Sep 18, 2012

"Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon..."

The part that I despise the most about depression it it's often cyclical nature.    This day is good, this time is good, but for how long?  What day will begin promising only to end in despair?  You learn to interpret the signs--footsteps that are slower, habits that lapse.  The familiarity of that dread never fades.   The presence of that shadow, like the moon, always returns with dusk, from behind the clouds or mist of night, sometimes waxing, sometimes waning.  If not seen now, still always there.

How do you manage?  As a child how do you separate yourself from the struggle of your parent?  You are told that mom still loves you, that she is just having a hard time, but really, the opening night of the play that you have been working on all semester and she can't even make it on time, today of all days?  If she loves you, why can't she try to hold it together for such a time as this?  Can you invite your friend over to spend the night, not knowing if this will be a good day or a bad day?

As a spouse you try to look forward to vacation, hoping and praying not that the details such as flights and hotel reservations go as they should, but that you are able to enjoy the time together. You look forward to Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries but know full well that the memory of the day may be shadowed.

The nitty-gritty of learning to expect periods of depression in a loved one is not that difficult in a practical sense.  You learn to be flexible, that duties that belong to your spouse will, at least for a season become yours--or go undone.  You learn to commit "yes, we'll be there!" with a silent caveat "as long as he is still up to it".  Much like one might grow to expect an evening walk to be accompanied by the ache of arthritis, the family visited by depression learns to expect that even joyous events such as birthdays--or even births--may be dampened with despair.

 You recognize the added benefit of firm schedules and routines for it helps carry the family through when a parent is not able to.  Family time is that is scheduled is not given to the capricious nature of mental struggle--we sit down together at seven in the evening.  Not, when dad feels up to it, but every evening.   You make sure that even on the midst of yourborrowed pain, that you give and take comfort from hugging your children.  You are brutally honest with your children--Dad loves you but right now he is having a hard time feeling good.  You continue living by the convictions and preferences that you know that your spouse holds--even when they cannot recall why these things are important when viewed through the fog clouding their perspective.  You remind yourself that this is not a choice when resentment grows that you feel that you must always be "on" and that you cannot know for sure that you can depend on your spouse.  You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are dependable, a veritable rock, when all is well--but when might that be?  And for how long?  How does one deal with the pain and rejection that come with knowing that the life that you have built together does not bring joy and fulfillment to the person with whom that life was built?
You manage by trusting that the cyclical nature that brings pain will also bring joy.  That just as the moon inexorably returns, so, too does the morning.  The sun will break through the fog of night with first just a hint of promise, then a growing light then the full warmth of the sun.  In the brightness of noon one cannot fathom the depth of the dark that comes with midnight and in the joy there is a blessed forgetting of the despair of night.  It is amazing the sheer delight each very normal day brings when it follows the dark times.  It is almost a gift for pressing through--and a place to gather strength for the next dark time.

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