Sunday, March 10, 2013
Ledges, Tides, Sea-Change
On Friday I felt good for the first time in a long, cold winter. A rainy winter. A winter I spent missing my family and the wide prairie skies with an equally ice-pierced ache.
But on Friday I felt good even though I had no time to write, the barometer my mood generally revolves around. In the morning Noah and I went to an interminable school assembly to watch Indy get an award for "improvement in reading". I am against these nonsense flattery awards, (one girl was given a "princess award" for "liking princesses") but that's another blog. After the assembly I spent the afternoon cleaning, singing to Mamma Mia! (now you know too much about me by far) and listening to This American Life with the windows thrown wide. The sun was out and it was warm, that best kind of spring day, one of the first warm days after a long winter where you feel almost grateful for cold and snow--almost--because it makes these early spring reprieves so damn beautiful, so breath-taking and teary-making. Without the winter would the spring make me feel like my being, my chest and heart, are finding rich soil and blooming wide and fluttering, my center a trembling velvety butterfly wing? Would I feel that I personally am blooming? I don't know but here's some foreshadowing: I'm ready to find out. I am distinctly interested in what life without winter would feel like in my soul.
(But that is another blog, a story in wish stage, not yet written)
I feel so good today, I told Noah in breezy kitchen, looking at the blue sky. Indeed, I felt like the movie scene where the sick patient leaves the hospital, always in the sun, shaky at first but throwing away the cane after a few wobbly steps. I got out of bed, I got things done, my mind spun out stories to write and cracked jokes. Ayla's friend came over and went home and I made cobb salad pizza in the kitchen, flirting and teasing my husband. The weather was set to be good through the weekend and I went to bed feeling light, spirit and body light and beautiful when I stood and enjoyed it in front of the mirror.
And then Saturday.
Saturday came and I knew right away, shuffling about in the kitchen, measuring coffee into the machine, that it was back. Winter's grip on me wasn't over. Beneath it I slump. Depression settles into me physically as well as spiritually and I dragged about the house, heavy-hearted, heavy of foot and chest and brain. Every task seems insurmountable. Even little things like getting dressed, never mind bigger things like cleaning the kitchen, playing with children, pursuing a dream, living with purpose. My brain misfires about everything, asking why bother over and over again. I can't blog, can't edit my book. I can trick myself into writing, which is a salvation but short-lived. Noah took the girls to the park and I slouched in front of the computer, reasoning anything, even mindless web-surfing, was better than climbing back into bed. My shoulders curved around me, my body expressing my sense of total defeat. Eventually I gave in. I crawled back into bed. Why bother why bother why bother. Noah came home and the girls clambered over me like puppies, but I was unresponsive and Noah coaxed them from the room, took them outside to a gorgeous summer-like evening.
While he put steaks on the grill and threw the frisbee to the girls and dog, I got in the shower and couldn't coax myself out of it. I sat on the floor with the water rushing over me. I made feeble attempts at talking myself out of this one like I've done with depressive episodes in the past. But something in me was protesting too strongly. I was tired of trying to choose happiness. I was tired of trying to fix myself, by myself. For years I have been managing the depression, being without health insurance and unable to afford help, and I've done a decent job. I have sought out spiritual teachings and educated myself about the disease. I have practiced yoga and meditation and what I am told therapists call "thought stopping", teaching myself to cut off the lies depression fires constantly in a brain, to replace them with other thoughts. I have taken my fish oil and walks in the sun, I eat my nuts and salmon and green smoothies. I have done this for more than ten years and sitting on the floor of the shower, I thought about how it feels like plugging holes in a breaking damn. It feels like fighting an unstoppable, ten-year tide. And I realized that depression is not something I have to manage on my own. I have tried, I try so hard, I do a really good job but I deserve to have more than one good day out of every six or ten or twenty. In that momennt of clarity, the clouds of depression cleared in my brain and I thought: On Monday I will make an appointment at the sliding-scale clinic and I will tell them that I need help. That I want medication because I can't do this on my own anymore. And I don't have to.
The decision alone brought some relief. I managed to get out of the shower. I went to the kitchen and told Noah my plan. He agreed, gently, that it was a good idea. I couldn't wait to get to the doctor's office, to get real help, but just making the decision caused a shift in my brain. For all these years I have treated depression like it is a part of me that I am responsible for managing, something that I need to change. I do believe I am responsible for my moods and actions, to some extent my thoughts and emotions but I'd been treating depression like it was my fault and something I was responsible for fixing. It's not. It's an unwanted visitor. It's a monster on the shoulder and it's not my job to talk the monster down off ledges, to self-help it into a prettier, presentable state. No. I want the damn thing hacked the fuck off.
And if I can't do that, I want to medicate it into a stupor so that I can go about my life, unbothered as possible.
So it's Sunday night. I had a decent day. First thing tomorrow I am calling the doctor. I am a little afraid of being denied help and brushed off, I don't know why, I just am. My contingency plan: if that happens, I will get another opinion. I am making this promise to myself, here, at the turning of the seasons. I'm going to get help. I'm going to feel better. I'm not going to go it alone, anymore.
The tide must change.