I’ve been looking for silver linings lately. It’s a bit of a necessity when you’re unexpectedly unemployed and uninsured.
The biggest, most profound silver lining for me right now is the time I’ve had to work on completing my memoir.
It’s a glass of Cabernet in a local restaurant with Sam Cooke wafting through the speakers and smiling servers who compliment the haircut you’re seriously regretting while you work your way through editor’s notes–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It’s words that remain and words that must go.
This writing has been so good and so cathartic and so hard. Recording the story of sexual abuse, the demise of your marriage, the rearrangement of your family, and the reclamation of the true you is not a task for sissies.
But the radical truth-telling is, in itself, a silver lining as well.
It’s freedom and breath and an exhale that’s been held in for far too long.
And another silver lining? Pockets of prose that didn’t make the final cut.
I’d like to share one with you today… a chapter that met its fate on the editorial chopping block. It didn’t fit my narrative, but that doesn’t negate its importance.
The message: If you need a break, take it. If you need medication, take it.
The world needs you in all your messy, beautiful glory.
Just you. Only you.
The only you this world will ever know.
~ ~ ~
It waxes and wanes, the sadness. I was on meds for twenty years to combat it, to keep the demons at bay, but those little green and white pills left me feeling dull, uninspired, dependent. I’ve been on again/off again for a good chunk of those double decades. I’m the worst kind of depressive patient—once I feel better, I take myself off the medication. Then I spiral into the abyss and put myself back on. It’s similar to the way I run my life in general—highest of highs, lowest of lows, a little bit reckless, more than unbalanced.
But for twenty plus years, I’ve also tuned in a little more closely to what my body and mind tell me, what they warn is inevitably coming. I can feel the dark, wet blanket of sadness itching around my neck, and if I catch it in time, I can sometimes—sometimes—eat the right foods and move my body in all the right ways and get more sleep and take a few things off my plate and keep that monster at bay. At least for a while.
I’ve been off my meds for a year now. Most days are great, and I’m able to feel whatever it is I’m feeling, fully, completely, without inhibition. When it’s happiness, I can be almost a bit manic. And when it’s sadness, I have learned to sit with it, to lean into it, to learn from it.
But today, I didn’t sit with it, I fell into it.
Head over heels, tumbling, tumbling, like Alice.
I know I’ve lost control when the tears come and the irrational thoughts make a home in my brain—the everyone-would-be-better-off-without-me thoughts, the tentative plans to make it happen, the pull of the lake bottom beckoning me, the pills in my medicine cabinet a well-stocked back-up plan.
I remember Katy pulling me aside at a weekend long party and saying, “We need to talk.” She led me to my bathroom, threw open the cabinet doors and said, “Fess up, sister. What’s going on? Are you dying of cancer? Are you a pill hoarder? An addict? Tell me now.”
And I laughed then because the sight of all my leftover pill bottles—and Chris’s and Sam’s and Gus’s and Mary Claire’s and George’s—was ridiculous in the light of the sunshine, friend-filled weekend.
But when the night crept in, the fear of throwing them away was real.
What if I someday needed them? What if the Sirens’ Song got too loud? Too insistent?
I could not let them go.
On days like today, though, when money—as always—is as tight as it can be, when deadlines loom and book reviews are scarce and the memoir is writing itself badly and you feel like a fraud and you’re tired of working three jobs to make ends meet and you just want a little breathing room and your life isn’t nearly as glamorous as you thought it would be by now and you’re worried about your marriage and your kids and your most beloved friendships and people you thought were forever have walked away and those who’ve stayed seem distant and cold and your geriatric dogs are sighing at your feet, giving into their final days—this is when the pills and the lake bottom are at their most dangerous. This is when an ending seems more logical—and much easier—than another beginning. This is when you know you’ve reached a critical juncture: ask for help or lose yourself to the dark.
This is when you call your therapist.
This is when you weep with wild abandon.
This is when you consciously make the next choice: to eat, to hydrate, to look into your children’s eyes, to really look.
This is when you say, this too shall pass.
This is when you breathe. And breathe again. And breathe again.
This is when you decide what’s more important: to be alive or to be drug-free.
This is when you know you’ll refill your prescription as soon as the pharmacy opens in the morning.
And so you sleep. Deep. Restless. Grateful for the reprieve.