Surfaces and textures are a favorite photo subject for me (next to crashing waves on stony beaches of course). The details often missed by a cursory glance are fascinating when I take the time to focus in. The tree trunk below is in my top 3 favorite photos. The contrast of focus from the water in the background with the tree is interesting; the contrast in lighting from the water to the tree; the detail of the tree bark that could be mistaken for a lava flow. I love it all. My favorite parts of the photo are the shadows. The light on the tree is gorgeous and stands out because of the tiny shadows cast from each groove in the tree bark.
Speaking of shadows.
Have you ever tried to hold your breath for as long as possible? Maybe as a kiddo just for fun. Maybe as a parent diving to the bottom of a pool to fetch a lost toy. At first everything is just peachy. The excitement of the deep inhale quickly passes and settles into a calm quiet. Maybe the quiet of a held breath is a welcoming peace not recently enjoyed. After some stretch of time the need to exhale is apparent but the quiet peace remains. With the passing of more time, that quiet peace melts aways and a panicking need for new air is abrasive against the calm quiet that only moments ago held all attention. At some point, the new inhale brings precious air into the lungs and by some process now known to the scientific and medical communities, the cells of the body receive the needed oxygen, and the gases not required or even internally harmful are released back to the environment.
The previous several months have felt like the calm quiet peace section of holding a breath. The depression doesn’t always feel terrible. Sometimes it’s comforting as ridiculous as that might sound. Kind of like a shadow that follows me around. Me and my shadow…there’s a song in there somewhere. My friend and company. Because it’s familiar. It’s not the rushing excitement of a deep inhale nor is it the panicked gasp for fresh air. It is simply present, not demanding any attention. Only distorting any attention. And distortions seem so much nicer than demands. Because on the surface, the distortions are blunted (until they’re not). And in the beginning of a depression, everything feels softer, and warped, melty, and almost cozy (maybe because the first steps for me are crawling into bed only lazily getting out). And at some point it’s no longer comforting. It’s not a cozy and welcomed familiarity. The distortions grow stronger, they become increasingly unrealistic but there’s no way to notice the gradual sinking unless I jot down the feelings and thoughts almost daily (no wonder the therapist recommended keeping a log of such thoughts). Across the span of months, the steps from a comfortable isolation to an incapacitating shut down were so incredibly gradual and small that I didn’t notice. That any comment from my husband or other loved one about an oddity in my thinking or behavior was met with hasty nonchalance on my part or just ignored.
The initial making up of excuses to get out of a phone conversation early morphed into not picking up the phone but calling back later, that became not picking up the phone at all and waiting for the next phone call to answer, which later became not picking up the phone on the second or third or fourth call. So small. Such tiny progressions. Until all of a sudden it’s been over a month without talking to one of my dearest friends and somehow the distortions have solidified my assumption that said friend hates me because we haven’t spoken in a month. That’s when the panicked need for fresh air sets in. Only now things are complicated because the distortions help me believe that it’s impossible to get better. That there’s no point in trying to take the breath because it’s only a matter of time until the next depression comes around.
The entirety of the lsat several months haven’t been all bad. The depression has been so very present but has not been incapacitating until very recently. The low, slow, fuzziness has been punctuated by moments of absolute high energy with clear and strong emotion. In September I started a new job – the entire time thinking I was an imposter in my own life. That there’s no way Lauren could land such an amazing opportunity. There’s been a growing feeling the entire stretch of time that the truth would come out. Not out of anxiety or fear, just a simple matter of fact feeling that someone would tap me on the shoulder and say, “Sorry, we confused you with a different applicant. There’s so many Laurens out there, ya know?”.
There was also the excitement of traveling to England for the wedding of a friend anyone would be lucky to know. For a few moments that week, life didn’t feel isolated or blurry. One moment in particular stands out so clear, without distortion. Sitting in the front pew, only steps away from the bride and groom as they sign their marriage certificate/license/whatever England calls it. My best friend is smiling, absolutely radiant in her white gown as she leans in to sign her name, the sun shining into the church so beautifully. And the next day I collapse with tears into a hug from Hugsband so frustrated with myself for only now realizing that if I had let the depression win the previous round, I would have never seen the opportunity to witness such glorious joy and love for one of my dearest friends.
In both instances, the depression was going strong. In both instances, pieces of life’s most wonderfully exciting timeline were marred by distortions. And I hate it. I despise that moments of such excitement are tied to moments of such dread. But what good does hating the depression do? What good does trying to push it out of my life do? While it would be nice to live a life without it, ignoring it doesn’t seem to make it go away. It’s a shadow. Always with me. Even in life’s sunniest moments, there will always be a shadow. Sometimes I can see the shadow if the sun is to my back, warming my shoulders. Sometimes I don’t see the shadow if I’m blinded by the sunny moments. Either way, the shadow will be there. Hating it doesn’t solve anything. Ignoring it doesn’t solve anything. Recognizing it is not unfathomable but certainly uncomfortable.
Regardless, it’s time for a new breath. One that I was finally able to take about a week ago. A breath that wasn’t necessarily of my own choosing. But a breath that was finally possible with the lifting of the depressive episode. Knowing history, it won’t be the last depression. But knowing history, I have evidence that life is still worth a go even with the shadows.