In the days following my surrender to depression and grief I have been feeling as if a great weight is slowly being lifted from my chest. Finally ‘coming clean’ about just how much I am struggling is releasing me from a self-imposed and frightening prison. It seems as if allowing Depression to come into my life as a passing guest has made her seem less menacing and even somewhat affable. I have personified her as an eccentric old aunt who is quirky and no-nonsense with a somewhat forbidding dark side. In her lighter moments she has a brand of wacky wisdom that tickles my sense of humour and although she is somewhat abrasive I find I can be with her for short visits. She drops in unannounced every now and again for tea and might not take the hint about when it is time to leave but eventually she always does.
Her darker visits are much harder to tolerate. Sometimes Depression arrives with a heavy handmade quilt that she resolutely drapes over my unwilling form. Although she means me no harm, I find it hard to breathe under the weight of her shroud and have to fight the urge to panic. I am learning that to run from her only prolongs her visit and makes it impossibly hard to breathe. At these times she forces me to be quiet and still so that I can catch shallow and gasping breaths. She does not wish to hurt me but she does want me to be still. At these times, once I get over the anxiety of stillness, I am finding that she has information for me that is proving to be very useful. She has insights on my life that I might not have because, as the old adage so clearly states; you can’t see the forest for the trees.
The most important pearl of wisdom that this crazy old aunt has imparted is to remind me of the importance of stillness and deep listening. She has also shown me that the energy I am spending keeping her away is taking its toll not only on me but also on those I love most dearly. Ironically, life has improved since willingly allowing this nutty old woman to visit, even when she is at her darkest. Allowing her into my life has allowed me to loosen my grip and relax slightly and I am even sleeping better than I have in almost a year. Go figure!
One of the perks of Depression’s visit is that I have started meditating again. I used to meditate every morning and stopped abruptly when all I was hearing day after day was a scary and unwelcome knock on the door of my subconscious mind. The voice that was the loudest was the only one I didn’t want to hear and her messages were relentlessly insistent that I allow her access. In absolute and paralyzing fear I simply slammed the door shut and stopped venturing into my quiet mind. Instead, I surrounded myself with as much noisy chaos as I could muster (and I have no shortage of that in my house!!!) For an introvert, this kind of relentless chaotic white noise is akin to torture and I feel as if I have been slowly going insane.
It feels so wonderful to once again let myself venture tentatively into my deep and quiet inner realms. I have a very rich subconscious mind that I love to explore and it feels like coming home to be there once again. When I am meditating regularly I also find that I have access to ‘messages’ from the Universe. It’s kind of like tuning into a cosmic talk radio station that I can only hear when I am deeply still and quiet. The messages that I receive from this station are vivid and remarkable and come in the form of voices, thoughts, vivid dreams and very strong intuitive feelings.
Although allowing Depression into my life has made the weight feel less oppressive, it hasn’t changed the daily struggles and challenges with my children, particularly Michael. The constant fighting and violent conflict between the three boys is overwhelmingly stressful and oppressively defeating. I am so tired of conflict I feel as if my head will blow off when the boys start fighting shortly after awakening every single morning of every single day. Michael is always at the centre of the conflict and it makes me feel angry at him day after day as my overload becomes more deeply entrenched. I am so tired of conflict I don’t know what to do anymore and it seems that each day feels harder and less bearable.
Two weeks ago, after putting the little guys to bed, I drove through the dark night and extremely heavy rain to pick up Max from a play date. I could feel the welcome and blessed relief from the oppressive August heat in each drop of rain and as I made my way through the driving downpour I could feel the relief and cleansing of a good cry outside my window. As I drove quietly by myself through the heavy downpour I could feel the insistent urge to do the same, so I gripped the wheel tightly and gave myself permission to give in to the crushing grief of my current situation. As I let the tears come I could feel the glorious and welcome release of my pent up emotion and I felt healed.
After I finished my solitary weep I found I had the capacity to think clearly without the weight of despair on my chest. I thought about my three sons and the challenges of living with so much testosterone while residing inside a body whose dominant hormone is so much softer than its fierce and relentless antithesis. As I tapped into my testosterone-heavy house all I could see was conflict; the fights, the yelling and the physical aggression that is so much a part of our daily existence. All I could think was that the house in which I live is not the one of my dreams; I always wanted a peaceful, happy family with soft and gentle love as its driving force. Never did I imagine living in the midst of a violent storm and fighting for my survival day after exhausting day. Never did I picture I would just be surviving my children rather than happily raising them from a place of peace and love. As I made my way through the rain I silently wondered how we could free ourselves from the destructive pattern of conflict into which we had fallen, but I was coming up empty.
As I drove, I allowed myself to go into that quiet and still place deep inside my body; the place where my life makes sense and there is unlimited peace and tranquility. As I settled into that place I asked a question out loud to no one in particular; “what am I going to do?” It never occurred to me that I would get an answer. “Go the distance” was the very clear response I got to my desperate enquiry. The voice was not one with which I am familiar and I felt a shiver go up my spine as I drove through the dark, rainy night. Go the distance? What was that supposed to mean? I laughed out loud as I realized where I had heard that direction before; ‘go the distance’ is a line from one of my favourite movies in which the main character is being asked to take a giant leap of faith. Clearly, this voice had a sense of humour and playfulness and I laughed out loud at the delicious wit.
“Go the distance.”
As I allowed the message to reach me I could see a whole set of instructions playing out like a movie right before my eyes. As I watched the ‘movie,’ I could see Michael waking up in the morning with frenetic energy stored in his body, deep in his cells. I could see how desperately he needs to exercise as soon as he wakes up to work this energy through his system. I saw how toxic the build-up is if the energy is not released each and every morning. I could clearly see how this backup of energy gets Michael in trouble both at school and at home when he is not provided the opportunity for release. I was informed that Michael is like an adorable and energetic puppy that requires exercise first thing in the morning. People drag themselves from delicious slumber at the crack of dawn to walk their energetic canines; why not their energetic sons?
As I continued to watch, I was transfixed as I saw the solution unfolding right in front of me; I could see Michael and me out running together early in the morning. I could see us strapping on our runners together and working off the build-up of energy first thing each and every morning. Regardless of the season and regardless of whether either of us really felt like doing it, we were out there running. I could see the importance of running not only for Michael’s body but also for his delicate self-esteem. I could see that Michael would bask in the praise of his athletic prowess because he is a gifted runner and can run farther and faster than anyone I have ever known. The ‘movie’ even showed me a marked improvement in Michael’s scholastic achievement and the ability to sit through a day of school without it being painfully torturous. I went on to watch Michael’s daily running becoming a lifelong habit and fostering a healthy and fit lifestyle as he ventures into his tricky teen and young adult years.
As I watched the ‘movie’ I was aware that if I was truly willing to ‘go the distance’ it was going to take a significant promise from me. Committing to running every single day was going to be something that was going to take considerable discipline and unwavering devotion to Michael’s health. It was going to mean very early school mornings and the effort of working it into our already daunting morning routine. It was going to mean I would have to forgo my quiet pyjama-clad mornings for a pair of runners and a possibly reluctant running companion. I wondered about rainy mornings and snowy mornings but was told to just get started and allow those mornings to be taken care of later. I also tapped into the fact that this is the piece that we have been missing; we have radically changed Michael’s diet, we have put him on a myriad of supplements to support his recovery and we have limited his exposure to as many harmful chemicals as possible. What we have not done is taken into account the need for the physical release of frenetic energy through rigorous cardio exercise and the importance of daily detoxification through sweating.
‘Go the distance’.
I quietly wondered if I had it in me to ‘go the distance’ for Michael. My invisible companion lovingly assured me that I could do it and that I was going to see such fantastic results it would become easier to kick off my slippers and jump into my running gear as the days and weeks passed. I went home and immediately told Simon about the voice I had heard and the direction I had been given. We both had a chuckle at the choice of words and, without hesitation, Simon committed to sharing the responsibility of getting Michael out and running every morning. Simon was so enthusiastic he told me he would take Michael out running the very next morning (and he did!).
It is exactly two weeks since I heard that voice and we have not missed a day. Trying to motivate Michael to run can be a bit tricky but he is starting to see how good he feels when he is finished. We have been running at the school track just around the corner and Michael loves to wear the digital watch on his wrist and count the laps. We have had the most incredible conversations while running about endorphins, lactic acid, oxygen, lungs, cells and his heart muscle. We have talked about how much the morning runs are going to help him at school and Michael has determined that he will not go to the principal’s office once in September. Michael is so sure of his success he has asked if we will buy him a fish at the end of the month to celebrate. Simon and I felt reluctant to set up this kind of expectation and carrot-type reward but Michael was so excited about his plan that we couldn’t refuse. We bought him a pair of ‘real’ running shoes and some running pants to make him feel like an athlete and he looks absolutely adorable with his sleepy eyes and messy curly hair as we head out early each morning.
If you had asked me a month ago if there were any gifts in a visit from Depression I would have responded unequivocally in the negative. However, this crazy old aunt is quietly leading me back to a place where I can heal myself. She has reintroduced me to a deep and quiet haven from the madness of my life. It is a place I can retreat to anytime and I wonder how I ever let myself get so far away. It is this place that allowed me to be listening to a simple message two weeks ago as I drove through the summer rain. And who knows, maybe something as simple as ‘go the distance’ is the final piece of the puzzle toward healing my beloved curly-haired cherub.
And so I’ll willingly keep the kettle on the boil for when Depression decides to swoop in for yet another cup of tea.