Goodbye Stranger-W.I.S.E. project 2016

And I will go on shining
Shining like brand new
I’ll never look behind me
My troubles will be few

~ Supertramp

Since I wrote a post about my struggle with depression I feel like I have come out of the ‘proverbial’ closet. I feel like I have shed a skin, taken off a mask, exposed a deep dark secret and the heaviness that has gripped my heart for years has loosened significantly.

I felt like a bit of a fraud to be honest, always taking about happiness and how it is a choice that we make everyday  when some days I was shackled by fear and uncertainty, holding back tears, just like the rest of you.

I have always disliked it when people air their dirty laundry all over the internet but I do love good stories. The problem with a good story is to tell it authentically can be tricky because often our stories are so tightly woven around the stories of others  that it is hard to separate the two and sometimes people don’t want their stories told. Some people are fiercely private and others worry about being scrutinized if they allow their feelings to show. I am not among those people. I am more concerned about presenting a story that is not true, a story void of struggles and tears, a story where I breathe sunsets and piss rainbows. That is far removed from my story.

I know that for many people all they know of depression is what they have learned from movies and metaphors. It can almost look beautiful in the right light. It’s like seeing a stunning portrait in black and white. The entire feeling of the portrait would change if it was concluded in color. The great photographer Robert Frank once said, “Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.”

Imagining a torturous life, wrought with days void of color is not as beautiful.

I think all of our stories of struggle and fear are eerily similar but the problem is that we compare our truth to each others highlight reel. My Facebook story, my Instagram feed represents some very wonderful times in my life with some very wonderful people but it is very far removed from the whole story. These perfect images which scatter our feeds are a very tiny glimpse into the very best of peoples lives, they do not look into their hearts and souls. They should not give anyone the feeling that they are not enough, that everyone knows something that they don’t know and that they are living a better life.

Even though the depression I struggle with is not my own, even if the racing thoughts, the dread, the gloom, the fear, the anxiety, the love, the hate, the emptiness, the fear, the horror, the tragedy, the deceit, the betrayal  and chaos is not happening in my mind  it robs me just the same.

I have always been fiercely protective of my marriage, we have tackled some very hard times, often pulling ourselves up by the straps of our boots and starting over again, but there are days that my mind is plagued by doubt and sometimes the certainty I feel about the strength of our union betrays me. I have always affectionately described my marriage as enduring but this illness plants and waters seeds of uncertainty, delighting in their steadfast growth.

My marriage is like that black and white portrait, full of wondrous hope and agonizing despair. The human condition that plagues all of us. We live this life full of incredibly beautiful moments, moments of enduring love and friendship, moments of feeling safe and adored. There are moments that we are captivated with each other and excited for our future, but just as quickly as these moments envelope us in warmth and cheerfulness they can turn and smother us with panic and uncertainty.

Depression is a thief. It is a prowler that lurks around in the dark shadows of your mind and snuffs out the sunshine. It has a tenacious and heavy hand. It strengthens all of our fears and uneasiness and nourishes your insecurities. Occasionally it loosens its grip on us just enough to make us think that we are going to be ok. Randomly these times can be so intense that you feel like you are on top of the world looking down at all the sad stick figures walking around. Life is a precious gift and yours is the best. You are invincible. You radiate sunshine and rainbows. You are higher than Johnny Cash on a Sunday morning. You are sitting on top of the roller coaster. You have a great view and you are never coming down. Inevitably you do though…and it is a long way down. I want to be the parachute that breaks the fall for the one I love but how do I do that without getting knocked down?

Depression is a bumpy ride. I cannot make sense of it and though it dwells in my space I cannot imagine what it would feel like if it was living in me, if it invaded my mind and my thoughts from the inside.

We have made our way back to each other many times, through rain, snow, sleet, fog , we have traveled washed out roads slowly but surely to get back to that place where we feel safe and right together. I have always thought of safe as an everlasting feeling but in my experience it is a transient excitation at best. The seeds of uncertainty have rooted and grown making the thoroughfare a merciless trek, but we make it time and time again. For the in betweens are a precious gift.

We work tirelessly to tear down walls, to be vulnerable and convicted in our love for one another only to have our sentiments be obliterated, our affections conveyed as weaknesses by the monster that comes knocking periodically.

Sometimes I am scared and not scared to say that I am scared. I am scared to allow the person that I have loved for almost half my lifetime slip away and just as scared that my earnestness will push him away.

I am a lover, afraid that my love is no longer the answer or the question. It is a maze, a riddle, a puzzle with a missing piece.

There is this person I love more than anything in the world but over the years there are times it feels like there is a whole world growing in the space between us. It is hard in those times to remember that it won’t last, to keep fighting. From experience we know that our love can slay dragons, even the fire breathing monstrosity that is depression and that knowing keeps us rooted. We bounce back stronger and we learn. We try to stay in the light!

A belief in ourselves is at the very heart of this hope. For me, it is rooted in knowing that I am enough, that I am loved, that this beast can strip me of everything but my worthiness.

Sometimes fighting the beast makes me feel like a stranger in my own skin. Small and afraid, clinging to to the threads of a life I built to last. Recently I was on an online support group based out of the U.K. and this woman wrote in asking for help because she was struggling in her marriage and her husband suffers depression and he was pushing her away. She was scared and distraught. I felt compelled to write to her and it made me feel good. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I can speak from a place of experience. It helped me and I hope it helped her. It made me want to be honest in the hopes that if even one person was suffering they would realize that they were not alone. It made me realize that my vitality, my unwillingness to give up, my willingness to choose and cultivate happiness every damn day, even on the days when the world feels dark and cold makes me pretty damn close to a super hero. We are all heroes in this big , heavy world and if you can’t be someone else’s you better be your own.

xo

Michelle

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