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Last Week of Nothingness

Did you know that Oprah comes on at 9AM  here in Chicago?

I wish I didn’t know this. I wish I could say that I didn’t sleep
until almost 9 this morning and then get up and put on Oprah on low
volume while I drank coffee and read emails.

It’s Friday. And it’s my last week of being unemployed. I have to be
at work at 8:30 on Monday morning and it couldn’t have come at a better
time. I think I’ve truly reached my capacity for being alone in the

It’s been an incredibly hard three months. I moved into my
apartment on the eve of September 1st and I’m just now completing the
first week of December. I really didn’t think this would a tough move.
Sure, I don’t know anyone. Sure, I don’t have a job, Sure, it’s a huge
new city. Sure, I’ll miss my life in LA…

Three months in and I’m still experiencing entire afternoons of
crying. And it’s been so much deeper and so much harder than I’ve
really admitted here on this blog. I’ve been sincerely depressed for
most of these three months.

I was in denial about it for a long time and that didn’t help
anything. I was just so shocked by the sadness that crept over me. And
I was so ashamed of it.

The first half of this year, in Los Angeles, was one of the best
times in my life. I’ve never felt happier or healthier or more at peace
with myself. And it was from that place that I met Greg and fell in
love with him. And it was from that place that I said, sure I’ll move
to Chicago. I can do anything.

And so, a few weeks in, when suddenly I felt desperately alone and
incredibly broke and I was having a hard time finding a job, everything
seemed to just crash down. And crashing is fine, as long as you have a
support system around you. But mine was gone. All my friends and my
therapist, my grad school classes that constantly dispelled any notion
that something like depression was abnormal or a bad thing. All of
those things were gone.

And I was in this new relationship with a man, in love like I never
knew I could be, and I didn’t want to scare him, didn’t want him to be
disappointed that the vibrant and positive woman he brought here from
Los Angeles had totally deflated into a sobbing heap on the kitchen
floor. And I couldn’t even hide it anyway and he’s been so supportive
and loving through all of this but for these past months I just
continued to be so hard on myself. Pull it together, Claire. Stop
fucking crying, Claire. Stop feeling lonely. Stop feeling sorry for
yourself. Stop, stop, stop, just please fucking stop.

And that hasn’t helped me to stop. It’s just made me feel worse and more scared and more alone.

But. I can finally say all of this because I’m finally starting to
pull out of it. I think I fell into it so swiftly that by the time I
was able to look up, I didn’t even know where to reach.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve made a truly concerted effort to
reach out to the people in my life and it has helped so much. I’ve
talked for hours on the phone to my girlfriends in Los Angeles and New
York. I’ve made plans with girls I’ve met here and I’ve made myself
answer the phone EVERY time it rings. And each time I do one of these
things I feel a little better. I feel a little more like myself.

Yesterday I talked to two of my girlfriends for a long time. Both of
them have experienced times like this. One of them is going through it
now and one of them is a therapist. And just talking it all out, crying
it all out, saying these things out loud, made me feel so much better.
I didn’t realize how much I was keeping in my head and how, because of
that, these feelings were just growing and growing and growing.

That’s always been one of my favorite things about therapy. As a
client and as a therapist I’ve had the experience of revealing
something that you thought was so terrible, absolutely shameful and
despicable…but that in saying it out loud and having it hang there in
the air between you and another person, you realize that maybe it isn’t so
bad after all, and that it certainly isn’t as huge as it had become in
your head, that in fact the words, when hung outside for anyone to see,
are so much smaller and simpler than you ever imagined.

One of my favorite theories that I studied in school was the Gestalt
Paradoxical Theory of Change which states that one cannot change, one
cannot move forward, unless he accepts where he is in the present

So here I am in all my tearful glory. Really grateful for the people
in my life and really excited about starting a new job on Monday.



  1. Oy, Claire — such a roller coaster ride for you. The thing is that, although it doesn’t help when your heart is hurting, in your clever head of course you *know* what an asset these many long months of “life as you’ve known it” are going to be in your chosen profession. You will be that deeply-understanding friend on the other end of the phone so many times over in years to come. Clearly doesn’t make it any easier to go through it yourself in the moment, but at least the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to glimmer again for you. May Monday dawn bright and full of shining optimism, may your new colleagues be all you are hoping for, and may Greg, bless his kind and comforting heart, hang in there for the duration. You are well-worth all the love from such good friends — and from yourself!

    Comment by Carroll on December 7, 2007 at 11:35 am

  2. Ah Claire. Thank you for writing all of that. So many of my thoughts were echoing YES with all you wrote. I think you are amazing and handling all this with so much grace and love and honesty. Let’s talk soon, I’m in Miami for Art Basel and will be in LA next week, but I’m still only a phone call away…

    Comment by Bryce on December 7, 2007 at 5:13 pm

  3. Aw, thanks Carroll and Bryce for the support and encouragement. It helps to write about it all…

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 9, 2007 at 12:21 pm

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