I Can See for Miles and Miles and...
I had never wanted to be a person who popped a "happy pill"—it was too New York, too cliché. I simply wanted to end my suffering.
I hadn't planned on getting pregnant: I was taking the pill, and never missed a day. Still, it happened. (I'm that .01 percent.) It wasn't easy, but I embraced it.
And even though we had only been dating for three months, Andrew and I got engaged, agreeing on three things we knew for sure: that we loved each other very much, that our baby was made from this love, and that we were going to do our best to nourish the new life we had created.
Five months later, we went to an appointment that would determine the sex of our baby. During the ultrasound that doctors revealed three things we couldn’t have known: that the baby was a girl, that she was terminally ill, and that she had no chance of survival outside my womb.
She died a few weeks later. A month after that, Andrew and I got married. Life went on. We tried to move on, too. We got into routines. We had dinner parties. Andrew had been training for the New York Marathon, and invited me on his shorter runs, but I declined my husband’s invitations. My body felt like it was filled with cement, yet fragile and faulty. My heart was electric and popping with rage.
I desperately sought quick fix solutions to suppress the feelings I didn’t want to have. I tried denial—denial of the magnitude of what had just happened. I cut off my relationships and embraced solitude. For weeks, I spent my life minutes zoned out on a couch with a tub of peanut butter ice cream, flipping through TV channels. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I didn’t even want to leave the house. So I’d sit and wait: wait for my husband to come home from work, wait for the day to end, wait to feel better again. But the longer I avoided examining my grief, the stronger it got.
I looked for someone to blame. When Andrew kissed me, let alone touch my shoulder, I’d tense up, sometimes even get livid. Sometimes the hardness in my heart would melt, and I’d cry and apologize to him for my vehemence and seclusion. Revealing my own tenderness felt like defeat, but the balm of compliance soothed my pain. I’d beg Andrew to give me a solution to ease my sorrow. But he couldn’t. No one could.
I saw a therapist, who eventually diagnosed me as Clinically Depressed with PTSD. She strongly encouraged that I be medicated, and, with her pen, scribbled the name of an (expensive) Upper West East Side psychiatrist onto a piece of paper and sent me on my way.
I am clinically depressed. Once I said the words out loud, I felt as if I’d opened the festered secrecy of my heart. PTSD. I continued to confess rapidly and urgently, ready to accept the previously unforeseen liberation. But medication?
I had never wanted to be a person who popped a “happy pill”—it was too New York, too cliché. I simply wanted to end my suffering. Yet, as sure as I was about my longing for serenity, I was ambivalent about going on antidepressants. What if they didn’t work? What if the pills didn’t make me content but diluted my grief instead?
A day before my intake appointment with the psychiatrist, I received a call from a close friend back in Maine. He’d been concerned about me, and called once a week to check in. When I told him that I’d found a solution to my misery and explained it, my friend scoffed at my enthusiasm.
"You fool," he teased. "You ain’t no Girl, Interupted.
Why don't you just go for a jog instead?"
And in that instant, everything changed.
In the beginning, I couldn't run a single mile. I'd start off strong, following Andrew’s pace, get a side-stitch then quit. I’d fault Andrew for going too fast, too slow, for talking too much, for being too quiet. But he wouldn’t give up on me that easily, or let me do the same. Soon, we compromised on a rhythm—he’d move a little slower, I’d push a little harder. I got up to three miles, then five. I stopped following Andrew’s rhythm and focused on my own: my breath, my stride, my pace. I stopped being so afraid of feeling pain. Really, I stopped being afraid of feeling things.
I never ended up going on antidepressants. Instead, I run. Right now, I’m training for the Chicago Marathon, and I’m up to 18 miles. Every time my foot hits the ground and I pick the other one up, I’m reminded that running—the art of literally putting one foot in front of the other—is what brought me back to life.