These past months, I let my laptop collect dust. My inbox filled and my voicemail shooed callers because it was at capacity. My Voxer had 193 unheard messages from friends when I finally opened the app on my phone. For a while it was because I was in desperate need of rest. I spent most of the summer battling severe asthma, and I was still out of breath both literally and figuratively. I needed quiet spaces without notifications harassing me, without breaking news cycles crashing like waves, a mob of voices on social media clamoring for my attention, for my rage, for my sorrow. I needed to let my body of emotions breathe or I swore I would go under.
I was on the hunt for beauty, for wonder, for a measure of hope. For something to latch onto because I felt the murky swirl of darkness under my feet as I scissored my legs in the deep end, the drag of depression just below the surface. I went silent trying to save my breath. I was swimming with stones in my pockets. Each stone another tragedy or heartache or outrage.
I had a call in to my psychiatrist, but the weeks between starting new meds and seeing if they work is an eternity when you’re waiting to feel like yourself again. I wanted to explain to my readers and friends why I wasn’t a willing participant in my own life but I had no words left to spare. I’d used them all trying to get the help I needed to survive what I was certain was coming.
I felt the urgency of someone who has spent a lifetime struggling with mental illness, sending out flares and staring into the horizon hoping someone notices your distress signal. I can read the change in the air and the turn of the season and the slant of the light and know instinctively when darkness is near.
I can almost feel my bones go soft in my spine and the curved weight of my shoulders as they slump forward. My mind becomes filled with shadows of life, instead of the real thing. My bed holds me hostage. I can’t find sleep nor the will to rise, my leaden body cumbersome, like an anchor that can’t go any deeper but never hits bottom, its chain just keeps spinning on its reel like it’s lost in the abyss forever and altogether too heavy to pull back on deck.
So I stare at the blank wall before me. Sometimes for hours, sometimes through entire days and nights, looking into a distance that doesn’t exist and seeing nothing but the worst fears of my mind played out before me. A world better off without me. Better if I’d just let myself sink, one last time. Cut the tethers, toss off the floats, let my legs still and my eyes close and my breath stop. I say the word “suicidal” in spaces where my kid’s artwork hangs on the walls and flowers still bloom outside my bedroom window. In spaces where my husband rubs my back every night and puts lotion on my feet. In spaces where I am loved. In spaces where I say my prayers and read my Bible and believe. I say depression is back and I need help. Again.
They hold vigil with prayers and watchful eyes and compassion as they keep me from going under, from drowning in my despair. Each Monday through Sunday A.M and P.M slot of my pill case is filled with a cocktail of antidepressants and antipsychotics to battle my bipolar disorder. They bring me Berry LaCroix to swallow it all down.
I experience the month of September as if I am two separate halves of a woman. One part of me forces myself to go through the motions, runs a brush through my hair, pulls on the only clothes I still fit in and maybe even applies a little mascara. I make polite conversation in public because telling the truth would cost me too much energy to explain and risk being misunderstood. Part of me puts milk and peaches and paper towels in my grocery cart and fills my gas tank on the way home while I ask about the kid’s school. Another part of me waits for the rebounding exhaustion of trying to live, and she arrives home and strips out of her clothes, crawls back into her pajamas which she’ll stay in for days. Her hair turns greasy and matted, her mind tangled. All the pleasure, the beauty, the wonder is gone. Hope is a faint memory she believes in but cannot feel. She is so tired.
I knew the tides were changing and my meds were beginning to work when I heard birdsong high in the lodgepole and it made me smile. When I asked Josh to open the curtains and let the light back in. When my kids asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate turning forty at the end of the month and I knew for certain I’d make it. Knew for certain I wanted to. I’d eat cake and laugh, for laughing is what we’re best at. I knew I was emerging from depression when I not only remembered the things I’d written about God’s faithfulness to me but felt them again. When I knew that this too is mercy. He never leaves me, He never forsakes me. God is there in the deep; I shall not drown.
I am forty now. I have lived a great deal and also not at all for there are still words to be penned and peaches to sink my teeth into and sunsets to gorge on. Nights to fall asleep watching TV with my head on Josh’s chest and mornings waking to my nine-year-old crawling in to snuggle beside me. There’s still a God who comes for me again and again.