"We should get that fur coat from the meme, and make one that says "January is coming." H jokes, and I am able, now, to laugh a bit. We watch each other across the sleeping bodies of the two babies still caught in that tender time after an intensely emotional moment. Only recently have I been able to voice to H that I am finally falling into that not so sweet melancholy of winter. He always knows. Guesses when I start to develop my extra prickly edges. He reads it in my refusal to go out and do things; in the way I sleep just a little too much. The problem with naming is that it brings the thing you'd rather avoid to the forefront, and while we get better at discussing the beast in my head, we still fumble in the beginning. H wants to fix, to make me better which I think is a pretty typical response, and I fall into the self imposed patterns of guilt...
Why can't you just be happy?
After 15 years of being together, we both know that I will come out okay. Spring will come just as winter does, and in the moist thaw when the buds of flowers stretch out of their tightly wound folds, I will stretch my own self in the warm sun, the rain, the fecundity of life. But the fear comes in that we both know that in my past that coming out wasn't a promise, and that sometimes, in the claw of my beast, I made not so wise choices. Dangerously bad choices at times. However those stories are in the past, and the pages before us our only half written, and tell of joy. I realized a few years ago that the darkness is never fully dark. If I peer closely, allowing for eye adjustment I can see the white hazy lines of joy.
The answer is that I can be happy. But...my beast always pads besides me. Quiet and waiting.
Last year I spent a lot of time exploring my own contours. It's been awhile since I spent time examining my own, what? Psychology? Mind? Those are all hideously inaccurate terms but they are what I have in our limited lexicon. I strolled through forgotten gardens, and long abandoned walkways. I swept the cobwebs off old memories. Those things which I thought were dead were not so dead. There is power in the things that one thinks are dead. But I had a new magic with me. The magic that comes from time to heal, time spent learning new ways of being in the world. Magic in the form of innumerable moments of joys. Spells cast unknown with each moment spent in the fullness of love. When I blew the dust off an old tome from my past, the hurt was the twinge of a phantom pain as opposed to the fresh pulsing of a new wound. I learned some new ways to approach the past, and through that the always present beast.
As I sailed through December buoyed by the Christmas season, and then caught up in weeks of colds and runny noses, I could feel my beast coming. Or perhaps just the nudge of a head under my hand the way a cat casually reminds you that they exist. As I felt the bump, I began to ponder something which had been gathering form in my mind for months now. What if one accepted depression the way that one accepted other neurological differences? I admit it's a thought that still leaves me cold, gasping, terrified. But I realized as January loomed ever closer that what I had thought of as acceptance was not really acceptance. The way I drowned, fighting and clawing for the surface, in the depression was not an acceptance. It felt like being pulled by a swirling eddy, a force beyond my control. No this time I wonder what would happen if I treated myself as the depression came not as someone who was ill or crazy but rather as someone who deserved care and love. What would happen if I saw the depression as not some alien thing but as something a part of me? What if my depression wasn't a monster but a beast? A beast that I don't fully understand and maybe don't quite trust yet but a beast that I do know.
What would January look like if I took care of myself and my beast? So when the urge to hermit came over me, I didn't fight it. I didn't push myself into being with others. Ignoring the old adage to surround myself with social activities to keep afloat, I have instead made sure I have books and yarn. I do enough social stuff after all with the beasties and their many activities. I didn't beat myself up for not wanting to be with people. Even people I liked. When the restless energy comes over me, I do yoga poses, or I walk around the house. I clean until the energy is spent, and then I sit and read or knit. I am gentle with myself. When the guilt comes as it always does, I try to shrug it off, reminding myself that my neurology is what is. Neither good nor bad. Just there. When I feel the impossibility of doing anything, I remind myself that I will make up for these days soon. I am never always without energy, motivation. Perhaps I must let those seeds sit deep in the earth before the push up with their green sproutings.
And I realized the other day as we tumbled in from a family expedition that I was breathless with laughter. I can be happy. Or perhaps I can feel happiness even in the midst of my beast. A beast that doesn't really walk beside me but inside me. Part of me. There even when the sun chases away the unbidden sadness of depression. I am not sure what will come of this new acceptance. I don't know if it will work say next week. Perhaps I will have to try other methods to care for myself. It doesn't matter. I will do those things but I will do them with a language that doesn't embrace eradication or destruction. Perhaps if I can move away from seeing myself as crazy or mentally ill, I can begin to write a different tale about a woman and her beast.