Life in the Woods

I suppose the term "the woods" could be a euphemism for more than just living in the Redwoods. I've been struggling on and off with depression now for almost four years, and in a way it has been like walking through a deep forest; sort of a secret one; a dark place that hardly anyone knows about. Like in any forest, there are patches of light, here and there. Sometimes I walk into a clearing.

Life in my woods is darker than life here at the Land. My woods are cold, all the time, and cheerless. Also, lonely. The Land is hot, now, in August, and full of mirth and companionship. The sun shines through the trees everywhere you look, causing delightful variations of green and gold. It is a place of alternating patches of shade and light, a place of constant light and breeze. When I hang my laundry on the line I can see the river far below me, and it flashes silver through the trees. This is the physical reality of the place where I live. Why, then, are these woods that I walk through in my mind so bleak?

I suppose the main thing that hits me when I step into a particularly dark patch in my woods is panic. The light is gone, and with it has gone the memory of returning light, of a path that eventually will reappear in front of me. This is a very poetic way of saying that I simply lose it. I lose it and don't regain it until I somehow find some calm. Which can take, well, hours. During which I tend to rant and rave, mostly to my husband, who does his best to keep his head above water.

It is the panic that leaves me huddled at the base of a tree, afraid to walk any farther. It is the panic that causes me to question my life: my usefulness, my calling, my ability to be a mother or a wife. It is the panic that causes me to say dang stupid things.

I need a new bag of tricks. Since I became a mother, my old tricks for calming and recentering no longer apply. I can't spend hours, usually, sitting in the tub, or reading some kind of sword-swinging novel that takes me into another world. (Actually, I do still read sword-swinging novels, but it is mostly at night, when I really should be sleeping). I can't write for hours at a time, can't sit and think for hours. You get the picture. I need tricks that don't take a lot of time, that bring me back into the sane world in time to put food in the babies' mouths.

I guess this could be considered a mission, of sorts, to keep me sane. I have been thinking about it a lot today, this depression business. The question of sanity. Why I sometimes temporarily lose mine. And I've been questioning: Is this what I really want to have define the first few years of my married life? Of my life as a parent? This deep forest that surrounds me? Can I fight out of it? Is it too thick? Are there sunny fields to break into? Or should I walk along in peace, willing for it to remain dark.

Maybe I will find a silvery stream to follow, which will take me to larger places. God has always been with me, through these difficult times. The biggest life-giving thing that I've learned in this time is that God still loves me, no matter how much I despise myself for failing, over and over again. He will never despise me. He will set my feet in a spacious place. The roots of these trees can't keep me.