If you haven’t seen the movie Vanilla Sky, I can’t really recommend it. It is a weird movie, and I am not a fan of Tom Cruise. Not even a little bit- I never have been. But somehow, a few years back, while on one of my countless business trips, I ended up in a hotel with jet lag and Vanilla Sky was the best thing on tv that night.
So, the premise (basically) is this: A man meets the woman of his dreams and she feels the same way. It is amazing-once-in-a-lifetime love; it is just the beginning for both of them. Then, somehow, his ex talks him into getting into her car so she can take him on what she hopes will be the last ride of both of their lives. She plunges the car off a bridge. She is killed. He is disfigured.
He goes back to his true love and tries to recapture what they had. At first she is hesitant and feels betrayed by what happened. She refuses. But finally, she relents and their lives are better than they ever dreamed. He has a surgery that miraculously fixes him back to almost new. She loved him through everything. Happily Ever After.
Then, at some point, he realizes it has all been a dream. What he thought was happening ended after the accident. He lost his love. Lost all the beauty he thought he had been living.
There are a few more twists and turns in there, but that is what I took away from it when I saw it, and for my purposes here, that’s the gist. The reason I have walked you through the storyline of a movie you really needn’t bother seeing is that lately, I have been haunted a little by the thought that somehow, I am living under my own Vanilla Sky.
Yes, that’s crazy. My brain knows that (most of the time). But there are times I wake up in the middle of the night sweating, shaking, and feverishly digging through the covers to find my husband. And sometimes, I don’t have to be woken from a nightmare, sometimes the thought crosses my mind in broad daylight on a random Wednesday when I am in the middle of my workday.
The depression that held me captive for the better part of my life was deep and strong. As much as I shared with friends, therapists, and family members, no one can truly know what it was like to suffer through decades of fighting every single day to just survive. I can honestly say that during those years—all of them—there was barely a day that went by when I didn’t think of suicide. Sometimes events triggered those feelings- family struggles, work stress, breakups—but those events were just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The day to day pain was more than I could stand. I am shocked sometimes that I came through it at all.
So, now I have all these things I thought I would never have. I have beaten the depression that I thought would be a lifelong companion. I have met and married the love of my life- and have found in him someone who loves me the way I have always dreamed of being loved. I love him more every single day. I live in a beautiful home with our dog Bear, three cats, and we are only steps away from the ocean.
At times, it almost seems too good to be true.
I worry that because I didn’t value my life for so long- that in the cosmic order of things- I will be punished for those thoughts-for thinking my life wasn’t worth living.
I worry that somehow, it did end back there. In some screwed up purgatory like existence, this isn’t all real.
Are you convinced I have lost my mind yet?
To be clear-I don’t spend all my time worrying or in this state. I go to work every day, walk the dog, cook dinner, laugh—a lot, enjoy the days. It is just in quiet moments when my mind trails off, when I think how lucky and happy I feel now, I let my thoughts wander—and go to these places.
I think part of it was that I had convinced myself of so many things over the years. After so many parts of my life seemed to fail, and after a really long time of feeling so alone and on my own, I stopped believing in a lot of things. Love, happiness, and really feeling a purpose again. I have gotten large doses of all of that in a short amount of time- so it is almost a shock to my system.
Depression is also more than a dark cloud or sad moods. It is something that inhabited me—something I had to rid myself of through therapy and medication and a slow rebuilding of my self esteem. Over dinner the other night, I told my husband that as much as I wish we had met earlier and had even longer together, I am so glad we met when we did. In darker times, I wouldn’t have been ready, I hadn’t made myself whole yet. All of this could have slipped by. I had to get through everything and come out the other side on my own steam to be where I am now—with him.
Nothing in my life is perfect. Shea and I argue at times, and we have both had to adjust to living with someone after years of being single. My workdays aren’t always great, and the house is a mess most of the time.
When I worry, or wake up lost, or let my mind wander too far away, Shea takes my hand and brings me back here to where we are now.
And tonight, under a sky that is as black as ink and lit with a thousand stars, I know it is all real. It is the most wonderful, imperfect life I could have hoped for.