It was a mantra of mine for a while. After Delilah was born, I was depressed for a really long time. Much, much longer than I really realized or was willing to admit. Mental illness is a funky chicken like that — it’s so organic in the way it twists your mind you think your thoughts are perfectly normal. That’s something I never understood before.
Having never had a depressive episode in my life, I didn’t recognize it when it hit me, and I didn’t even really recognize it as it hung on for dear life, casting a shadow of doubt and self-consciousness over every. move. I. made. as I discovered how to be a parent and a grown up all at once. The fact that I couldn’t remember (or wouldn’t… whichever) to take my pills on the regular made it that much easier for the little sucker to cling on. And BOY did it hang on.
Even as I emerged from the darkest days and began to participate in life the doubt and self loathing held me back, like muscle memory of the mind, having repeated the same sequence of thoughts for so long it didn’t know how to stop.
Looking back, those days are marked for me by one towering feeling that I couldn’t shake: I HATE HOPE.
I’d say it to Scott nightly as I waited to hear back on each open writing assignment, each opportunity more torturous than the last leaving me stuck in a limbo between finding the motivation to want to succeed, but still being rendered incapable of believing I could, open wounds still throbbing from the pain of the last NO.
I HATE HOPE.
Being a screenwriter is hard. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a lot of rejection in Hollywood. And while getting in the room with heavyweights once made me feel like I’d made it, that wet-behind-the-ears feeling has long dried up. So with each progressive step closer to landing that “big job” I’d take, every time, the hope and possibility would become oppressive for me, more uncomfortable even than nausea or brokenheartedness, the hope would be too much to bear.
And then all of a sudden one day it wasn’t. All of a sudden, the muscle memory released and I was free to feel hope and joy without my intestines turning to stone. And all of the time these days, as I write in screen direction and dialogue and ACTUALLY ENJOY IT, as I crawl around on the floor with my kid building forts and lego castles, and as I sit and bicker over the Olympics with my husband, I marvel at how weird it is to not be miserable. I’m awed by each moment I spend sitting still without the anxiety turning my skin cold or the misery forcing me to lie flat on the floor from the sheer weight of it.
Finally, I can release that melancholy mantra and revel in the possibility of more.
At least, I hope to.