Homage to a Starry Night, Santa Monica (flickr)
Good morning, good morning. What’s the day opening up like where you are? Here there’s a chill in the air after a too-hot yesterday, and the birds are still recuperating, I think — I haven’t heard a single one wake up yet. Wait, there they are…
It’s been hard to write recently. I sit down at the desk in the morning and all the words evaporate from my head. I try to sneak up on them, the way you might with a skittish cat or a butterfly or a hummingbird resting at the tip of a bottlebrush tree branch, but they slip away from me as soon as I get close enough to see what they might look like. The writing just isn’t coming.
(In this series of posts about radical self care and/through major life change, I am finally taking some time to find the words for what I’ve been dealing with over the last month, since the birth of my nephew. I am thinking about how and why we choose to survive and how much effort is involved, how and why we choose to take care of ourselves, and how to allow ourselves to walk with all that life throws at us with even a modicum of grace and celebration.)
(Just a heads-up: there’s some talk in this post about negotiating feelings of suicidality — be easy with yourselves and only read what you want to read, ok?)
And then I slid into a pretty serious depression. I don’t know how much I want to say about that here, except that it was both hormonal and historical — it grew out of the long grief I held about my own loss of motherhood, it grew out of shame I felt around my failures as a writer and facilitator and woman, it grew out of sorrow at how long it took for either my sister or I to become parents — all the work we had to do just to survive long enough for our soul’s to heal enough that we could imagine cradling another’s spirit with any determination or self-assurance, how unfair what our stepfather did was. It seems an understatement: unfair. Of course it is. And it’s true.
Good morning, writers. The sun has just pushed, a thick orange plum, over the lip of the Oakland hills. Maybe we’ll warm up a little now. How is the day where you are? What is your morning bringing you?
Today, I am caught on the line, deep in the struggle of trying to pull myself out of a depression. What do you do on the days when you are feeling bad about yourself? How do you treat yourself on the days when the triggers have overridden your coping mechanisms and you slip out of normal functioning for awhile? Do you allow yourself to fall apart a little (or a lot)? Or do you try to stuff everything into the shopping bags you carry around labelled Normal Functioning Adult! and pretend like everything’s fine?
On the days when I get caught in the difficult voices, when my skin feels too sensitive to everything, when all the noises are too loud and the tears live just at the surface of my throat, my initial instinct is always to try and figure it out. This is how the inside interrogation begins: What’s going on, Jen? — never mind that the voice can sound remarkably like my stepfather’s; now I’m the one keeping me late from school or up without sleep, asking the questions. What’s going on with you? Why are you so upset? When are you going to pull yourself together? I go back through the previous days, recounting my actions and behaviors, trying to pinpoint the moment when everything came apart again, the moment when the clock turned over to 0 and my body broke open to depression again. It’s rare that I can find a single exchange or interaction or trigger point — but that doesn’t stop the inside interrogator from looking, and in trying to escape from the interrogation, I sink deeper and deeper into an inside cave.