I am in a weird place. I don’t mean I’m at a bat mitzvah for a bearded lady or a Buddhist retreat for biker gangs. It’s not that kind of weird but, for me, in the spectrum of my life it’s unusual. For a while now, I’ve been parading around masked as a functioning adult while I am mentally checked out. I don’t have GPS coordinates for where my brain is currently located, but I am acutely aware that it is not with me. I suspect it followed through on a thought I had for a fleeting moment years ago when the boys were young and I was overwhelmed. Perhaps it got in a car, started driving, and kept on going until it was in the Yukon and then stopped somewhere silent amidst towering pines that sway in the wind, where it could rest and breathe and stare straight up into the emptiness of the sky to swallow the current moment and be peaceful in the present. It must be happy there because it hasn’t returned my texts or sent a postcard.
Meanwhile, my life has been proceeding without it, my body carrying out the day-to-day routines that comprise my life (grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, appointments, etc.) while my mind is on hiatus. Outside the house and in front of others, I function on autopilot appearing totally unchanged. Inside the house, away from the judgment of others, I disappear. Incapable of dealing with the heaviness in my heart, I check out. I binge watch television or flip mindlessly through my social media feeds. I spend hours playing games on my phone. I look at real estate I will not be purchasing. I load up and abandon myriad online shopping carts full of items meant to fill the void I feel. Sometimes I even doze at midday. I am not myself. I would like to coax my brain into returning, although I’m not sure I have the energy to manage its re-entry.
Depression is a place many people live and understand. I have never been one of those people, though, fortunate enough to barrel through life with imagined purpose. I love to create and move and learn and grow, but I am not doing any of those things. I miss them, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do them. This is how I know depression snuck in a back door when my best self was distracted by life changes I didn’t want to allow, like my children growing up and my family members suffering from illness and my own body betraying me with its aging. And, me being me, afraid to ask for help or admit weakness, I went missing.
I’ve been gone for a while now and, dammit, I miss me. It’s time to find my way back from the endless forest. I know it’s going to be a long, desolate road home. It starts with a lot of walking and a little hitchhiking help from a therapist or two. As I get closer, it will include a lot of fake-it-until-you-make-it bravado. The journey out of depression can’t begin until you recognize there is depression. Well, I’ve finally got that part figured out, and that is progress. As comfortable and safe as it has been sitting in bed, taking up space, and remaining checked out to protect myself from the pain of all the things I cannot control and don’t want to accept, it’s time to come back. The Yukon is a lovely place to visit when you need to catch your breath, but it’s isolated and lonely long term. It’s no place to spend the rest of my life, however long that may be. I need to stop wasting my ephemeral time.
I’m heading downstairs to bang on my drums, to beat out a rhythm I hope my brain will hear and follow home to a long overdue reunification with my body. If you catch me glued to Netflix or on my phone playing video slots, give me an encouraging, two-handed nudge forward. I understand now that I can’t do this alone, and this is why I am calling out my depression here. Hold me accountable. Send up a signal flare. Put me back on course. Let me ride on your handlebars when I don’t think I can walk anymore. I could use a little support, loathe though I am to admit it. I promise to do the same in return if you ever need it.
I enjoyed this so much. I’ve talked with close friends going through the same thing as they are getting used to an empty nest. If you haven’t read them already, I found help with Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” series of three books.
Profound may sound superlative, but your thoughts here are so.
It’s a spark, the ignition of a flame.
Perhaps the mind that abandoned you should not be sought out. The one you used to compose these words sounds pretty enlightened, honest, open to seeking truths. Maybe you should just build on this one.
Now here is your opportunity. To paint your life as you would have imagined for yourself.
It took a few years for me, and who knows how far I am through the woods?
The most helpful for me by far was to realize I need only air and liberty. (They, I decided, are the only two things I shall cleave to.)
I seriously pondered this (A LOT), and looked at tiny sparrows and even insects, and awoke to the simplicity of living things. If they can do it, what could I possibly need? What could I worry about?
It seems pretty simplistic. Because it is.
Give yourself credit for time served, Butterfly, good work.
Keep your eye on the sparrow.
Paz…I read Walden once, and that is what your comments led me to consider again. Perhaps I need to grab my Thoreau, head to the mountains, hike a bit, and then sit, be still, and rediscover the essence of life. I appreciate your thought that maybe I left the old mind behind for a reason. Maybe I am the butterfly after all. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to emerge from my chrysalis. It only matters that I do. THANK YOU as always for your words of wisdom and for shining a light into the tunnel for me to follow. ❤