Straight up, I have a regular cycle. Every 28-30 days, boom, there she is. Shoot, I can even tell you which days are the heaviest and which days are the lightest (thank you, Pink Pad!) I’ve been in this cycle long enough to know what to expect: my cramps are doable but the unexpected splitting migraines are killer. The wrong smell can send me hurling in the bathroom. My skin’ll either be glowing or growing spots. But the one symptom that I could consistently count on for a good decade was a mental state akin to depression. Every month I needed a good cry to release the moisture brought on by the cumulonimbus envelopment of my mind. It was oppressive and draining, but it was familiar.
In my early/mid twenties, after my divorce from an exceptionally toxic relationship, I was dating a guy and was on birth control. Girl. Let. Me. Tell. You. I can barely remember to brush my teeth at night so I was not about to go on the pill and that’s why I loved the Nuvaring: pop it in then forget about it. But that shit was expensive. I had to pay Planned Parenthood $700 for them to not call me back if I didn’t have HIV and then get charged full price for a contraceptive that, legit, got me feeling crazy. A few years later I learned about the county free health clinic where all the tests were free and I was able to make an appointment so I didn’t even have to wait. Just sayin’, I thoroughly do not understand why people are trying to shut Planned Parenthood down… I learned the expensive way that the only “free” things you’re guaranteed at Planned Parenthood are condoms, a bathroom visit, and a tongue depressor so calm your titties, people.
But I digress. Nuvaring. Any doctor’ll tell you that not all contraceptives suit all people. I’m not hating on the Nuvaring, it delivered exactly what it said it would and it was convenient, but oh my GOD, what once for me was a monthly bout of mild depression morphed into four consistent months of me as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. I was out of my mind; like I didn’t fully know what to make of my self, my me-ness. Before I was on the contraceptive I knew that all I had to do was cry it out then I’d be fine but for four months I was emotionally numb: I’d get cranky but I couldn’t get fully mad. I’d find something funny but my laughs were hollow. It’s as if I put on Sutro filter contact lenses.
Having had heard from a friend a year or so before that the $20-ish I’d been paying in health service fees every semester at my community college afforded me a number of therapy sessions at the student health center, I decided to go back in. I, like many of us, had my inhibitions with seeing a shrink or a therapist. I was raised with the idea that only nutter butters see therapists or that talking about your feelings is a luxury only entitled rich kids could afford. But considering it was already paid for, I set up an appointment to see a psych grad student who was a few months shy of getting her certification/degree. (With the amount of money I’ve wasted on memberships, I wish I had the same mindset about going to the gym.) So, I sat there with her. She was perfectly pleasant. She was a hell of a lot cooler than the last woman I saw there who just didn’t get me or what I was going through. I think that’s why I ended up with this 20-something Asian chick. Every now and then stereotyping works in my favour. So, when I came in the 20-something grad student asked me what I was there for and I told her I needed to cry. I told her that I cry every month and I haven’t cried in months. I needed to cry. Sitting across from me she told me to close my eyes:
“Follow my voice and empty your mind.” She soothingly told me over the course of a minute or so, “Now, imagine a safe place, a comfortable place. Imagine a calm place.”
And so I did. I imagined a beach. A remote tropical white sand beach with soft blue waves merely lapping the shore.
“Now, imagine a colour. Imagine a relaxing colour, a pleasant colour.” She continued, “Now, imagine that colour above your head as a cloud.”
Instantly, in my mind’s eye, I was strolling along the shore with a beautiful cloud of turquoise above my head like a halo.
Then she told me to imagine the radiant cloud raining its colour down on me.
So, I did. And immediately, I cried. I broke down. In between the heaves, I felt the tears run down the corner of my eyes and down either side of my face until each stream created a river at my throat and down my cleavage. As the salt water river ran down my chest I felt it washing over my heart. I know that sounds hokey but it truly felt that way. I felt a sort of warm heat cleansing my tired chest as the levee holding my emotions collapsed. I was crying to cry but in that cry was every pent up feeling I hadn’t felt in months. In that cry was the realization that I was not over the trauma of my last relationship and that Mr. New Guy was really only a placeholder, someone to occupy my empty arm, head, and bedspace. In it was my new reality that I was angry at so many people and that I had no fucking clue what I was doing with my life. But also residing in those turquoise tears was the understanding that it was all going to be okay. Because turquoise is beautiful. Turquoise is gentle. Turquoise is everywhere. It’s the colour of the ocean, it’s the colour of the sky, it’s a gem.
In its rawest form, turquoise is a pop of colour in hard grey rock. Through it, typically, runs a spiderweb, a matrix of the rock that pushed on it, bound it, helped make it. The matrix are what look like cracks that, for some, add to its appeal reminiscent of the Japanese art of kintsugi. It’s a porous stone, soft, as far as gemstones go, but it’s created only in dry, barren regions of the earth making it the only semblance of water and life in the most desolate regions of land. It is timeless, having been part of the earliest known adornments found in Ancient Egyptian tombs. Appreciation of its beauty is found not only in Africa, but in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Certain Native American tribes view the gem as a gift from the Gods. The Ancient Egyptians called it “mefkat”, a word synonymous with “joy” and “delight”. And this it its truth: though it is weak, its universal beauty exists because of the stress placed upon it by the hard rock strength that bound it and ultimately created it.
I want to thank Sidnee and Justin McElroy from the podcast Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine for influencing me to write about mental health during yet another one of my road trips with them as my only companions. Their episode “Our Mental Health Stories” inspired me to tell part of my own story, pushing me to come out from under the shadowed stigma of metal health. If you guys ever read this, I just wanted to share that your podcast was the first one I subscribed to when I started listening to podcasts 3 or 4 years ago and I’m still listening 🙂 Pliny the Elder forever!
*The stone in the picture is an Amazonite which technically isn’t a turquoise but someone I care about deeply, freaking cosmically, sent me this picture just as I was posting this. When the universe speaks, you have to listen!