Thursday, December 23, 2010

mississippi kite

There aren't distinct points demarcating The Time When I Was Severely Depressed (essentially from my beginning memories of consciousness to age 22 or so) from The Time When I Started Reckoning With Things But Was Still In A Lot Of Pain (ages 22-28, roughly) from The Time When The Clouds Are Allowed To Pass (ages 28 - present). Only in hindsight am I able to carve out rough biographical epochs, useful for tracing growth, learning forward and trying not to commit familiar mistakes.

My depression as I knew it is gone, and that's weird. It's weird to wake up without a demon curled around my neck, whispering how worthless I am, sucking out my energy, reminding me throughout the day that the world would be better off without me, that I've fucked up many times over, that there's no atonement possible. That demon was my familiar for so long that without it I found myself not really knowing how to function - I'd relied on it to gauge my actions for so long. It warped my lens and cast a long shadow over everything I could perceive.

I had my eyes examined a week or so ago for the first time in eight years. Turns out I actually need glasses - my prescription isn't that strong (I'm a little nearsighted/astigmatic) but it's strong for someone who wasn't wearing any kind of corrective eyewear. When I put my new glasses on for the first time, the amount of detail I could see was astounding. My brain was processing "blurry" as "normal."

It was a quick adjustment to my new glasses, but the analogy to operating without the demon is obvious. It took way longer to figure that one out. For a period of time, every single step I took was a little bit wobbly. I had to learn all over, in my late twenties, how to assess myself and others, how to operate in the world. I had a decent idea, but the process of rehabituating is a strange and complicated one. After about two years of this, I feel like I'm on solid ground.

The sadnesses I feel now are normal, not all-encompassing, and I know how to deal with them - how to work with them (as I would work with any other strong emotion), how to let them flow over and through me. They don't appear rootless. Meditation, talking/thinking things out and letting myself lean on others (as I let others lean on me) actually help.

The demon - and various events, most of them traumatic - helped ensure that I was a real asshole as a teenager/young adult. Any wounded animal would be. I spent most of my time licking my wounds, trying not to smear blood everywhere, and lashing out at anyone who tried to love me. I count myself extremely lucky that I had music, art, writing, literature and what existed of an underground community (and people who loved me) to fall into, because if I hadn't had those supports I would have tumbled headlong into the abyss. I've spent the last decade or so trying to figure out how to pay others back for the support I received, and I think I've figured out a few common-sense strategies through trial and error - ethical principles, responsibility to my community, and so forth. (The demon enjoys stripping you of common sense and replacing obvious things with its own bent philosophies.)

I have this kernel of hope to offer others in various phases of struggling with the demon in the many guises it appears in, be it organic depression or PTSD or a combination thereof (or something else) - you won't know when it leaves, but its absence will be loud. It'll take time to adjust, but we humans are remarkably adaptable creatures and if you're tempered by the fire, as anyone fighting the demon is, you'll figure out how to reckon with its absence. There's never a day when the fight is over, but there are days when it gets so much easier, days when you can relax your vigilance, days when you can allow yourself to experience real joy and an entire spectrum of other emotions and experiences you previously thought weren't possible. Being a grown-up is weird. Being a grown-up who's spent her life reckoning with this shit is even weirder. It's complicated and it's messy and there is no neat ending - but there is motion beyond, life beyond, and you'll know it when you're in it - and it is worth fighting for. It is worth it a thousand times over.

1 comment:

  1. "It is worth it a thousand times over."