All pictures taken during my long hikes this Autumn
Depression. Even the word itself sounds like a thud. Like falling down a rabbit hole; but not the vividly colorful, manic hole Lewis Carroll described. Depression is darkness on the way down, with continued darkness at the bottom. One, last look at my family, and the falling began. Amazing how one can shift into automatic for weeks on end, playing at the game of life, as if it’s happening, while the mind is elsewhere.
This hole and I have met before. After my parent’s divorce. After Sara’s birth. After the 2nd skin cancer treatment? Or the third? Suit up and ride the wave. First the silent, painful tears at bedtime. The stabbing in my chest. Then the 5 am wakings. Then the 2 am wakings. Then the insomnia. Last, but not least, the nightmares, which were blessedly brief this trip, because when they come, I occasionally skip sleep altogether. Writers have vivid nightmares, a truth kept quiet in circles of creative minds. Some things are better left unsaid.
But then the Fall lingered, in a beautiful, magnificent way. Every single day sparkling like Jesus had kissed the air himself. Daily naps pressed me to my bed, pulling me from the sun. But one day, the walking began. And the continuing of this thing we call “breathing”. And the trusting this season of my life would pass. 10 years in Psychiatric Research…I am trained to KNOW episodic, life-event-induced depression passes. I couldn’t feel it, but I knew it. When? How long could this go on? Every day was an eternity of exhaustion and tasks too hard to manage. A single load of laundry = climbing a mountain.
Tears stopped, switching to a pain building in my chest. After years of counseling friends that grief brings out the worst in people, and to pray for grace and patience, it was my turn in the grief-seat. My words flew away like trash in a windstorm. It’s a horrible study in human behavior to learn which of your “peoples” will stick by you during the hard. Some came and refused to leave, especially Greg. Grace pouring out of him, hydrating my soul day after day. Calls from Amie which never fail, no matter how many Oncology appointments her Momma has, the lunches with Kellie and Shayla, forcing me to shower (but sometimes pretending not to mind I looked and smelled like old seafood. And because Kellie JUST lost her Momma, sometimes I feel we just sat with food we didn’t want to eat, looked at each other, and silently communicated, “HOLD ON. We have to just KEEP GOING.”). The hugs from friends brave enough to look into my eyes and say the words, “I know. I know.” But some friends rang bells which cannot be unrung. Those stories haunt me; losing witnesses to our lives should be mourned. The inability to cry nearly choked me during the hard.
But the sun. That lingering, gorgeous Autumn sun! It followed me everywhere I went, and seemed to shine right onto my face, no matter which way I turned. Matt said comforting and funny things into my heart. I felt his joy in heaven, his freedom from a contracted, stroke-ridden body. His contagious smile, his eyes as blue as an imagined sea, and his boisterous laugh…telling me the sun keeps rising on me for a reason. GET UP. GO DO THE THINGS YOU WERE MEANT TO DO. And don’t say anything you’ll regret. Friends will let you down. This is not new information. Move on. Still. Every day…he was missing.
The moving forward…a very dark trip to my childhood farm to say goodbye to my Uncle. The closing of my esophagus where the emotional pain became physical. I finally fell to my knees and wept. Tears in which I fought against this lingering fall, this dying season, this ending of my season of service. Greg scooped me up, and took me home. Thanksgiving was waiting to hug us with its familiar scents (which I could barely swallow, but thank you to my doctor for trying all things possible to quell the heartburn. Getting me to admit my heartburn was partially due my heart feeling like it was on fire, and perhaps along with some Pepcid, I could use an antidepressant.) I returned renewed, calm, knowing the thick fog of fall was passing.
I am slowly re-entering my life, carefully. A tiny bit fearful a misstep will trip me back down the hole, but so far, I am good. I’m me, inside me, reflecting me back to me. Those whom have experienced the lifting of depression are laughing inside their hearts, knowing exactly what those words mean.
The last, long walk through 5 canyons. I walked through a lifetime in my mind on that hike. My precious teen years with Matt. My childhood on the farm, with my Uncle at the head of the family. My life fully decorated by my Grandfather, now too weak to shower while standing (watching someone lose their life 1 centimeter at a time is some HARD). Swirling around me like a rock in a river, with our joined histories flowing past me. Past me, never to return.
Climbing out of the last canyon, the wind began to blow wildly, leaves flew all around, hiding the steps before me. After a day of hiking in the shade, the sun was fully on my face, as it had been the day of the hayride when Matt died. That awful afternoon when I couldn’t reach him, and I was so struck by the evening sun in my face, I took pictures, wondering what was afoot in the Universe. That moment of climbing onto the tractor when I fully heard in my heart, “I simply cannot go on. My body cannot keep going.” I stopped in my tracks, and looked up at the sun, and could not understand why these words were front and center on my mind. I did not yet know Matt was gone. I did not know those words were his words.
That last canyon. Matt now shining as the sun, saying his final goodbye on that last hike of the Fall. The-Fall-That-Lingered. His last words to my heart : “Keep walking towards The Son. Hear me, Lori. THE SON. It’s all about walking towards The Son.” My final promise to this season which has forever changed me. I will. I will walk towards the Son.
All seasons come to an end. The snow has come. The Christmas tree is up, along with countless rubbermaids of “stuff”. And I feel joy, so grateful the anhedonia has passed. Depression happens, and we must happen right along with it. I miss my life before the Season of Service, but I’d never undo it. We’re here for one reason: to be together, in support of one another. There is no other way than kindness, even when it comes at a very high price. We will all lose witnesses on our journeys. We will all lose our way in grief from time to time. When the story turns dark, just turn towards the Son. Godspeed, my friends. As always, Godspeed.