A Curious Lens: A Personal Look at Depression
There has been a shift in my life.
Not a seismic one. Not earth-shattering, in a thrown to my hands and knees shook-up kinda way. That would be a major change I’d like to think I’d recognize and immediately attempt, somehow, to correct and shakily try to face the day.
To me, a shift is more like a heated swell of angry, hot earth that has nowhere to crash but directly into whatever is most threatening, putting you in emotional danger. Sudden. Remarkable. Jarring. But explainable. Grieve, adapt, try your best to move on.
This was quite the opposite. It was more of a subtle and slow coming wave, lapping in sound, consistency, and comfort. Always manageable, hypnotic even, until one day it wasn’t.
Those that know me, know I have struggled with OCD most of my life, though manifesting to severe at postpartum. It’s something I have learned to live with; the debilitating anxiety, the hyper-focus, the rituals, the attempting to control the uncontrollable. All of the never-ending worry that makes it hard to shut off your brain, relax for a hot sec, and have a little faith the world is not going to spontaneously combust at any moment.
All of which would be my fault.
But still, I adapt. I even use my disorder to my advantage, of sorts. When your brain is on a constant, never-ending loop, you get to work on things like thoughts, because they never really leave your head anyway.
This was different.
This was depression.
My life imploded seven or so years after my diagnosis. Too many things to count, but every single thing that could go wrong since the last eight years DID. Majorly. All the plans, the looking-forwards-to, the “in ten years will be doing this,” all the hope-y things in life ceased to exist. Well, not at first, slowly, but with a mighty edge under a misty gauze of subtle darkness. And for someone who feels every little thing, I didn’t realize I was slowly closing myself off in the name of self-preservation but closing myself off all the same.
It started with the alarm; the sound was pain intensified. It meant I had to get UP and get OUT of bed. And then do the whole blessed thing over, the hopeless thing of trying to pretend you are okay when you are not. The only thing that got me up and OUT of the bed were my kids. There I had a purpose. Now, all of a sudden, they were doing the thing they were supposed to do all along. Grow up and onwards. Only, I was unable to move. Petrified wood personified.
Charlie was worried about me.
“Go see your doctor,” he asked me. “You may need to be on a new medicine. A lot has changed.”
I resisted. Then I didn’t.
The night before my appointment with my psychiatrist’s nurse practitioner, Charlie asked me one last request.
And I was. And my nurse practitioner wasn’t having any of it.
“So, when is this ‘purpose’ you’re now looking for supposed to happen?” She wants to know the timeline, the nitty-gritty. “Tomorrow, next week, next month, the end of the year?”
She’s making notes in my chart. Surely, she knows and I, as usual, am in the dark.
“I have no idea,” I answer. “I just know I need one. A purpose, that is.”
And sooner, rather than later, I think to myself.
“Why, right now?” she says, clearly onto me.
“Well, you hear that?” I ask her, pointing behind my left shoulder to the furiously obnoxious clock tick-tocking behind. “That. Right. There.”
I am obviously talking about time.
“That thing,” she gestures to the wall with her wielding pen and a shrug, pointing out, yes, the obvious. “It’s a clock. And yes, everyone always complains about it. But it’s always been there and as annoying as it is, will probably always be.”
What do you say to that? Well, nothing because she’s good at what she does. So, I sat there and kept listening to the ticking.
“Do you mind if I ask you, why? Why do you even have to have a purpose? What does that even mean?” she stops taking notes.
“A purpose is something that defines a person,” I tell her. “Something that I can measure, execute, leave behind.”
“Alright, I am going to write you a prescription,” she jots a few things down on her pad, tears off a piece of official perforated paper, hands it to me. “Let’s try this and we will follow up in a few short weeks.”
I thank her, book my next appointment, and head home.
“What did she say?” my husband asks later that night.
“She said I wasn’t the same person I was eight years ago,” I tell him. “And that it’s okay. And then she gave me this.”
I handed him the script that read: Be creative and don’t follow through x 1 month
Instead of needing time, I was in desperate need of not keeping track of it.
My obsession with time and what I should be producing with it was causing my loss of love for doing the simplest of things, for sheer, utter curiosity. Joy.
It reminds me of what the aperture is to the lens of a camera. The aperture, much like the pupil of your own eye, is the hole within the lens that controls the exposure of light to your image. The wider the hole, the brighter the photograph. And like your pupil adjusting to nighttime, the smaller the aperture, the image will be darker. Aperture also captures the depth of field, what objects in the frame will appear more in focus or obscured into the background. Yes, time factors into exposure, how the image will eventually turn out. But it most certainly doesn’t define the overall picture.
In effect, it’s not how many minutes our minds, hearts, thoughts – apertures, of sorts – have to stay open or when they need to be shut off. It’s our perception of our imagination, not time exposed, that creates a richer, more vivid mood; whether dark and dramatic, bright and airy, overexposed, underexposed, blurred around the very edges or shiny and bright, crystal clear. It’s all up to our own, individual eye. One that time can’t identify.
Maybe I just needed a new lens on life?
Later that evening, I read something my editor, super-smart friend, and fellow writer, Margaret Evans, wrote that I now carry with me lovingly tucked in deep as a reminder.
She wrote: “Note to self: A good motto in this life- and it applies to everything is- ‘get fascinated.’ Don’t get scared . . . Don’t get angry . . . Get fascinated. Works every time.”
She’s right. Get fascinated, y’all. Stop watching the clock. Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Stop worrying about what else is out there that can harm or hinder us. There’s so much we don’t know.
We just have to get curious and go out and look.