The second time I sank into depression, I knew something had to change. I didn’t want to cry every night, feel dread every time I walked into work, and to have a constant clench in my shoulders from anxiety around my future. This time, I took a more radical approach to lifting myself out of depression.
At age 27, I left Alaska for a job at The Seattle Times. My new beat was home and garden. I wasn't passionate about either topic, and I decided it was worth taking the job to make progress toward a coveted position as a features writer, my solution to avoiding the stress and anxiety caused covering news. And I was right. After two-plus years writing about home and garden, I won a features position covering fashion, relationships and nightlife.
Finally, I loved my job. I spent my day talking to people about relationships, interviewing idols like author Jhumpa Lahiri, and I had work-life balance, including the flexibility to go to yoga three days a week. There was no breaking news in features, no interviews with survivors of trauma or crime, no pressure to get ahead in a competitive newsroom and news city.
I tried to ignore the tremors rippling through the newspaper industry, as people migrated to free content on the Internet and gave up newspaper subscriptions. I tried to stay absorbed in my work, writing the stories that made me happy, even as my friends and I instant messaged all day, worrying about our jobs and future. I pretended I would have this job for as long as I wanted it.
The first round of layoffs wasn’t a surprise. When I found out I was safe, I hoped for the best. I thought keeping my job was the prize. But soon, there was talk of reducing features staff and moving reporters over to news. People started to leave voluntarily, in addition to the goodbyes for folks who were laid off. I realized even if I made it through the layoffs, I might have to move back to news, the place I had avoided for years. Or, I could leave.
But leave for what? Being a reporter was my dream; I thought I would stay in newspapers for the rest of my career. One day, I found a job writing about food for a local food co-op. I could get behind this job, which would allow me to write about a topic I loved. I made it to the final interview, then discovered one of my closest friends in the newsroom was the other finalist.
She got the job.
After the initial shock, I struggled to bounce back. I felt lost. Depression wasn't a stranger by now, but I had no solution. Every night at dinner, tears leaked out. I was unsure of what I was doing with my life. I hated going to work. I was angry and bitter. I had worked hard, done everything right, pushed myself to grow as a writer and reporter. I was almost a decade into my career, my industry was crumbling, and I was crumbling along with it.
Out of desperation, I signed up for a yoga teacher training weekend. I was sure I didn’t want to be a teacher; it sounded too risky, with no benefits and a major pay cut. I didn't want to stand up in front of people, all their attention on me. I liked listening to people, not talking.
Yoga also was the one consistent place I found solace from stress about my future. I could breathe, be in my body and not spiral into anxiety about my future. My gut told me I needed to try something I had never done before. I needed to move on.
The second time I sank into depression was the first time I realized I needed a radical change. I was tired of feeling anxious and stressed about my future. I wanted to choose a new way.
Next week: The time I thought I had it all figured out, and still became depressed.
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