings down and ignore them rather than address them head on. But what we ignore doesn't go away. It waits. And when it all piled up and finally toppled over, it hit me like a lightning bolt out of the blue.
I knew that I couldn't continue white knuckling through every day so after one particularly bad day (panic attacks that felt almost constant, waves of fear so intense that I couldn't catch my breath before the next one rocked me to the core) I decided to make an appointment with a psychologist at the local Thai hospital. Explaining to the reception staff the reason I needed the appointment was pretty comical. Ever pantomimed a panic attack? Well, I did. And it must have been an Academy Award worthy performance too, because I could see the light bulb come on over their heads as they excitedly chattered about what I was trying to convey. Felt like a nutty game of charades (pun intended).
That's where I found myself the very next day, sitting in that waiting room, feeling so miserably helpless. I had completely surrendered. I met with the very sweet and soft-spoken lady doctor who spoke great English and after talking to me about the duration and intensity of my symptoms (and the fact that I cried from the minute I got into her office until I left) she diagnosed me with depression and generalized anxiety. Just what I was hoping not to hear. She prescribed medicine (anti-anxiety and anti-depressant) and I was sent on my way with an appointment card to return for a follow up in a few weeks.
Walking home from the hospital with my little bag of pills, I felt a mixture of relief and defeat. I had never taken anti-depressants before and didn't want to start now, but I also knew that whatever I had going on was more than I could handle on my own. I knew myself well enough to know when to ask for help. For that, I am so very proud of me. So many people suffer in silence for months, years even, and there is just no need to. There are so many remedies out there to help people suffering from depression and anxiety.
In the days after seeing the psychologist, I still had some very tough sleepless nights and I felt more and more like I just needed to get out of Chiang Mai. So, I Skyped my best friend Amie, who was temporarily living and working in Texas. As soon as she saw me burst into tears after our initial hellos and without even needing a lengthy explanation she simply said, "Come here. Now." So, I did. I flew straight from Thailand to Texas. And that three weeks visiting her and working with her was the lifeline I needed to jump start my recovery. The structure of our days and the laughter and tears that we shared at night was a salve for all that ailed me. I am forever grateful to her and her family for taking in this lost lamb.
When I returned from Texas I felt like the "old me" again. I was thrilled to see Randy after almost a month and it was good to be back in my own bed again. However, after a few days back, I sensed that all was still not quite right. I was determined not to go back into those dark days again. I decided I was going to do things differently this time around and I also knew that I did not want to rely solely on medication. So, I got busy and made myself my own personal science project. I decided that sitting in the condo was not working for me, and was one of the reasons that boredom and discontent turned to something much darker. I realized that I missed having a reason to wake up every morning. I missed having some form of structure to my days. I didn't miss working full time but I knew that I needed to schedule something, anything, almost every day.
My new motto became "Never try...never know" and I started saying YES to everything that I had previously turned down in the past. Expat ladies luncheons, acupuncture, yoga, qi gong class, volunteering, and Zumba were all activities I dove into with gusto over the next three months. In that experimentation phase I found the things that worked best for me. Today, I adore volunteering twice a week at Wat Suan Dok, where I help my wonderful friend and "mindfulness mentor", Steve, teach the young monks English. I also found that I love being part of the Zumba dance community and the Thai ladies there are so welcoming and carefree. Finally, I met an angel on earth, Dr. Rungrat, who is my Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncturist. She is one of the most caring and insightful people I have met in Thailand and I love her for helping me to just "be".
Today, I am a better person for having navigated that dark time. I don't feel that I am completely out of the woods, but I do see a bright, bright light at the end of the path now. For that, I am truly grateful.
Moving onward. One step at a time.