What I Wish I Could Remember in the Middle of a Depressive Episode
A couple of days ago, I wrote a post on Facebook:
“I’m a stay-at-home mom in the midst of a pandemic. Please know a large part of me is grateful for this opportunity to be with my girls at a time when perhaps they need me the most. Not everyone has such a privilege. But as we know, grasses are always greener. Mine is no different. I am engulfed in thick grasses which stretch me thin, echoing the calls of my two girls daily, and sometimes I don’t want to answer their cries. I play games and I cuddle tightly on couches while the winds of winter blow outside. These moments sustain me.
For a while. Until I question if I’m enough, and if so, enough in whose eyes? Mine or someone else’s? Then tears come and I sink low and wonder if I’m truly doing all I can to make this a better world for me and my family. I want to write again but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to consolidate the things I’ve seen and felt in words that often seem so confining.”
I included the obligatory adorable photos of my two daughters and let it rest. I got a few likes and comments, mostly along the lines of, “you are enough,” which I appreciate. But for some reason, I feel that those comments don’t align with the intent of my post.
The truth is, I was secretly in my usual deep, dark waterhole of a depressive episode. I’ve been there many times before. It is a narrow well filled with icy water and enclosed by cold, gray bricks. I am often lowered down on a shaky rope until I reach the bottom. It can take me days or weeks to break free.
I’ve been in and out of depressive episodes since the pandemic began. I’ve often felt pulled lower each time. I sometimes worry I won’t make it back out. At this point, it is beyond exhausting. It is beyond discouraging. It is beyond hope at times. When I experience an episode, I do what I usually do. I make extra appointments with my therapist, I aim for more self-care, sometimes my medication is increased by my psychiatrist.
But I received a comment on my Facebook post and it got me thinking about the cyclical nature that we all live in. It read: “You are surviving and growing and helping others to survive and grow, even if you can’t see or feel it. You are also percolating. I wish you could get where you want to go more quickly, but do recognize that you are on the path.”
The comment shook me. It pulled me a bit more back up out of the well and towards the blue sky. I feel as though it isn’t just that I’m percolating during this time of COVID. It’s been almost a year of hibernating, dormancy, wintering, whatever you want to call it. It has pushed many of us to the brink of our capacity to handle and survive. But the key is—I’m still very much alive. We all are. I’m doing the work I need to do in order to burst out of my self-made shell. I just have to remember that I already know how to do this.
I live in a city surrounded by oak trees of various kinds. Acorns litter our backyard, their tiny hats often pulled apart by greedy squirrels. If buried properly, the shell of an acorn cracks open when it is saturated with too much water. From this crack, the taproot begins its decent downward to anchor itself to the earth. From the taproot, other roots grow out like an inverted tree.
I love to garden. I attempt to plant bulbs and am ecstatic when they come back again in spring. Their gorgeous flowers bloom just once a year—such as hyacinths, amaryllis, daffodils—when the greenery then dies back and the bulb becomes dormant. Though they are dormant, half-asleep, even presumed dead, they are still very much alive and active as they build an intricate, deep root system that holds onto the earth.
Other plants layering my garden are succulents, which have contractile roots. These fleshy legs pull the plant deeper into the ground. They expand as they are watered, and contract and die off during dry season. It is so the plant is able to remain consistent with the soil level, never too low and never too high.
When I’m in a depressive episode, I become sad, melancholy, fatalistic, sometimes with suicidal ideations. I just can’t imagine continuing to live the path I’m on. I wish I could remember that the I, too, come from this earth. I, too, am cyclical. I am the dormant stage of a bulb, the shell of an acorn before it cracks, the dried-up contractile root without water. But then I come out of it, I bloom, I take what I have learned and I grow. As I always have. As I always will.
What I want to do in this constant harvest society of doing, doing, doing, is to be OK with the unhappiness. To be OK with the depression. To settle into it, observe it and then let it go. To know that life is cyclical and I will come out of whatever deep well I find myself in. I am percolating, simmering into something wonderful, even through the depths of winter raging outside.
I have the roots anchored deep to prove it if only I can remember that they are there, holding onto this Mother Earth tight, anchored to her ruby red core. I am taprooted.
Getty image by Biljana Cvetanovic