I wanted to thank all my dear Beyond Blue readers for your care and concern after I published the video about my darker days. I really was mixed on whether or not to publish that. But I remembered my golden rule about escaping despair by becoming transparent under God and to the reader, and how you can only do the 12 steps of most recovery programs if you are painstakingly honest–with yourself and others.
The day after I published the video (the day I couldn’t stop crying) I had planned to go to New York for business and pleasure combined.
I almost cancelled the trip. For obvious reasons. I was afraid I was going to burst into tears in the middle of my interview. But the ticked-off part of me refused to let this illness ruin two days with colleagues and friends that I had been looking forward to all summer (save the day or two right before).
Just like my book event that was scheduled five weeks after I was released from Johns Hopkins Hospital–for which I felt like I deserved an Oscar, because my acting was so good–I tried to act “as if” I wasn’t so fragile, as if my emotions weren’t so raw, as if I were resilient.
I cried a few times on the train on the way there. (I’m sure the fellow passenger next to me thought I was crazy – especially if he overheard my conversation with my doctor). I did the right things: I checked in with my doctor. I talked to Mr. Guardian Angel. I talked to Eric. When the train arrived in New York, I stood up with my backpack and laptop computer and imagined myself in a swimming pool, taking a deep breath that was going to have to sustain me for the next two hours swimming underwater, while I interviewed Fr. Jim Martin for Beyond Blue (to come), and was interviewed as part of a podcast for America Magazine (to come) on depression and spirituality.
Editor Tim Reidy, who had seen my crying video the day before, asked me as part of the interview if I was feeling better. I wanted to lie and say “oh yes, thanks, it was just a passing bout of anxiety.” But, again, Beyond Blue is about being real – or at least that’s how I want it to be, so I told him that as a matter of fact, I wasn’t feeling all that great, but I was doing a damn good job of acting like I was okay.
I was relieved that my lunch meeting cancelled … that I could cry again until my next meeting. So I walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and caught the end of Mass. I sat in the pew and let it all out. They kept coming and coming. Not tears of self-pity. Tears of release…. from the days and months of stress and strain. I felt like my heart was bursting or cracking from the pressure, in order to fill itself again. Just like Rumi, the 13th century poet explains: “When the shell of my heart breaks open, tears shall pour forth and they shall be called pearls of god.”
After the Mass, a choir of young girls began to sing “Ave Maria” and other classics. The music filled my heart with hope–that God was truly there with me and more tears came. Finally, I realized that I had better stop crying soon, or else I’d arrive at my next meeting with raccoon eyes. So I lit some candles, begging God to take the sadness and anxiety, the obsessions and the distorted thinking. “Take it, God,” I prayed. “Please, I beg you to take it from me.”
He must have heard me, because for the next 24 hours I didn’t have an urge to cry again. And I was able to laugh–authentically and from my belly-when I met friends for a happy hour later on. It wasn’t acting. It was genuine joy. One friend told the best pope jokes I’ve ever heard–and everyone else had their own, which made for so much healing laughter.
The next morning, my friend Priscilla Warner arranged for a private yoga session with her friend and yoga teacher, Julie Broglin. I have shared before that while I love the concept of yoga, I … well … never got the hang of it or felt like a yoga moron before the session in Julie’s tent, a construction in her woods, decorated with all kinds of art from India, where she studied. She read prayers and reflections in Sanskrit, and taught us how to control our breath by holding parts of our nose while stretching in various positions. At the end of the session, she massaged my forehead with oil, and I could, again, sense God’s healing power in that moment.
As I stared out the window on the train ride home, I realized that the last two days were a miniature of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” There was a time of crying and praying, and bribing God; a time for eating and laughing with friends; and a time to learn how to breathe deeply and try to meditate or center myself. “The soul would have no rainbow, if the eyes had no tears,” says a Native American philosophy.
I started to see the rainbow on the way home.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.