Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Only Way Forward is to Go Back

So much of Springtime is about looking and moving forward. The very earth itself seems bursting with anticipation, and in fact a few green shoots that couldn't wait for proper warm weather have already sprung out and now stand trembling and shivering in the chilly wind in our yard.  It is a time for growth, and change.

For me that change, and Spring itself, is psychologically punctuated by important anniversaries. In March, I celebrated the four year anniversary of my discharge from inpatient hospitalization and physical therapy. It wasn't the victorious homecoming I had envisioned, since I still couldn't walk, was still using a catheter and diapers, and required more care and assistance than I'd ever imagined needing prior to being, oh, say, about 100 years old.  But it was a glorious homecoming all the same, because it marked the end of almost six months of emotionally devastating separation from my family, lack of privacy, dearth of dietary choices, and all the other trials of lengthy hospital stays.

March also brought the anniversary of my friendship with a dear, funny man who died much too soon of a disease that made us share many disability tribulations and humorous fiascos. Of the many legacies he left behind - like friends who only know each other because of him, precious memories, ongoing joke memes - the one I try hardest to honor is to find humor in things, to let myself laugh (especially at myself) and try to get others to join me, and to give myself permission to rage against the horror and frustration of all of this sometimes; to feel ALL the things that having cancer and disabilities makes me feel and really acknowledge them without shame the way my friend used to do, the way he taught me.  Anger is okay. Joy is okay. Gratitude is okay. Outrage is okay. Depression is okay. Anxiety is okay.  Crying is okay. Laughter is okay.

Ever since I started going to counseling sessions with my onco-psychologist, I've resumed my old habit of journaling. Writing was a major factor in my first recovery from depression, almost twenty years ago, so I feel a lot of deja vu now when I sit in some public or private space and scribble in my little journal, simultaneously immersed in and separated from the scene surrounding me. Now, as then, the notes help me remember the moments that define each day, good or bad, that depression chemicals would try to erase from my mind shortly after they happen.  When you have a great moment, depression makes you forget about it, makes it short-lived. When you have a terrible moment but you survive it and carry on with your day, depression makes you forget that you were strong and that you coped.  But a journal remembers, so you can congratulate yourself later for those little victories, or allow yourself to acknowledge that something difficult was going on, that you felt pain or sadness or panic and that it was real and valid.

So even though it's Springtime and like everything else I want to move forward, it seems like the best way to do that is to go back, to the tools and the habits that worked before, like counseling and writing and sharing with others. To remember that I've beaten depression once, that anxiety is manageable, that my support network is strong and constantly present, and that I will see the other side of all of this eventually.