Saturday, November 6, 2010

A 'Saintly' Tribute

They lived not only in ages past,
there are hundreds of thousands still,
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.

You can meet them in school,
or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains,
or in shops, or at tea.

for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one, too.
-John Henry Hopkins

November 1 was All Saints' Day.  (I'm particularly aware of these things because I work in a church).  On All Saints' Day, we remember and honor the dead - all of those who have walked the earth, served in their communities, and gone before us.
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The past few weeks have been beyond difficult.  A series of consistent and often drastic ups and downs, followed by a series of strictly down days - that's the best way I can describe it.  My doctor has already changed my medication once during this time, and he will most likely change it again before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I just want some consistency, some small measure of control, God forbid - one tiny ounce of predictability!  I'm tired of feeling agitated all the time.  I hate it when a single incident sends me into a spiral that I can't find my way out of for sometimes a period of days.

On the brighter side of things, during this most recent series of episodes, the people who are closest to me insist that I have begun to handle my depression differently than I did even six months ago.

Good news, right?

All I know is that when I am at my lowest, the idea that any of it is different (the feelings and emotions themselves or how I handle them) seems impossible.  At these moments, all I can feel is the pain and the confusion that comes from feeling like I am somewhere else - that "other" place I retreat to and never know when I'll return from.  

The hope in all of this is that with time, and with the tender care I am so fortunate to receive from others (and from myself, occasionally), I always emerge.  Sometimes the knowledge that whatever I'm feeling at the time will most assuredly not last forever is hope enough for me.  
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With the coming and going of this year's All Saints' Day, sure, I thought about those people I don't see anymore and how they touched my life.  Then it occurred to me that there are "saints" walking among us everyday.  These are the people who graciously give of themselves to others, those who love fiercely and unreservedly:

The family who calls to check in with you when they know you're going through a bit of a rough patch.  

The group of friends who drop by in the middle of the day to sit and laugh with you when you just can't make it out of the house.

A long-lost friend from the past who messages you with words of kindness and encouragement out of the blue.

Yes, friends, there are saints among us.  I know this because I live with one of them.
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When my husband and I first started dating, I was constantly afraid that I would push him away.  I feared one day he would wake up and decide that carrying on a relationship with me was just too much to handle.  I alluded this fear to him one night through tears, to which he said, "I can always stay with someone who is struggling..."

...because a struggle ultimately implies growth.

We live.  
We experience.  
We fail or we gain.
We learn.
We shed a skin or two.
We emerge - changed.
We set our feet out on new ground and forge ahead.

Living with depression is a constant struggle, but if I live by my own words, it also means that I am in a constant state of growth.  

It's terrifying sometimes, but I'm pretty sure it's the way to be.

My husband sees it all.  The good, the bad, the ugly, and the UGLIER.  He experiences all of it in his own way.  We often talk about what it means for him to live with and love a depressed person, and furthermore, what does it entail for the depressive to acknowledge the painful experience her partner feels at the same time she is experiencing a pain all of her own?  

This creates an awful notion; one that makes it increasingly difficult to confide in him, even though he insists that it is helpful when I do this.  Sometimes I think to myself, "Could I be more of a burden to him?"

It's understood that spouses or partners will take turns taking care of each other as life takes its own series of twists and turns.  But what happens to the relationship when one person in the partnership must intensely care for the other person over a prolonged period of time?  

I want to scream every time the word "caretaker" gets thrown around.  It peppers our (sometimes heated!) conversations as well as our sessions with our couples therapist.  I want to cry out, "I WANT TO TAKE CARE OF YOU, TOO!  REALLY, I DO!"

The hard truth is that sometimes, I can't.  I just can't, and after all of the venom and the tears and the silence of the aftermath, I have nothing left but to say, "I'm sorry.  I'm so, so sorry."

I'm sorry that I spontaneously cried into my omelette during Saturday brunch.

I'm sorry that sometimes, no matter how much you try to care for me, all I can hear is blame. 

I'm sorry that when I am cycling through my depression, I often can't make room for your pain, although I know it's there.  I do.

Most of all, I'm sorry that sometimes, I'm just not here.  
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So the struggle continues - but so does the growth - and in the midst of it all, I give thanks for saints.  For family, for friends, and for husbands whose capacity for patience, mercy, strength, and love is the very stuff of sainthood.

To our health,