From my archives …
I have had 14 days without any “I wish I were dead” thoughts. Two full weeks. It’s exhilarating but–and I know you can appreciate this–scary. Because I am so nervous for the thoughts to come back. It’s like finding your balance on water skis. I’m going … I’m going … I’m still going … here comes a wake … and I’m down. Which is why I’ve been trying to implement, as best I can, my friend Michelle’s philosophy of “don’t waste 14 days.”
During the two weeks she was awaiting the test results that would determine whether or not she had lymphoma, she said to herself, “Self, it’s no use worrying during these fourteen good days. And, Self (are you still listening???), if the results are positive, you will also have wasted fourteen good days. Both ways you lose.”
I keep on thinking of that these days–when I’m just emerging from the black hole and am unsure of my grounding, because I’m so used to wanting to be over with life. The amount of energy that I have for things is foreign, because, I’m used to swimming with my clothes on.
Do you know how hard that is? Swimming with your clothes on? As a recent drill for the masters swim program I participate in, our coach made us swim four laps with t-shirts on (she called it a “wet t-shirt contest”), then four laps without the shirt, then four laps with the shirt, without the shirt, and so on until I about passed out. The shirts added an incredible weight, making it so much harder to maneuver in the water and adding a good twenty seconds to your time. Swimming without the shirt seemed so easy.
It’s a good analogy for depression.
I think if we can continue to swim (live, function, be in relationships) with the weight of our clothes on (depression, anxiety, so forth), then, as soon as the t-shirt is off, we are moving swiftly and easily wherever we want to go. If we implement all the cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness, and good eating and sleeping during the rough times, then we are golden for the good times. Because what seems hard to most people, will seem easy to us … without a shirt on.
A Beyond Blue reader, Arlene Gay Levine, who is a very talented poet, sent some of her work to me. The following poem, called “The Road,” beautifully describes the process of staying in the moment–trying to remind ourselves not to waste 14 good days. Her poem is excerpted from the book, “Bless the Day.”
Here is the road; the light
comes and goes then returns again.
Be gentle with your fellow travelers
as they move through the world of stone and stars
whirling with you yet every one alone.
The road waits.
Do not ask questions but when it invites you
to dance at daybreak, say yes.
Each step is the journey; a single note the song.