Sweating the small stuff

January always seems to strike hard and leave me somewhat bewildered and flustered. Not, certainly, by the weight of countless New Years resolutions; I gave up on those sometime in adolescence. I may not have had much self-awareness then but I knew this: I am fickle.

Somehow January gathers around it all of the Un-done, like a hangover from the previous year. E-mails, bills, tax returns, multiple car hassles, official letters that have lain for months in a threatening pile. At the very same time it conscientiously assumes responsibility for the burdens of the 11 months following it. And so I find myself drowning in To-do’s: thank you’s, phonecalls, dentist, tyres, cheques, fundraising and how the hell do you Air-Care your car? (bloody Canada). I can’t even find the eye of the storm – if I could do that I would at least know where I was. But instead here I am, dizzy from circling, exhausted from worry and terrified something might fall through the cracks.

I hate being a grown-up.Way back in the day, when I was that fickle teenager, being a grown-up seemed amazingly sophisticated and meant one thing: freedom. Having your own house, driving, a credit card (we’ll gloss over the job….and maybe the kids). But the small print of freedom and self-determination is burdens and responsibilities. I’m hardly wanting to return to those days of furious blushing, zits and teenage-girl-power-games but I’d still like to find somewhere to hide from the army of To-do lists that grow legs in my dreams and chase after me with drawing pins.

So I’ve upped my intake of herbal stress meds and increased my merlot dosage. I try and take on Jayber’s mantra: ‘Even the end of the world wouldn’t be the end of the world’, but it isn’t really cutting it. Probably because 1) I’m a perfectionist and a control freak, and 2) It’s easy for Jayber to hold forth when family ‘management’ gets delegated to me. Not that I’m bitter……

I wrestle with what my faith means in broad daylight. If I pray will God send me a personal assistant, a nanny? Will the piles of letters and sinister To-do lists disappear? Cheesy faith and one-line answers I no longer have any patience for. He says we are to have freedom, peace, joy. Not as some pie in the sky aspiration but knowing the world in which these things are to have their context. (I’d like to argue that 1st century Palestine didn’t have car insurance premiums and canadian bureaucracy, but I think that misses the point). Somehow I get to rant and rail and ask for help and help comes: perhaps not in the prescribed form, but it helps nonetheless. My job is to prise my sticky little fingers off my worries and stresses and admit that I can’t cope and that is probably the hardest part. Truth be told I still want to be in control, to be self-sufficient. As my son would say, “I want to do it MYSHELF’.

The thing is, self-sufficiency is a bit tiring and not much fun for those who have to live with me. I can’t make up my mind if it seems too easy or just too hard to ask my Father for help.Dying to my pride and handing myself over to the mystical or living with a head full of stress and a heart full of worry. I’m such a stubborn eejit.

Right, enough pontificating. I’m away off to ask for some help – freedom, joy and peace are looking good right now. Good enough to get off my high horse for.

Confession

 

My name is espero and I’m a recovering depressive.

Some days I want to tattoo this on my forehead, or give it out on bits of paper to everyone I meet who would like to be my friend. Because I want them to understand, to make allowances and judge me in the light of what I have lived. What is now shadow was once substance and light.

‘It’s not you, it’s me’, I want to say. I keep my distance because I’m not that long out of exile. I’m awkward because I’m not sure of who I am anymore and seem to have forgotten the ease and rhythm of friendship. Maybe I want you to respect my big boundary fence, maybe I want you to storm the barricades. Life post-pit is confusing and disorientating.

My downward spiral began September 2005 and quickly climaxed to being unable to get out of bed, at times unable to speak and terrified of leaving the house. Engaging with people, even dear friends, was a no-no, except for a very small handful who had walked this path themselves and instinctively knew how to be a safe presence. How could you know, except by having been there, that asking ‘How are you?’ was guaranteed to send me back to the safety of my duvet? Life lost all its colour and sparkle and, for the most part, became a bland and grey terrain where everything seemed pointless and joyless. I say ‘for the most part ’because there were times when the grey deepened to black and a deep fear and terror settled on me. Survival meant living a ‘small’ life; doing simple things, living day to day and keeping to my wee community who were loving me back to life

The story of how my healing began is long and very precious to me. I’m not sure I can entrust it yet to the public domain, or that it’s what this post is about. Come have a cuppa with me and I’ll tell you all about it, I just want to protect it, for now, against comments and skeptics. Suffice to say I left the duvet behind and began to emerge again little by little into the Big Bad World.

If this were a movie I would, of course, go from strength to strength and be full of happiness and productivity. I’d be heading up my own counseling empire, having started a national campaign to give holidays to depressed mothers, given birth to 4 more children and be in constant social whirl with countless BFFs.

Life, however ain’t like that. This journey of healing toward wholeness is slow and dominated by struggle. Sometimes it feels as if I teeter on the edge of the pit and a slight breeze would send me down to its depths once again. Yes, I can function but I have been stripped bare of those things which used to define me and give me a feeling of self – who the hell am I and what is it that I bring to this life, this world? It’s hard to broaden my horizons from the small life that served so well in my recovery – it was full of comfort and safety, like a well loved blankie. My heart wants to embrace life and people and experience, but truth be told I’m shit scared. That the shadow will never once again become substance, that hope will get deferred.

My experience of depression is paradoxical. It has been my greatest teacher, my gateway to truth and brought into my life the most extraordinary women who have walked with me. It has also scorched the land of my life, leaving a fertile but barren place. It is here that I sit, waiting for the green shoots of life and hope.

Bear with me.