An Atmospheric Low of the Soul

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cy·clone

ˈsīˌklōn/

noun

METEOROLOGY

  1. a system of winds rotating inward to an area of low atmospheric pressure, with a counterclockwise (northern hemisphere) or clockwise (southern hemisphere) circulation; a depression.

Four months into the journey of motherhood, and my world is spinning. Sleepless nights, disordered days and the constant companionship of self-doubt swirl around me fiercely. I don’t know which way to turn, and I’m being battered.

Although bodies are incredibly resilient, some (like mine) carry within them certain weaknesses. A tendency to addiction or weak ankles. A history of cancer in the family. For me, it’s a low functioning thyroid that lends itself toward an imbalance of hormones resulting in clinical depression.

It takes a few weeks before I can name this storm. I don’t want to test the winds, to look at the lows and highs, to name this as something more than a squall. I’d prefer to call it a cyclone, really, than depression, even if I get to soften it with the more than acceptable moniker of “postpartum.”

My body has performed the incredible feat of nurturing and growing a human being. At threat even to my own life, life has been brought forth, and I’m justified in being wildly unstable in this new reality.

Oh, but how I cling to my pride in the midst, insisting that I am okay, that I can handle this new place, that I’m not whirling inside. In that way, I suck the winds inward, toward myself, causing them to whip faster around me. It makes me feel powerful, but it’s oh-so-dangerous to live in this fantasy of infallibility.

I’m sitting on the floor at the doctor’s office, changing a diaper while my daughter squeals and wiggles when I finally give in to the word, the limitation, and the help. I’m living in the midst of an atmospheric low of my soul, and I need something to relieve the barometric pressure. I run my hand slowly back and forth over the industrial carpeting as I wait for the nurse to return, noticing the way the fibers feel against my skin. This miracle-maker of blood and bone has done more than I thought possible, and I have been unkind in the pursuit of my own righteousness.

Maybe it’s a form of cloud seeding, these small blue pills the doctor prescribes for me. Tears need to fall, grief and loss intermingled in this experience of change. Or maybe it’s the way to form a warm front to form a wall against which the swirling will exhaust itself into silence. Either way, it’s the acceptance of limit and the acknowledgement of beauty in the midst of pain.

As I leave the office my daughter catches my pinky finger, wrapping her small hand around it as if I’m an anchor. I feel my blood beating gently against her soft skin and realize that I’m always in circulation, that this decision is one that shows us both there’s power in being storm-swallowers.

 

You can purchase Tara’s book, Embracing the Body, by clicking on the picture below.

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Tara M. Owens

Tara M. Owens

Spiritual Director at Anam Cara
Tara M. Owens, CSD, is the author of Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone published in March 2015 by InterVarsity Press.
Tara M. Owens

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  • This is beautiful

  • Tammy Perlmutter

    I love the way you built up to your revelation, your descriptions are perfect, “I’m living in the midst of an atmospheric low of my soul,” it’s a haunting and helpful way to define what depression can feel like. Thank you for this.

  • Briana Meade

    Wonderful.

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  • You have done something extraordinary. You are something extraordinary. I wish I could make you a hot cup of tea and pass you a kleenex. Thank you for this beautiful reflection.