I say those words with some trepidation because I’ve implied similar before, and then the balloon bursts with a bang. I’ve said it here, that to name the emotion you weaken its power. Is this the same for positive emotions? I hope not, but I feel robust enough right now to take the risk.
My dark episodes never seem to last less than a year. I’m grateful for the bludgeoning lack of self-awareness which makes me forget this in between times. Perhaps depression is a bit like childbirth (ponders the mother of five children all born naturally) only you don’t choose the triggering event and are without the brand new human at the end of it. Hmmm...
What I DO know without resorting to clumsy analogies, is that because it lasts so long my perspective is skewed. I find I can’t remember what ‘normal’ I supposed to feel like. I think I’m me again right now, but my responses don't seem the same as before. Perhaps episodes of depression change you, like other big life events do.
Nothing special has happened to make me feel better. Well, perhaps that's disingenuous of me seeing as I've had a full year of no-expense-spared therapy (thank you, years of Steph's BUPA premiums for finally becoming useful), plus drugs and the unspeakable luxury to navel gaze. I nearly wrote "naval gaze," images thereof making me giggle. This is new, that I feel like laughing again, and want to make other people laugh too - a key, and a little chink of light that's given me hope that this state might last.
I'm looking outwards again. One of the killing things I find about depression, is how ruthlessly introspective it makes you. You're self-obsessed but it's not selfishness. Selfishness suggests some pleasure in the state, but in depression there is none. Being depressed, for those lucky enough not to know is like being trapped in a self-conscious hell which you yourself have created. All of your worst nightmares are there. You can’t remove yourself, and as much as you want to be interested in the world, your black ego turns you inwards. Depression strips you back to the dullest, most paranoid parts of yourself. If you’re lucky enough to have help, therapy examines the carcass, picks the bones clean and then painfully, makes you rebuild the flesh.
That's where I am, fleshed up - oh, literally, I have put on a heap of weight - and metaphorically. I feel like myself again. I love my family, I feel creative again. In a couple of weeks I have an interview for a job I would adore. I lack obvious relevant experience or qualifications, but I know I could do it. Six months ago I would not have had the confidence to apply - hell, six years ago I wouldn't have had the confidence either.
It helps that I have fewer things to worry about. Elodie is managing so much better than I could have imagined at her new sixth form. She has difficult times and doesn't have anything like as much energy as previously, but she's missed a total of only seven days this half of term. I'm so proud of her determination to overcome this horrible condition which has laid her low for so many months, and that she wants to get on with life. I can't fix her, and I need to respect her enough to trust that she will work her own way through. I never imagined that this would be one of the toughest things to implement as a parent.
As for me, the message that has been hammered home is that I’m utterly powerless to prevent things happening, and sometimes the sh*t will hit the fan despite my best efforts. The only thing I can control or at least be aware of, is how I react. This is principally in relation to my long term loss of Juliette, but really it’s about everything else too.
I spent the first eight years after Juliette died inventing another life, where things were wonderful despite her leaving, and then the past year longing for an alternative reality where she was still here. It’s tough to admit that I can’t make either of those lives, but there’s peace in accepting my own fallibility and to realise that all I can do is incorporate her loss into the huge amount love I still feel for her. She'll always be part of me. I just have to keep on growing to hold her, as well as everyone and everything else.
Most of all, I feel hopeful that there’s more good to come.
Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.