Monday, January 31, 2011

To Begin ... Again

As I write this morning, the bright sun beaming into my writing studio, I’m reminded of what Helen Keller said: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

The last few months have been more than an “experience of trial and suffering,” more than a mere dance with the winter blues. It has been an outright battle to remain sane, whole, unto my own. It’s an odd feeling — and often difficult to describe — to feel yourself sliding into depression. It’s kind of like the rough turbulence that rattles an airplane, tossing passengers about as baggage falls out of the overheard compartments. It’s like the back tires on a car spinning on ice and quickly going nowhere fast. It’s like having the wind knocked out of you and gasping for air in order to breathe normal again. But when you’re there, when you’ve crashed into that wall — when depression has you pinned down — everything falls apart. The challenge, then, is to pick up the pieces and put everything back together again … if you can.

It was earlier this month when I finally broke down. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to string words together to form a sentence. I couldn’t get myself to the piano to practice scales or show up at the easel. I was holed up in my apartment, away from the world I felt completely at odds with, trying to expel the heavy weight bearing down on my chest. I had lost interest in life, in the things I loved to do. I had lost hope, and faith.

Apart from taking my medication regularly, apart from my weekly sessions with a psychologist, my doctor encouraged me to get outside daily, even if it was just to go for a walk. Some days it took a lot of convincing to get myself out the door, but I did. After a 17-year break, I took up skiing again, spending the mornings at Mont Orford. There was something about standing on top of the mountain, taking in the spectacular view of the region, that spoke to me. I had finally arrived at where the truth lies.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the insomnia that I’ve experienced since early October (when my mother passed away suddenly) triggered my depression, at least in part. My mother died leaving things unsaid between us, and that too played a part. When I am honest with myself, when I am not afraid to face the truth of the matter, it was my mother’s death — its suddenness, and the fact that the world lost and active and youthful person (my mother was sixty-five) — that reminded me that we need to live the life we imagine for ourselves. This is our chance to make a mark on the world, to follow our heart, to nurture our dreams.

I was caught in a job I did not enjoy, in an environment that brought me down. And I stayed because staying is easier. But when I tumbled, fell completely apart, I knew things had to change. So last Friday I quit my job.

Depression creates uncertainty. With the right medication, keeping active, loving, understanding and supporting friends — and a strong desire for wellness — I hope for better days. There are good days, when life seems normal and on track. Like today. There are bad days, when I’m unable to get myself moving, once again held hostage by a certain restlessness that clouds the mind, dampens my spirits, has me, repeatedly, on the verge of tears. There are few bad days now.

I don’t know what the future holds, but what I do know is that I have to husband my dreams. Anais Nin is right in saying: “Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” My job is to live inside hope.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Marcus: Thank you for posting the video clip of "Hope." Mom and I think it is beautiful. Good luck, my dear. We are very proud of you. Love, H-A and M