Sunday, April 8, 2012


For several years now, Margery William's The Velveteen Rabbit book has been a part of my Easter decorations.  It was one of my most favorite stories from childhood and as I read it to my children this week I found myself overcome with emotion.  Although it may have been due to my PMS, after reading my favorite part I began to weep to the point where my children began to rub my back and tell me, "It's okay Mommy, it is just a story."

Yes, it is just a story.  But, it is also the closest explanation to why I am still around after so many ups and downs along the way.

The following is an excerpt from the part of the story where the newly arrived Rabbit is asking the oldest toy in the nursery what it means to be real:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?" 
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of you hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to those who don't understand."
"I suppose you are Real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.  But the Skin Horse only smiled.
"The Boy's uncle made me Real," he said "That was a great many years ago; but once you are real you can't become unreal again.  It lasts for always."
To me, this explanation is what living a meaningful life is all about.  Surrendering to the not so pretty experiences like getting hurt, aging, and (in my experience) being called, "loose" - is all a part of living a life of love.  And just as the very wise and old Skin Horse said so himself, once you are real you can't become unreal again. 

Happy Easter 2012!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


There is no sufficient way to truly describe what living with clinical depression is like.  I just know that when it gets rough, it gets really rough. 

It seems like the best days of my life are like freely and energetically treading water in the deep end of the pool while enjoying the sun filled blue sky all around me and occasionally feeling my body burst with the urge to do back flips and various synchronized swimming moves like the nuns in some campy Mel Brooks movie. I am gratefully aware of my body, my breath, and the security of only being a few feet away from the ground.  My perspective is clear and sharp and the smile on my face exudes a powerfully positive effect on those around me.

The worst days, which can last for months, are more like fighting the current of a very cold and stormy ocean in the dead of night where the only awareness I am capable of is survival.  No matter how often the Coast Guard of those who love me throw me a life raft, each time I reach for it my hands simply move through the transparent object and it is not within my grasp - no matter how much I try.  The only comfort I find is that I am still breathing, and sometimes even that fact alone is too much for my reality.

The harshest example from my life has been since motherhood and sufferring post-partum-depression (although I am not really sure what it is called when you were depressed pre-nataly, then sunk further post-partum.)  There is little worse parenting than being the depressed mom of small children. I owe it to them to suit up, show up, and cut the shit.

During my hardest days I get the bare minimum done by feeding, clothing, and keeping them safe. Those are the days when I pull back and watch my beautiful children play around me as though I am watching them on TV and unable to participate. Lying on the couch and going through the motions of smiling and clapping while they perform a play in their dress up clothes, but not really being there to share their joy only continues to feed the sadness.

It isn't a pretty example, but it is true.

This has been my life as long as I can remember, but without the perspective of my thirty-eight years I have never been able to truly accept it, until now.

Depression is as much a part of me as my long legs and freckled skin.  It is a part of who I am, and I have learned to fit it in to both my desire to truly live and my struggle to simply survive.

Twenty-five years of prayers, pills, and professionals have helped ease the pain and kept me from passively checking-out.*  I no longer struggle with the fear that I can't survive this, nor do I continue to be paranoid that the love of those around me will be revoked because I am altogether too much and not enough all in the same moment.

As I dipped my body into the pool this morning to indulge in my on again/off again passion for lap swimming, I realized that my cycle of sanity is just like getting to the other side of the pool. Sometimes it takes a confident and easy streamlined backstroke with my breath free and easy and my face shining up for the universe to see.  Other times I can only maintain my movement by breathing with every third stroke, like with the forward crawl.  And occasionally, I must dive deep and hold my breath and my life away from the world until the storm clouds have passed.

I may go under for a while, but I always, always come back up.

(Perhaps that is the reason God blessed me with two such humongous DDD floatation devices...wink, wink.)

*  I should also say that my quest to overcome my depression has included the following:  accupuncture, art therapy, music therapy, naturopaths, chinese medicine, vitamins, herbs, hormones, and howling at the moon.  But these didn't work with the alliteration of that particular sentence.