It’s weird to write this. To tell you that I’m doing so well, and yet so weary. It is the unending truth of mental illness: even when I’m well, I’m weary.
There is a part of me that lives weary. A part that leans away from hope, from joy, from light. I see the world around me: the fear, the anger, the hate; and I see the darkness in myself, and I find myself believing that nothing will improve. Not in this world. Not in me.
A constant cold and crushing fatigue.
And yet – over the past few months, I’ve had a slow warming; a realization that I am improving, that my thoughts are moving towards peace. It’s hard to explain, to articulate what it feels like to recognize that it’s been so long since my last depressive episode, that even when my first thoughts tend toward darkness, they don’t stay there.
I went hiking recently, stood at the summit looking across an expanse, and – as always – my first thought was how easy it would be to slide off, end it. That moment of wonder at the easiness of death, I’m not sure will ever leave me. But that thought didn’t stay, didn’t compel me toward anything. I recognized it, dismissed it, and went on with my day.
For years my depressive episodes have been short, manageable; a few weeks at most, but still there, still hanging over my shoulder waiting. But for almost six months, to have lived and loved and cried, and to have not, during any of that, dropped into the darkness?
Unbelievable and surreal.
Is this what normal feels like? Is this what I’ve missed out on for 40 years?
But because of that weariness, that leaning away from hope, I wait for the joy to recede. This isn’t real, I think, this won’t last.
Do we use the word “cured” in mental health? I don’t know, I doubt it.
I don’t know what best describes this space I’m currently occupying. It’s easier to laugh, easier to see beauty, easier to breathe. But I still live in that weary space, waiting for the shoe to drop, expecting the gray to roll back in, the walls to begin to smolder and burn.
In these six months, life has still been life.
I’ve dropped my oldest at college, spent days where I could hardly speak her name without tearing up, days where I missed her so deeply that my heart felt like bursting.
And yet, I did not crawl into myself and stay there.
I’ve had arguments with my spouse, frustrating injuries at the gym, days of worry and discouragement with my children and myself, days of exhaustion, days of recognizing friendships as changing, losing the closeness they once had, of finding my new place, tiptoeing around a new normal.
I’ve had moments of delight– watching from afar as that college child find her stride, lives vibrantly and fully. Seeing the cute cherub cheeks of my youngest as he snuggles up to me, watching my middle child learn to navigate high school and see the growth that comes with it. Making new friends, learning new things, accepting myself more.
And yet – depression has not taken hold. Not in the moments of struggle, of daily routine, nor of joy. For six months of living, I have not found myself under the waves of the darkness, tumbling, unable to find my breath, unable to force my way up for air. I’ve held onto the light in a way that feels both tender and ferocious. The weather has grown cold, the days gray and dreary, and yet, the darkness has not settled in.
I’ve asked my husband, “Is this weird for you? This happy and contented wife?” He has answered back, honestly, that yes, it is weird. The word we use to describe me these days is “gruntled” and it fits me perfectly.
I don’t know what changed. Did I hit some magic number of therapy visits? The perfect quantity of Jesus? Did my hormones finally balance? My brain found its serotonin transmitters? All the supplements and diet tweaks and workouts?
Really, it is probably none of these things. And all of these things. The hard work of pursuing my mental wellness is just that – hard work. Hard work that, in some ways has paid off. But in some ways – this just IS. It just happened.
Weary is what happens when I grow tired of doing this hard work. Weary happens when I worry that every stray thought is a harbinger of my depression returning. Weary happens as I wait in the space of not knowing.
Cured is not the word. Remission feels more accurate.
If you ask me how I’m doing, just know – I’m well. And I’m weary. Will this last? I don’t know. And that’s ok. I don’t have to know.
I’m enjoying the sun while it shines, knowing that I can survive the rain if it returns, and am resting in The One who knows what’s coming next.