Tuesday, December 20, 2011

present

 I spent the first three weeks of my new, antidepressant-filtered life in hiding.  Knowing the slowly increasing schedule of doses would take time to really kick in.  Knowing I already felt markedly different.  Afraid that "different" wouldn't be good, or right.  Afraid that it wouldn't last.  Afraid of what it meant, or where it would leave me.  I took the part of my brain that spends its time living my life, that is always making decisions, consciously evaluating me - myself, my life, my mood, my responsibilities, my schedule - and tucked it into bed, covers over its head, pillow squished down around its ears.  I slept, I edited months' worth of neglected photos, I watched cheesy movies and then watched them again, I read flimsy novels on my iPhone for hours on end.

I couldn't have quite managed this without spending a couple of those weeks at my parents' home, where my mom, especially, entertained my girls and changed a hundred diapers without complaint.  Truly, I tried to take over and make her rest several times, but Grandma loves her girls, and those girls love Grandma.  And I really, really appreciated the chance to hibernate.

Because I needed it.  When I tried, a couple of times, to come out from under the covers and see what was going on, the view was disorienting.  I wasn't stressed out.  I wasn't SO WEIGHED DOWN by all the things I needed to do.  My waking hours weren't suffocating just because of all the existing that had to be done.  In fact, I didn't really care if I accomplished anything on my previously overwhelming-to-the-point-of-debilitating to-do list.  And I didn't feel like getting up off the sofa was a chore.

Liberating is a good word for it.  Terrifying is another.  I felt untethered, and untethered felt AWESOME.  So awesome, in fact, that for a few days there I had an overwhelming - completely immature, but overwhelming - desire to be completely untethered.  To cut off all responsibility and walk out the door into the world of possibilities that I could finally see was out there, and that I finally had the energy to explore.

The urge was strong, and distracting.

During a brief check-in with my doctor during those days, he said that many people going through this period feel like teenagers again, feeling energy and hope that they didn't remember having since those years.  It's a great description of how I was feeling, except that I felt like a teenager who woke up as a thirty-three-year-old mother of two with work to be done and bills to be paid.

Jarring is another word for it.

I tucked my brain back under the covers after that, and stayed down for another week or so.  The girls and I came home, and I began to peck away at my to-do list without thinking about it too much.  This time, the list didn't feel insurmountable.  It didn't even look all that difficult.  I knocked off jobs and tasks, I finished up projects, and I even somehow did it all while keeping the house clean and the laundry done.  We decorated the house for Christmas, sent off the Christmas cards, and finished up our Christmas shopping.  I visited my therapist, and told her everything good, everything scary, and everything mysterious.  She nodded her head, congratulated me, talked me through it, took me seriously, encouraged me, and gave me a hug.


That was last Friday.  And honestly, even though things have been pretty good for the last couple of weeks, I think I was still hiding then.  But on Friday I visited my therapist.  Friday was Lena's last day of preschool before winter break, and Jimmy's last day of work before hiatus.  I sent off the last files of my illustration project on Friday, the last big, urgent item on my list.  And as we walked out the door that evening and drove to Lena's preschool holiday program, I could feel myself unwinding - really unwinding - like springs had been tightly bound up inside every inch of my body for years and years - and they were uncoiling and relaxing and almost audibly releasing and then opening, softening, turning into something less like rusty metal and more akin to velvet.

I enjoyed myself at the program that night more than I've enjoyed myself at a group event in I don't know how long.  I couldn't stop smiling.  We went out to eat afterwards at a favorite diner, and took the long way home to look at Christmas lights and listen to Christmas music.  And Lena's ridiculously earnest joy at every new house's display felt like a mirror of my own joy, because I was there, I was really there and present, making memories with my family, and loving every second of it.

So this is where I am, today.  It's a new world for me, and I'm still sticking to my decision to take things slow, and see where it all goes, keeping expectations at a minimum.  But every day that comes finds me feeling less apprehensive, and more hopeful, and best of all - content.  Present.  And if everything that has come before has existed only to make me appreciate the chance to be present with my family, I'm going to have to say that it was worth it.  I feel flat-out lucky as hell.

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