I could say that life has been busy, but the truth is much more complicated than that. The reason why I stopped writing is because life got very, very hard for a long, long while. And then, even after things started to get better, I felt like somehow I wasn't entitled to just pick back up where I left off without giving some sort of explanation about where I'd been.
It feels dishonest to only write about good, happy, strong stuff, while sweeping sadness and weakness under the rug. And the honest truth is that I suffered from clinical depression for about a year. It makes me uncomfortable to admit to that, because I like to think of myself as a strong person, and there is absolutely nothing that feels weaker or more worthless than Depression.
In my head, I always think of it as Depression, because it really is totally different than the "I'm feeling depressed because I hate my job" sort of thing that everyone experiences. Depression means crying every single day. It means stumbling through life in a haze. It means not being able to focus on anything. Except, of course, when you're lying awake at night, tormented by horrible, evil thoughts.
I read something recently that challenged me to see my experience with Depression in a new way:
"When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive. We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker…but as survivors. Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it. Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand."
This post made me realize that damaged relationships are a sort of comorbidity of Depression and that I won't be fully recovered until I repair the friendships that got injured along the way. I'm making this my New Year's Resolution.
I also need to take a moment to say that I will forever be grateful to my wonderful husband, who never, ever stopped fighting for me:
"I celebrate the fact that you may not understand the battle, but you pick up the baton dropped by someone you love until they can carry it again."
I want to believe that my Depression was an isolated event, a single episode, which only happened because I was absolutely battered by wave after wave of horrible, traumatic bad luck. I hope that's the case, because it would make me relatively lucky. Depression is more typically an illness that comes and goes throughout a person's life. And maybe mine is only in remission, and I'll experience it again someday.
I worry about that, especially in the past few months. I've been afraid that I might suffer from Postpartum Depression, and I became even more apprehensive after having an emergency c-section and delivering a tiny preemie who had to spend a couple of weeks in the NICU. When you combine physical trauma, emotional stress, hormonal fluctuations, and sleep deprivation, it creates really fertile ground for Depression to take root.
Fortunately, after several weeks spent "waiting for the other shoe to drop" I'm finally starting to breathe a little easier. It looks like I'm going to be OK.
I'm a survivor.