Monday, May 19, 2014

Paris On My Mind

I am back.

Celebrating Bastille Day in Paris last July
It's hard to believe that this weekend marks the one-year anniversary that I left for Paris and took the first, small step towards our dream of a life there.  It's hard to believe that this time last year I crossed the threshold of "my perfect Paris apartment" for the first time and felt more at home than I ever have.

I am trying not to dwell too much on this anniversary, over emphasize its importance or berate myself for the many things, including writing my blog, that I haven't accomplished this past year.  I am trying not to feel sad.   

The last nine months have been challenging.  Most days I wouldn't recognize the confident, scarf-necked woman with the perfectly faded Longchamp tote who boarded the plane to Paris last May.  That woman gave herself to Paris; that woman let her body and her mind be calmed, consumed and inspired by all things Paris.

My perfectly faded Longchamp tote resting at Les Berges
When I started writing this blog, I wanted to remain anonymous.  It was a place for me to play with my idea of Paris and many of my early posts now seem like they were written by a character in exaggerated or affected tones.  In contrast the posts I wrote last summer, fueled by morning café crèmes at Le Petit Cler and the rich smell of slow roasting chickens, are truthful and vivid.  I achieved my goal of embracing Paris, of staying positive and remaining in the moment.  I took intense pleasure in noticing the smallest details whether it was the precise geometric shape of a punnet of luscious red strawberries at my local market or the wet, almost joyful, sound of the fountains exploding at Trocadéro.  I took everything in with an open heart. 

I loved everything about Paris and my experience there last summer.  Any fleeting moments of stress or negativity were made insignificant by the wild, red poppies growing along the banks of the Seine, 1 euro still warm baguettes spread with sharp blue cheese and midnight walks to the Eiffel Tower to buy apricot jam crêpes from Oh! Regalade.  Paris exceeded all my expectations and validated what I have somehow always known... there is no place for me but Paris.

 Where last summer I succeeded, this last year has been a struggle.  

I want to share some truths about this last year.  And so I take a deep breath, delete any last traces of anonymity or affectedness and hope with my words I can find courage and calm.

I have been fighting anxiety since last September.  I think anxiety has always been a part of my personality but in recent months it started to overwhelm my life.  When my Dad passed away at Christmas, I spiraled and became locked in a battle between my body and my mind.  I was constantly dizzy and hyper aware to every sensation in my body.  I was convinced I was going to die.  I crawled into my bed every night at 7:30.  I stopped doing everything I love: riding my horse, running, reading books and of course writing.  Even talking about my writing, or my lack thereof, was enough to arouse sensations of disgust, despair and disappointment.  

About two months ago, with Chris at my side, I finally went to my doctor and admitted I needed more help than my weekly stress-reducing massages and daily high dose St. John's Wort vitamins could provide.  She prescribed an anti-anxiety/depression medication and sessions with a psychologist specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy.  I felt so defeated swallowing my first pill.  I felt weak for not being able to overcome my anxiety with a sunny smile, exercise and a super-sized kale salad.

Weeks later, I know that I can't overcome my anxiety without help any more than I could wake up tomorrow as Coco Chanel.  I am lucky to have support in so many forms and I am incredibly grateful for my family and friends, especially Chris, for not giving up on me.  Most days are better and I promise to keep moving forward. 

Writing this blog today is another, small step in getting back to myself and getting back to Paris.

Paris is on my mind.  



Sandy Wagner said...

Erin, I had no idea but of course few of your friends would, as our image of you as so strong makes it easy to mask your anxiety to us. I'm sure that first pill felt like defeat (BTDT) but I hope you know now that it is OK to take that help. I think of you often and wish you well, and hope to get to live your true dream life full time in Paris soon.
Love etc "Auntie" Sandy

materfamilias said...

Sending you much sympathy and also kudos for your bravery. Your writing about your time in Paris last summer was exquisite and I know your book will be published at some point. It's easy to imagine that the return to working life back home with so much less time for a project you'd devoted yourself to would be cause enough for a downward mood swing. To have that followed by the loss of your father -- that's a down-for-the-count blow. Sounds as if you've done an amazing job just persevering -- and finally, getting yourself the professional help the illness clearly deserves. It's so good to hear your voice again, and I wish you all the best as you return to writing and to determining the next steps toward your life in Paris. All the best, Frances (aka Materfamilias)

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't know you were going through so much this past year! I know I try to engage with you and Cassie on Twitter about Paris every now than. I look back and maybe I should have asked how you were doing. My apologies for being - a not so great - twitter friend. Looks like that things are starting to look up. Best wishes! :-)


Karyn said...

I’m so proud of you. There is so much bravery in asking for help and in sharing your story. <3

Also, as you return to running, you know you can always call on me if you need a buddy. xx

Anonymous said...

Great blog, indeed.

I am glad you are feeling better.

Licette NJ How said...

Erin - once more you take my breath away with this opening of your heart, and true feelings. Yes, indeed, you were very brave to seek help...even braver to declare it here.
Chris asked me yesterday if I had seen your blog- we were away- I am sorry that I missed it.
I ache thinking about the depths you were in.
Bless you Erin for your candour. Licette

Jeanette MacDonald said...

Thanks for sharing your honesty and your passion for Paris with others. Thanks for talking about anxiety. I believe when we talk about such things they diminish a bit just by seeing that we are in no way alone in our struggles. Actually I think being vulnerable is the ultimate strength.
I could relate to how you felt after your dad died. When my dad died I was 25 and I went through a spell for quite some time where I was convinced I was dying? Not sure why. Perhaps when we lose someone close to us it really makes us realize our own mortality?
Anyway, glad you are back. Love your writing! <3