I’ve been cycling through this mixed state of hypomania and depression all Fall. Relief came at the beginning of the month, like a release on a pressure valve, giving my mind and lungs the room I needed to breathe and just . . . be again. The cycling has slowed but has not fully passed like it usually does every November. I can feel depression lingering, watching my every move, waiting for a crack in my fortified defenses it can wedge and root itself into.
My partner can see it perched on my shoulders and looking out from behind my eyes, hear it in my voice when I tell him I’m just tired. The stress and strain of trying to delicately maintain my footing as I navigate my way through motherhood and illness is becoming exhausting, but I’m still putting one foot in front of the other. I’m focused on maintaining, focused on my treatment, focused on smiling and laughing with my boys even when I feel depression beginning to launch its silent assault. It desires simply to gut me—to turn me into an unrecognizable form that’s had its insides scraped out.
But it’s Thanksgiving. So I’m giving thanks. I’m staring at myself in the mirror with a clenched jaw and determination in my eyes. I’m remembering I’m a survivor. Remembering that I’m loved. Remembering that I belong here, in this body, in this life, and with them. Remembering what I have. Remembering that depression lies and that within me there are no barren wastelands. So I cook, pouring my soul and love into the food, and then give thanks as we eat, whispering declarations of gratitude that I have them to root me here.
It’s my birthday.
I’ve fallen into the gravity well. I don’t understand why, which means I struggle to explain the how and why to anyone who asks. I know there has been stress, that my marriage is strained, that I’ve been triggered by my abusive father reaching out and demanding that I stop speaking and sharing my truths . . . that I refrain from owning my experiences. But yet I still don’t understand how it makes me susceptible to spiral down on a day where I enter a new season of living, or when living rises above just bearable.
I’m 33 today. I’m sitting on my bed in front of this painting and meditating on the duality of lightness and darkness present. I’m remembering how my father said I’d never make it past 18, let alone to my 30’s. I’m remembering the pain of the past and sitting with the pain of the present but now smiling as I focus on the yellow in the center, because I’m remembering that I was made to endure. I was made to not just survive but to thrive.
I wrestle with the darkness of trauma and this illness and can’t extricate myself from either, but I still dance in the light that exists as well. So I forcefully allow hope to pull me out of the well. I take a shower and get dressed. Do my hair. Throw on my favorite shade of lipstick, something bright and bold. Text my partner that yes, I’d love to go as a family and pick up my gift. I read the cards they’ve given me, I marvel at the creativity of friends as they post photos and GIFs of Prince and The Mindy Project on my Facebook wall. I feel the warmth and love of celebration. I whisper thanks. I dance and allow my body to be overtaken by the freedom that comes with fluid movement. I breathe deep and exhale slowly, allowing each breath to ground me firmly in truth.
It’s the weekend.
Depression still lingers and still hasn’t passed, but I’m hopeful it will. Until it does, I’m forcing myself to trust in the power of enduring.