the stations of the cross
Cycling between periods of depression and regularity only illuminates the absurdity of the depressive state. I use the word "regularity" because it is the exact opposite of depression -- a frame of mind closely resembling a burglarized home. Familiar elements remain, but there is no making sense of them. It seems as though you've been there before, but panicked "reason" tells you that you will never recover what once was. Depression descends in a moment. It is a fast-moving storm. The sky grows dark whether you notice it or not, and your mind goes from zero to hysteria in seconds. Your body becomes heavy. You must remind yourself to breathe.
Last night as I succumbed to the recognizable self-combustion of a panic attack, I let my weighted limbs guide me to the ground where I stayed for some time because even moving my legs or feet felt, in the sentiment of Andrew Solomon, "like the Stations of the Cross." I looked down at my left hand lying on the floor between my legs, and it seemed like a phantom limb -- familiar, though wholly illogical. Anxiety displaces your entire sense of being. It no longer occurs to you that you have a body to take care of, or to protect you from what feels like an imminent threat to your existence.
But there are those of us who live with this - either the panic or the threatening potential for it - every day. There is a fear of not knowing who you will be when you wake up tomorrow, and not knowing what will derail you. I don't think healing necessarily comes with regularity. Healing is learning to be comfortable with irregularity, and learning not to be afraid.
None of us ever knows what is coming next, but facing that reality while being uncertain of your own mental and emotional faculties is a slightly different challenge. It requires a level of self-awareness that few have the inclination to cultivate. It requires thriving in spite of your own body's unwillingness to function, even at the most basic level.
But when regularity does arise, it is not like newfound energy or restored good health. It is like returning home: the order and familiarity of our surroundings reminding us who we are -- allowing us to sleep again, and to feel our own skin. That relief negates the trouble sometimes, though the balance isn't always equal.
Stay hearty. We have all strayed from home.