May 24, 2007

Bridges

I've been taking anti-depressants now for almost three months and it's definitely been an emotional process for me. Just deciding that I needed them was difficult, admitting that things were not right, that the thoughts in my head were not normal or correct or maybe even sane. That was a big leap for me, one of those, "It's okay for everyone else, but I'm better than this" moments. The realization I had to accept, (the realization that smacked me upside the head with the full force of a charging elephant), was that I'm not better than anything or anyone. I am, in fact, just like everyone else; struggling.

Struggling to be a better person in the face of all the things I'd rather avoid is the battle that I wage every day against myself. But I have learned that avoidance can't get me very far. Oh yes, I have learned that. In some small way I feel like taking that little white pill every evening is an avoidance, like I'm trying to dodge a part of myself that I should have tried instead to confront and overcome.

But really, that pill was just a bridge to help me arrive at a place where I can start to deal with the real reasons behind all the anxiety and stress. I've come to a place where I have to stop hiding from mistakes, avoiding responsibilities. The pill can't make me happy, though at first it feels that way, like a bright warm light after a cold and dark night.

Eventually, though, just having the light on doesn't seem like such a big deal. I mean, heck, it's on all the time, so what? And having all that light has its downside, too, as it starts to illuminate the things you'd rather not see.

For me, now that I'm feeling better, now that each day is relatively stable and I'm as balanced as this woman can be (a woman who stays home all day with small children, that is), I've had to start dealing with the problems that the darkness concealed.

Some of it's small, stupid to everyone but me, perhaps, but there you go. Like trying to stay a step ahead of the laundry and housework instead of a mile behind it. Like weaning my 2 year old off of her mind-numbing addiction to television, the addiction that, let's face it, I totally enabled out of desperation. These things make me anxious and nervous and tense when they get out of control, they haunt me and start to make me think thoughts of failure and weakness. These relatively small and silly concerns can become overwhelming and serious if I let them get out of control.

Other stuff is more personal, harder to face, but equally important to deal with, correct and move on. I wrote a letter this week, a letter to an old friend that I treated badly. At first I had tried to justify to myself my behavior, convince myself of my own righteous indignation. But, truly, under all that bravado and pride, I just felt awful and embarrassed and guilty. Those feelings were seeping into everything else in my life, undermining my other relationships, invading my dreams.

So I wrote her a letter, and even better, I sent it. Admitting mistakes is an incredibly difficult thing for me to do, but I have to say that it's also incredibly freeing. Just by writing down, clearly and without any qualifiers, that I screwed up and I'm sorry, I was able to let go of a mountain of bad feeling that has been threatening to bury me.

I've spent the past six months or more afraid every time I left the house that I'd run into her. What would I say, what could I say, especially after all the stupid things I'd already said? I dreaded the very idea of such an encounter. And now... well, now I don't, it's a simple as that. I have made it as right as I can, she has accepted my apology and even offered me one of her own, and now there is nothing to dread. Even burned bridges leave behind enough of a framework for forgiveness, it seems.

Someday, maybe someone will come up with a little pill that copes with reality for you, that automatically bolsters your strengths and eliminates your weaknesses, all with a few strategic tweaks of some (as yet unidentified) chemicals in your brain. But I don't think I'd take it. For me, the strengths wouldn't mean as much without knowing the failures I had to stumble through and overcome before I started to get it right.

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