When I was fourteen or so, back in the days of Mom’s heroics, I fell into a fairly profound depression that lasted for about six years. As amazing as her actions to keep us roofed and clothed and fed were, as super-human as her efforts to care for our schizophrenic borders were, the effort took its toll too. There were large rents in the fabric of our lives, and I slipped through a few of them.
Mom never knew how bad it was at the time. We’ve talked about it since, cried and accepted and forgiven each other for the missteps and gaps. That’s all there was to do.
There’s no such thing as a normal life anyway. TV is just theatre. I’ve never met anyone that had a “normal” childhood.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m thankful for what we had. It could have been worse. I was cared for and provided for, and I learned autonomy early. I was perhaps neglected in some ways, trusted by default to find my way, but never abused. I always knew I was loved.
But I had a serious mind, and it led me to dark places, and Mom had her own demons to struggle with. I survived it. Barely, I realized later, looking back. There were close calls. But I survived. We both did.
After the accident, when my marriage was falling apart, there was another depression. This time I was able to get help and it was shorter, but the return to depression had been unsettling. Profoundly unsettling. Walking over your own grave unsettling.
Looking back on the last couple months, and especially weeks, I realize now that I was starting to feel a fear, in the back of my head where I couldn’t quite reach it, that I was sliding down the rabbit hole again. That I was falling into pits too deep for me to extricate myself from. That I was slipping away and that all the work I thought I’d done had obviously not been as complete as I’d thought. (And, of course, it isn’t complete, never is, but that’s okay and a different thing all together anyway.) With words all dried up, even the desire to write absent, I was getting very worried that something was seriously wrong.
I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself or anyone else. My friends were worried, I could tell. But I just curled in. It’s what I usually do; try to fix it myself for as long as I can. It generally works, even if it’s not a perfect system. Knowing that support is ready and waiting is usually enough. I still have all those ingrained habits of (perhaps unhealthy) autonomy though. It’s what I do.
But it wasn’t a slip into depression this last few weeks. It was just the mother of all colds, or maybe an inconvenient string of them. I woke up Wednesday and felt human for the first time in a while, then felt better yesterday, and today I’m feeling practically normal.
And I’m breathing heavy sighs of relief.
From here, coming out the other side, I can see that my malaise wasn’t a descent into darkness. The fear was unfounded. But it was there. That’s worth taking note of. I’m taking notes. There’s (always) still work to do.
But there’s good news in this too. When I was telling myself and everyone else that it was just a cold, I was right. While I may have a fear of some of the dark places I’ve lived in, I’m not the person that fell into those pits anymore. Who I was doesn’t define who I am.
And I think I feel pretty damned good about that.
P.S. I finished the full reading and notes for the manuscript draft today. The last revisions before beta reading start on Monday.