Someone recently asked me if, when I was sick, I worried about not being able to work again. Heck yea. That was one of my biggest fears. I could not focus. I could not concentrate. I could not read. I could not write. What if my depression killed my creativity? What if the ideas did not come?  

The newspapers piled up. I tried to watch television. An episode of Law & Order seemed impossibly complex. I was on disability with no end date. I was bored, scared and impatient. I had taken only six weeks off when my daughter was born – a mistake I will always regret. Six weeks into my depression my medication was just beginning to kick in. It was another four weeks before I went back to work. Ten weeks I was off. Almost twice as long as my maternity leave.

The reading and writing did come back. At first I could only make it through magazine articles. It took months before my memory and concentration allowed me to read a book and get back into my book club. But I could feel that something was very different. I had never experienced anything like it and it is very hard to describe.

My thoughts have stopped tailgating. I have a thought, think it through and then another. They are orderly thoughts. They respect each other’s pace. They do not race. They play well with each other. It was – and still is – an amazing experience. At this pace I can think through each idea, which tends to lead to an even better idea. Best of all, it keeps me out of trouble. Each thought has a consequence. Now I have time to weigh the consequences and to make healthy decisions. God bless my medications.

One of the first healthy decisions I made was to change my definition of myself. Why was I so afraid – terrified – of losing my job? Duh, because I have a mortgage, a car payment and a daughter to put through college. But it was much more than that. If I could not work I would lose my identity. Who and what would I be if I could not say I was a journalist? I had no clue and it scared me witless. At some point over the years I had put my career on a pedestal and worshipped it. Revered it. Idolized it. I had lost myself and did not where to find me. 

It has taken four years but I know exactly who I am. I am a mother, a dog-lover, a recovering alcoholic, a friend, a girlfriend, a scuba diver, a bike commuter, a lousy cook and I do a great impression of The Flying Nun. When I am not doing all of this, I am a journalist.