Being in an out of therapy my whole life has taught me a great deal of things. However, it mostly has forced me to reconcile the fact that happiness comes in stretches, and eventually the yellow always fades to grey. I went through a phase in middle school where I spent a majority of my time waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Life with anxiety, depression, and OCD means that a journey to the grey place is not an if but a when.
For the neuro-typical folks out there, I can only describe the grey place as a constant state of numb panic. It’s that feeling you get when you’re too stressed to show how stressed you are, so your body just shuts down. It’s not knowing why you’re canceling plans for the tenth time this week, but doing it anyway. It’s an unceasing cycle of self deprecation and disappointment. While I could not tell you how many times I’ve been to the grey place in my life, if prompted by a photo I could recount to you my exact mental state at the time.
During my lifetime I’ve realized that there is a strange misconception that depression is feeling sad for a long time. This is not accurate. Depression is not feeling for a long time. While by no means am I the first person to point this out, I felt it necessary to note that depression is not the same thing as the grey place.
If life’s a beach, the grey place is the undertow, slowly dragging you out to sea. While you can get out, you continue moving backwards along the way, so you’re left with two choices. Either struggle your way out, or be swept away into the depths.
Confidence is a struggle in the grey place, and as someone who struggles with that normally, the situation only intensifies. I’m a devout procrastinator, and finding my way back to life’s sunshine requires a complete change in this behavior. Dangling deadlines only worsen anxiety and the only way to combat this is serious proactivity.
Most recently, I began to slip into the grey place during my college application process. Doubt has always been my biggest crippling factor, and even though I’ve been preparing for this time in my life since middle school, nothing about myself ever felt like enough.
That’s grey place word. Enough.
I wasn’t taking enough AP classes, couldn’t get my SAT scores to match my GPA, and didn’t have what I thought to be groundbreaking extracurriculars. Doubting yourself can breed a vicious cycle, the worse I felt the more I procrastinated (and so on and so forth).
The true heartbreak of the grey place comes from remembrance. You’re not so far in the dark that you forget what better times feel like, but at the same time you’re cognoscente of the fact that you are not happy. Life becomes perfectly awful state of limbo plagued by fear and propelled by excitement.
I’m not me when I’m in the grey place. At least, I’m not who I aspire to be. The drive and ambition that usually moves me forward fades to the fear and doubt of the grey place, accentuating my worst parts and self destruction reigns supreme. I’ve learned a certain level of resolve from my time in the grey place. Choosing to fight your way out is difficult, but it is always worth it.
Yesterday I was in the grey place, but not today. Today I will fight my way out. Today, I choose joy. Today, I choose drive. Today, I will not let the grey place drag me down.