Mental Health March

Chef describes depression as bean bag chairs that rest on him, laying on his shoulders and covering his head. A bit comfy at first, molding to his body, providing shelter, blocking the harsh light from his eyes. (Well, he said the bean bag part.) The longer the bean bags, light as they are, stay in place, though, they become heavy, too awkward to carry around. Easier to sit still and not explain to onlookers why you are carrying beanbag chairs on your shoulder, simpler to not move and mess with the weight of them, jostling the little beans inside until they push even further onto your body, obstructing more of your view. Shoulders become weary, begin to sag. Neck muscles grow exhausted, head begins to droop. A slow gentle process of depression,  sinking under the bean bag chairs until you are covered and can no longer see, no longer lift them alone. I think fear is the same, worry is the same, anxiety, the same. All begin with just little bean bag on our shoulder, one becomes two, more sneak on top until we are stuck in the darkness. Or maybe like tiny seeds that get watered and nurtured and tended until they grow so great around our souls we are imprisoned in a garden of our making. We lose sight of the fact that we CAN lift those damn bean bags, we CAN chop down the weeds of worry. Getting up, moving into the light of community, we can find our way out of the darkness.

I have spent most of every day since election night consumed with worry and fear and disbelief that our country really wanted someone so filled with hate speech, so blatantly dangerous to women,  to lead us, to be the person our children learn about in school. To be honest, there was a time I was completely behind Hillary but that wasn’t this election until it was him or her. I know the weaknesses of choosing her, I knew better the danger of choosing him. So I too have felt the garden of fear growing around me, requiring every bit of my attention to chop down new growth and avoid fertilizing existing sprouts. When I realized the march was happening, I saw a chance to wack the entire greedy garden away. I invited the one person I wanted to march with, my niece who is a young woman on the cusp of political awareness, waking up to her voice, finding her beliefs. I knew her passion would provide some strength to do necessary gardening.

We planned the trip on the cheap. We drove ourselves overnight,  a cooler filled with sandwiches and snacks, scheduled naps in hotel parking lots. We listened to political podcasts to stay awake, drank too much coffee and consumed the miles separating us from Washington D.C. as if our lives depended on it. Because sort of, they did. We had to go and be in the crowd of others who were vanquishing fear and worry and depression, a mass of people who were together clearing away whatever weight or weeds were holding them down or back. Our family at home were concerned about safety, Chef had serious reservations about my health. We arrived to find the largest crowd of protesters ever recorded and experienced not a single moment of concern. Women are just intrinsically nurturing beings, we want to foster each other and the earth and our children, put 500,000 of us together and we still say please and thank you, we still smile and make space for one more. Yes, we were angry, but we were not hateful. Yes, we were motivated but not destructive. Yes, we were loud but we listened also. We found power in the collective by making space for many concerns without the requirement to signoff on every concern. Fear and worry and depression turned away, hope and passion lifted us all.

I heard it described as a group of whiners, a bunch of women who needed the therapy of being together to recover from Hillary losing. As if therapy is a bad thing, a shameful thing. It WAS therapeutic, it did restore my mental health. I was able to sit on the “couch” of D.C. and pour out my emotions and let the crowd counselor make sense of them, tell me I am not alone, wash them away. But more than that, I was given an action plan, a call to keep moving once I returned home and the weeds looked scraggly and exhaustion set in. Once my body began to truly ache and my feet were on fire, I could choose to descend back into hopelessness but make no mistake, that would be my choice now. I have tools, I have a community, I have work that needs to be done. So, yes, excellent therapy, money well spent. No shaming me or my movement for this label. We already know the benefit of mental health services, the stigma won’t stick.

For those who have yet to embrace the causes of the march, for those who think it doesn’t reflect their interests, no worries. We will march and act and get louder for you. When we are growing weary, we will need your backup for the next wave. By then, I am confident you will see yourself in the faces of women and men and children who just want to be respected and heard by our leader. To all who marched in D.C. and around the world, thanks for clearing away the weight of depression’s bean bags, thanks for chopping out the weeds of worry in my soul garden. President Obama told us, “Yes, we can.”  I say, “Yes, we will.” We have already begun, together. For today, I will be propping my feet up on the bean bags, enjoying the flowers that are blooming in my soul.

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