I’m okay. And so are you. (a pep talk)

Without the dark there isn’t light. Without the pain there is no relief.

I have a confession to make: I routinely email my favorite authors detailing all the dramas of my personal life.

Let me explain.

I am apparently highly susceptible to messaging, so when my mom bought me the book Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner from the Little Shop of Stories as part of my birthday present, she set me on a dangerous path. The YA novel Dear Rachel Maddow tells the story of a girl running for president of her high school while struggling to work her way through grief over her older brother’s death by overdose. Kisner tells the story through emails written to Rachel Maddow sitting in the girl’s draft folder. I absolutely loved its unique mode of storytelling and how the narrator’s voice is authentically teenager.

I was mildly (majorly) obsessed with Glennon Doyle at the time (I still am), so I may have written her a couple (10) emails partly as a writing exercise, partly to work things out, and partly to see if she would respond (she hasn’t). Then I pulled back a bit because I didn’t like the monster I had become. But after a harrowing visit with a new psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago that left me feeling like a freak, I knew just who to write: The Bloggess herself.

The Bloggess has gotten me through some of the tougher times. My mother gave me her second memoir, Furiously Happy, as a psych-ward-welcoming-present (hilariously, another girl called E came in with the same book). The cover sports sparkles and a picture of a dead raccoon on and it’s an essay collection, all facts that turned me away at first glance. Oh, but Jenny’s hilarious words rang poignant and hopeful in sharp contrast with that scene. I was in love.

Without the dark there isn’t light, Jenny told me. Without the pain there is no relief. And I remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to feel such great sorrow, and also such great happiness. I can grab on to each moment of joy and live in those moments because I have seen the bright contrast from dark to light and back again. I am privileged to be able to recognize that the sound of laughter is a blessing and a song, and to realize that the bright hours spent with my family and friends are extraordinary treasures to be saved, because those same moments are a medicine, a balm. Those moments are a promise that life is worth fighting for, and that promise is what pulls me through when depression distorts reality and tries to convince me otherwise.

I’d just gotten out of a psychiatrist appointment that left me feeling like a freak, so I wrote about it to her. She responded to my email. And it made my life. Like, forever.

Hey Maya,

I do get it. I do understand those long sleepless nights (it’s uh….kind of really late here). I get the frustration of therapists who don’t listen. Find another one. One that listens, that truly hears you. Not every therapist is right for every person. Also, not every medication is right for every person. Find the one that works.

Hugs sweet girl,

Just okay.

I am having a week. It’s cold and wet and dark. Stacey Abrams lost. I can’t stop coughing, my phone is busted, and I’m realizing things about my life and trying to figure out what to do with all that new information. Sometimes it is so easy to fall back into this cycle of self-hatred again, but then I get an unexpected email from Jenny Lawson, or I drive smack into a pink sunset, or I see my mom, and I get inspired again. I have been writing and creating pretty much nonstop every day this week. Sometimes it’s angry, sometimes it’s sad, and sometimes it just is, but when I can get something out on the paper, I feel like I have changed nothing but at least I have something to show the world. Sometimes I become the person in the leather jacket and the Batman hat because I feel like it’s all I can be.

But then…

I write…

I go to therapy…

and suddenly…

it all makes sense again.

The simple yet radical act of telling myself that “I am okay” can switch me from depressed person in leather jacket and Batman hat and happy person in sunflower dress in seconds.

So let’s practice it:

I am okay.

And so are you.

This is for you:

Watch this space.

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