I wrote yesterday’s post at two in the morning Saturday, and it feels important to share what happened next.
A couple of hours later, I woke Josh to open the childproof bottle of meds I hoped would finally get me to sleep. I’m struck by the little things I can’t do, like hold a bottle in my two hands and press down hard enough to make its top turn; and by the little things that are coming back, like once again being able to roll my wax ear plugs between my two palms to soften and shape them before using. Who knew that tiny action would be too painful in the days after my surgery?
I finally fell asleep around five Saturday morning. The longer I lay sleepless in the dark, the darker the dark felt. When I woke around 11 a.m., I felt more than sorry for myself. I felt bottom. For the first time since my breast cancer diagnosis, I felt deeply depressed. Couldn’t-get-out-of-bed-all-day depressed. Everyone-around-me-worried depressed. Depressed like I used to get as a teenager and young adult, when I would fall so far down the hole of despair, I honestly thought I would never re-emerge. Thank goodness I’ve learned I always re-emerge, and so the darkness never gets quite so all-encompassing, nor does it last for days on end like it did in my past. But yesterday felt darker than it has in years.
And then I did something I don’t do, or at least not very often. I prayed. I thought about how I once heard that, before finding her way toward enlightenment, Byron Katie was deep into the depths of despair and sleeping on a floor somewhere when a cockroach crawled over her; and in that moment, something happened, something shifted, something—everything—changed for her. For some reason, remembering that story—and feeling as desperate as I might feel were I sleeping on a floor with cockroaches—made me think I should pray.
A funny thing is, the whole time I was praying (which honestly, wasn’t very long, a few minutes tops; and I did it from my fetal position on the bed, not on knees with praying hands or anything like that); but the whole time, I thought about how I was doing it wrong. (Funny because of course I, Type-A perfectionist, felt like I couldn’t even pray right, but really, is there a wrong way to pray? Maybe there is. Like I said, I’m no expert.) Basically I just begged for help. Silently, in my head. Please please please make this better. Please please please give me the strength to get up. I said I felt totally stuck, that I felt like it was all my fault for being totally stuck, that I was being weak and dramatic and infantile, that I didn’t know how to make it stop and again: please please please. Help me, show me what to do to get out of this deep darkness, out of this bed.
And something happened. I wish I could say I’m enlightened now, but no, it was nothing like that. But I did feel a physical fluttering in my body, up and down my chest/lung/belly area, like a beam of light swooshing through me. And maybe five, ten minutes later, I was sitting up. Still feeling beaten down and quiet and sorry for myself, but like I could pick myself up out of my dark hole and go downstairs at 6 at night for the first time all day (to the couch, to watch a movie with the kids, no serious tasking or talking, but still).
I imagine this post will be lost on two kinds of people: those who have never known depression. (Were I one of those people, I imagine I’d think, “what’s the big deal, just get yourself out of bed.”). And those who don’t believe in something bigger than ourselves. (I used to be one of those people until a dozen or so years ago when I started developing a spiritual path. And when I was one of those people, I basically thought, “Yeah, right, that’s ridiculous,” about experiences like the one I’ve just shared.)
Interestingly, of all the things I’ve written, this story about me praying is one that feels harder to share. I’m not sure why, but it makes me feel especially vulnerable (strange, not the part about feeling depressed, just the praying bit). So much so that I’ve thought about keeping it just for my private journals. But if I’m brave enough to pull myself out of the darkest hole, I can be brave enough to post a little something about praying.