The birds are beginning to chirp in the mornings, and daylight savings has helped the sun hang in the sky a bit longer each day. Spring is almost here. Spring. New beginnings and life, a fresh start.
And May, specifically May 11th, is right around the corner. That is the day I graduate and head off into the great unknown of the future.
But first, let's look back a little. Three years ago this week was when I first came face-to-face with y diagnosis of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Since December 19th, 2011, this diagnosis has worked a number on my life. Today, it's still something I square off with on at least a weekly basis. I have learned a great deal about it, and like any disease, have discovered what symptoms and signs to be on the lookout for that may indicate a relapse. However, although I have developed a deeper understanding of this, I always face difficulty in explaining it to others.
This afternoon, in the midst of some really difficult feelings and thoughts, I came up with a rough analogy of what life looks like for me right now. Imagine walking along a smooth, sandy beach. To your left is the ocean, vast and unpredictable, with waves towering and crashing on the coast. The water creeps up the sand, tides changing throughout the days and months. As I walk, my toes sink into the sand - the sun shines, breezes blow, and life is lovely.
For those individuals without depression, they are far enough up the beach that the waves don't reach them, and that is for the best, because the water represents the difficulties of life. Occasionally, they may get splashed by a high tide, and scurry up a little further on the shore. Sometimes, a surprise rip tide may pull them in, and they may end up far, far out at sea - but always, they are able to find their footing, stagger up onto the beach, and learn to move away from those waves. I can live this life too, and I have found that I am most effectively able to walk in this way when I am on medication and in counseling, treating the chemicals in my brain that make this life so difficult.
But then, there is life without treatment. And for a variety of reasons, I have experienced this sporadically throughout the past 3 years. Life with depression is like walking in the wet sand and not having the ability to move up to dry sand. Each wave that creeps up the coast represents a trigger or stressor that has the potential to stimulate a depressive response in my brain. The water that used to be simply a beautiful, unpredictable, and powerful force I could see at a distance suddenly becomes a force I grapple with daily. And I can resist some waves, but it's just not the same as when I'm walking on dry sand. I get pulled out to sea and sometimes spend days and weeks there, worn down by the waves and wind. When I make it back to shore, I am exhausted and more easily drawn in by the next one.
My only solace and hope for this unknown future before me, and the only way I can make sense of these years of being beaten down by waves is that there is a lifeguard. Sometimes, it feels like he is just sitting up at the lifeguard tower, watching but doing nothing. Other times though, I know he's walking with me. That he has rescued me from the waves before something worse happened. Each day, he's helping me learn what it looks like to continue walking forward, even when pulled out to sea. And there are days in which we just sit down on the beach. I say, "I can't go on" and he tells me "I know." We bury our toes in the sand. Let the water drip through our fingers. Rest my weary soul.