My first journal entry for 2017 read “There is much I didn’t write about, but things have been so bad here.” My previous entry before that was October 16, 2016, and when I think back to everything that happened in those few months, I’m glad I stopped writing. It was bad. Depression had wrecked my life so much that my one daily victory was taking a shower. I couldn’t do much else, and sometimes I couldn’t even do that much.
I started working with Sick Lit Magazine with the task to essentially “un-eff that ess.” I was handed passwords to the submissions inbox, the website itself, and was told to do whatever I could. In two weeks, I completely overhauled the entire system of submissions, eliminating unnecessarily cumbersome steps and streamlining the submissions process, on our end. By the end of the month, I was caught up on over 400 submissions, had built a schedule for publication, and got the stagnant magazine back in motion. I wrote in my journal that I was beginning to feel happy again, and that the depression was beginning to ease up…
It was not. This month’s journal entries are difficult to read, and not just because I accidentally spilled water over the pages. “I have to find a way to find myself again. I am so far removed from all of the things that make me me that I have forgotten how to reconnect.” The remaining contacts I kept following the breakdown a few months prior were severed and I retreated even further into the depression. At the end of the month I wrote “The weight gain, the hair-loss, the poor complexion are all evidence that I’m not properly taking care of myself. It’s this damn depression, though. And the awful sleep doesn’t help any. Why am I so unhappy with my life? Why don’t I do the very things that will bring about a better change? I should probably go back on Prozac at this point but I just don’t want to deal with any more doctors. I’ve spent so much time trying to turn this all around and it’s just getting worse. I’m not sure what the answer here is…I just know for sure that I will have to change something because my body and mind are falling apart.”
Ah, Prozac. After a decade of not being on anti-depressants, I finally tapped out for help. I knew what would work for me, so I was able to skip the trial and error of finding the right medication, but the process of finding the right strength was a doozy. There were several nights where Kyle woke me up because he thought I was having a seizure in my sleep from all of the muscle twitching. Lots of side-effects, not much relief from the depression until the fourth week. It was also during April that I stepped down from my senior editing position with Sick Lit Magazine. Mid-month, we took a trip back to our old stomping grounds in Beaufort, South Carolina, to show the girls where they came from and to assess if that was somewhere we’d want to move back to.
The style of writing in my journal changes considerably this month. I go from a few sentences each day to several pages, and the sentence structure and vocabulary became more complex. The happiness and optimism are evident in the pages and, without having to explicitly state it, it’s obvious Prozac has done its job. A trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art gave me the inspiration I needed to shift out of my old thought patterns to direct where I was going from that point. We added Jonesy to our home, bringing the pet totals to Dogs-1, Cats-4. After leaving in a ball of fire in November, I decided to slowly make my way back to school. I cautiously scheduled one class–Statistics. I wrote in my journal “I feel like I’m in a plane on the runway the last few weeks. Kyle and I are the pilots, testing the wing flaps and such, but now we’re hearing the engine rev up in prep for starting down the runway to get up to speed for take-off.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Our metaphorical plane took off in June on an exciting adventure. My muse and I had a long talk and decided that we were scrapping all previous works in progress to instead begin a new novel, Uprooted. I began working with my Terri Godmother and, through that connection, I began to start taking myself seriously as a professional writer. With the blanket of depression lifted, I also began dreaming of the future. Kyle and I worked to clean up the yard outside and…
Began renovating an old shed into my Writer’s Cottage. The girls spent a week with my parents, giving Kyle and I the chance to be goobers around Cleveland, and me a chance to sleep an impressive amount. A month out from school starting back up, my brain turned to planning my future, academically. The majority of this month was spent sitting outside, either reading or writing. The lazy days of summer were in full swing.
The highlight of the month was taking a trip to Seattle and bringing my sister and brother-in-law with us. I wrote in my journal “I feel love–for my family, for my city. This was a soul-filling trip.” While on the Left Coast, my dear friend Mat and his wife drove up from Utah and we all took in a Metallica concert. Once home, I had no interest in putting this trip into words, so my journal is full of pictures, tickets, random doo-dads, and the occasional short note. Midway through the month, I got word that I was accepted back into the Honors Program at school, which meant I had to take more classes. I took a terrifying leap of faith and signed up for a speech course. The family attended the Inaugural Akron Pride parade and saw lots of our LGBT friends.
With the beginning of the new semester came a complete overhaul on my life. Not only was this my first time taking (real) classes in person, but I went a little crazy with the activities. I was already an active member of LGBTS Global, but I decided I wanted to run for Student Senate. I also joined the campus book club, Under the Covers, and volunteered to design our table for the fall Student Activities fair. I chose “‘Fall’ into a good book” as our theme, and made the table as hyggelig as possible with random items I had in the house. I had a lot of compliments on my design, though, and our table was fairly popular.
School and school-related activities overtook my whole life this month. I was killing it in my classes and, at my professor’s urging, submitted my Poe speech outline to a competition. I joined the theater club, Stark Stage Theater, and took on the secretary position. I was elected Senator of the Arts and Sciences department, and my first task as Senator was to chair the decorating committee for the Stress Less Harvest Fest. The Coordinator of Student Life was impressed with my table at the activities fair, and wanted to get my help on a considerably bigger project. I was asked to serve as the student committee member for the Ohio Arts group who is choosing the artwork for my school’s new Akron campus. I struggled greatly with Impostor Syndrome, before finally putting the wheels in motion to legally change my name. I also struggled with finding balance between having a social life and being an introvert. To that end, my last major activities in October were parties–the LGBTS Global Halloween party, an Honors Program luncheon, and the Stress Less Harvest Fest, for which we worked heckin’ hard to pull off. My slightly more elaborate take on the “‘Fall’ into a good book” theme was a big hit, and several administrators stopped by to compliment me on my design…including the president of the school.
What a whirlwind! My Poe speech made it to the semi-finals of the competition, and then the finals! I had multiple projects to complete for Stats. I was approached by the Coordinator of Student Life and Recreation about taking a job she was creating with me in mind. Exams, speeches, meetings, rinse, repeat! I marveled at the love and friendship that was now in my life, realizing I have never felt as accepted and supported as I do now. I was thankful for the complete change that happened in one year.
The semester that was never supposed to happen, happened. As the final grades rolled in, I was pleased to know I earned A’s in both classes, maintaining my precious 4.0. I gave my speech on Poe in front of a huge audience, gladly coming in second to my friend Randall, who earned the pants off of first place. I officially became Nicole Ford Thomas to the world. I pulled off a super-secret speakeasy Christmas party. I was hired in as the Special Projects Assistant, a job where I do the things I love and am talented at. I built a schedule with my Honors advisor that allows me to take my sweet time, but also graduate in May, 2019. My birthday and Christmas were spent surrounded by loved ones and full of laughter and snowball fights.
I challenge you to go back and read the first three months of this year again, just to fully appreciate the stark difference between how I started 2017 and how I ended it. I’ve been through a dramatic change, and it only seems to be the beginning. I’m looking forward to all that 2018 will have to offer with hope and love in my heart.