Blog Post 1:
Hi! I’m Jordana!
And I struggled with depression for almost 30 years before I got better from it.
You’d probably never guess that from my picture. I look super happy.
And I am super happy. Well, considering the state of things in the world, let me qualify that by saying: I’m super happy with who I am as a human being, super happy about the people I have in my life, super happy that trees exist, super happy that even when the sun doesn’t shine in the sky, I can still find light in the world. Super happy about many things, though of course not everything.
But before I explain anything else, I think I should tell you a little more about that picture of me because pictures, as I’ll explain below, can be misleading, and I want to be honest about mine. And the truth is, there are MANY very important things missing from that picture of me.
1) I am missing my tattoos, and this is a HUGE omission because I LOVE my tattoos! Here’s a before and after picture of one of them:
Amazing how what we put on paper can manifest itself off paper, isn’t it?
2) I am missing my protective eye bracelets.
Yet another HUGE omission because I almost never leave the house without my protective eye bracelets.
3) I am missing fingers, toes, a bunch of organs…pretty much everything that stick figures lack…some pretty important stuff. Maybe I should have listed all of these before my tattoos and bracelets…
At any rate, missing eyelashes, jewelry, and ink aside, I think it’s a pretty good picture of me now.
But with every picture, there is a “before the picture” was taken. In terms of stick figures, there is a “before the stick figure was drawn”, but it’s basically the same thing.
There is always a “before”.
A few years ago, I read about a young woman whose Facebook page was filled with lots of pictures of her and about 20 other people, all really happy in every single picture.
This was the “before the pictures”: She hired every one of those people through an agency that supplies “pay-for-friends”. She was at a moment in her life when she didn’t have a single friend. She felt really lonely. And she saw everyone else’s Facebook pictures and thought: There must be something wrong with me. My picture doesn’t look like theirs. Let me fix my picture.
This is what many of us have been taught to do, or learned to do by default simply by observing those around us: fix our picture, instead of tending to what grows and grieves within us.
Before this picture of the happy me, there was the me that was in the absolute agony of a depression that came, went, but always came back. The me that had no idea how to stop the pain. The me that thought it could only be stopped by ending my life.
In the moments when my depression was at its worst, I didn’t understand how it was possible that EVERYONE wasn’t depressed given the sorrow, savagery, and injustice that exist. I didn't want to read about people getting better because I thought it was impossible. I thought if someone found their way out of anguish and back to joy, it was either because they couldn't see clearly that the core of life was pain, or because their depression had never really been that bad.
But that was not the case at all. They found their way back to joy because there IS a way out of pain in life. Because the core of life is greater and grander than all the lies that depression tells. Because help exists. And because the small child that they once were, whose awe was fed by the moon and spiderwebs and the staggering beauty of snowflakes that proclaim rather than make excuses for their uniqueness, the child who needed no reason to laugh save being alive, worked relentlessly to convince their older self: I am worth fighting for. I deserve to live the life I was given, and to live it with happiness and love.
If I could go back in time and give one thing to the me that I was, the one bound by shame to silence, the one who looked at her past and present with the chilling conviction that her future would be its mirror, the one who exhaled hopelessness only to inhale that same toxin again and again and again, I wouldn’t just give her one thing. I’d give her everything I am going to put in this blog for you.
I’d give her a hand to hold to remind her that she’s not alone.
Actually, I'd give her many hands to hold.
I'd give her poetry and inspiration.
A man was breaking up the soil
when another man came by.
“Why are you ruining this land?”
“Don’t be a fool! Nothing can grow until the ground is turned over
There can be no roses
and no orchard
without first this that looks devastating.”
I’d give her lots of flowers because she loves flowers, even though in the worst moments of her depression (and there were many of those), she believed she didn’t deserve them.
I’d give her the sun that she thinks will never shine for her or within her again.
I’d take her broken mirror away and give her a whole one so she can see how strong she truly is.
I’d give her a list of names of people who love her, the ones in her present and the ones that will come into her life in the future, people who are profoundly grateful that she fought for her life and won.
I’d give her the love that depression insisted she was unworthy of having.
I’d give her a list of everything that will help her get well, and I'd give her an explanation of what is happening inside her head. I'd make sure she understands that depression, and the later and correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder, is not who she is, only what she has, and that she's not going to suffer from it forever.
I'd give her hope. But even more than that, I’d give her "I will".
Actually, I’d give her many "I will’s". And I would draw tremendous blank spaces beside every one of them and tell her: “Fill each one up with a different dream, but leave some blank.” And as I know her, that me that I was, so well, I would not leave her to complete the task alone. I would sit by her side to be sure her pen never fell, that she did not leave the task undone or not done at all. And then I would tell her: “Read out loud what you have written, so you can hear your future being foretold with your own voice.”
And she would read:
I will visit the lands I long to see.
I will live in other countries.
I will write the books I want to write.
I will do work that helps others.
I will have exquisite people in my life.
I will get better.
I will fill every one of those spaces I left blank with new dreams because I will go on to fulfill them too.
It is all of these things combined that you’ll read about in this blog:
honest before pictures:
what depression and untreated bipolar disorder were like for me,
how I got better from the depression side of bipolar disorder,
how I manage my health so that I stay better
and why it took so long. (30 years is crazy long, right? Don’t be discouraged when you read that. A large part of that was due to no medical care for years and then pretty bad medical care for years.)
you'll read about some of the “I will’s” that became “I did’s”. As I’m backpacking around the world at the moment (but with a suitcase instead of a backpack), most of those “I did’s” are probably going to be about my travel adventures.
As for the name of this blog, it comes from the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James). It’s a pilgrimage route that’s over 1000 years old and ends in the city Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In the beginning, people walked the Camino only for religious reasons; today people walk it for numerous reasons. Even though the word “camino” is singular, there are actually many different paths that lead to Santiago, and the distance and amount of time you spend walking depends on where you start from. I recently did part of the Camino (the Camino Frances, the last 114 km from Sarria to Santiago). It took less than a week. I met some travelers who had been walking for over two months.
Most people walk between 15 and 30km a day. Their leg muscles hurt. Their feet are covered in blisters. Their backs are sore from the enormous packs that most of them carry. But everyone keeps walking.
In the rain. In the sun. In the heat. In the cold. Everyone keeps walking.
Those who ride bikes keep peddling.
Those who go with wheelchairs keep pushing.
For most, the destination is the city Santiago de Compostela, or more specifically, the Cathedral in Santiago.
For me, the true destination is the Camino, the path itself, and the transformation that takes place within one’s heart and head while walking.
Keep walking. Keep going.
And through it all, remember “I will.” Repeat it until, like your heartbeat, it accompanies you everywhere you go. Repeat it until it becomes “I did”.
And remember, too, what a woman I met named Miriam, who is a survivor of many things, added on to “I will get better”:
“I will get better because I must.
And because I can.”
September 6, 2019