Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Depression Series: Finding Light

In this series, I've talked about postpartum depression and posted from the depths of a dark day.I have truly appreciated all of your support and shared experiences whether on the facebook page, comments here on the blog, or via private message.

On my journey with depression, I have emotionally climbed mountains, plummeted into holes, and meandered along country roads. The journey is often defined by big feelings, exhilarating moments of joy and success alongside debilitating moments of desperation and sadness. In between the most intense or notable moments are the subtleties of everyday life - a melancholic air, a proverbial feeling of clouds overhead, or little hints of light streaming through the darker times.

Those streams of light are so easily missed in the darkness. In the past few months though, I've found that light filling in my life in unexpected places. They are unexpected places not because they are unlikely places of joy.  Plenty of people soak up the joy in these places, but I haven't been able to do so for a long time whether because of depression or medication (which I'll talk about more in the next post). This light has found me in ordinary moments. It's been a quiet sense of peace with the chaos in my life. Identifying peace and joy in a small moment and then being able to soak it in.

It's feeling the smile spread across my face when my son runs to hug me when I enter a room, yelling "mama!" It's being able to breathe in the goodness of a little head pressed against my back cuddling while I nurse another little one to sleep. It's forgetting my to-do list, my frustrations, and my exhaustion, and basking in the warmth of the little hand rubbing my arm as he falls asleep despite his tendency to pinch me in the process. Smiling at my preschooler's need to do everything himself and pausing to truly celebrate with him when he succeeds a small task like putting on his socks. Rejoicing in my toddler's new found words and ability to communicate in light of the struggle that has been for him (and us). Watching a little boy with a magnifying glass quietly examining our growing seedlings.

We all get busy and forget to notice the small joys. The difference with depression is that people living with it are, at times, incapable of seeing or feeling that joy. It's not a matter of simply overlooking it. The true joy in these moments for me have been that they have snuck up on me. I felt that smile spread across my face without having to tell myself, Smile. It'll help. Really, pretend you can feel that joy and maybe you'll feel it. That's exhausting. It doesn't mean we shouldn't force the feeling or the smile sometimes, because the more light we find, the more there will be. But the feeling of joy finding me is like breathing a giant of sigh of relief, taking a heavy rock from my chest. I'm not broken. I can feel joy, and I can see light.

Yesterday evening as I was making dinner (a rushed heating up of leftovers as we'd been running around all day and just come home from me working school aftercare with the boys) I opened the kitchen window and let the boys run around in the backyard knowing I'd hear the screams if they got into too much trouble. As I stepped away from the toaster oven to grab something on the other side of the sink, I glanced out the window and saw pure joy. Right there and then. My boys were running with abandon through the grass grabbing dandelions. They'd race to the dandelions, their legs barely moving fast enough to keep up with their spirits. Crouching down to carefully examine the plant in its natural habitat, they'd marvel and then pluck it from the ground. I watched their cheeks and chests puff up as they took the biggest breath they could muster to blow with all their might sending the dandelion spores flying through the air. Then legs and arms flailing, they'd chase them through the air before finding another dandelion and repeating the adventure. As I watched this scene with the mountains climbing high in in the distance behind them, I smiled and breathed in the joy without thinking about it, and I can't wait to do it again.

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