It is gray here. Even as the sun sparkles on the bright blue ocean, there is little impulse other than to sleep or escape into a novel for hours on end. I eat too much, stuffing the void with cheese and chocolate and bread, and still do not feel satisfied. I don’t want to be with people. Everything feels like a drain, sapping what little energy I have.
Only recently I was looking forward to a trip, new projects, but all of that has slowed and everything feels heavy. Each project, each obligation, each invitation, floats to the surface and I think, “I don’t care, leave me alone.”
It is a good thing I don’t have small children, that my cat is self -sufficient.
A friend, after hearing that all I longed for was sleep and a quiet place to be alone, suggested perhaps I was depressed.
Was I depressed? Was that different than the grieving? Does grieving become depression if it lasts too long? Is there a time limit on how long we can linger there without seeking help?
My father was manic depressive, requiring medication and ultimately hospitals. I’ve had other friends and family members ‘suffer’ from it. Even in my own life, I’ve had periods similar to this, with weeks on end, where it felt the clouds would never lift, that I would never look forward to anything but the couch. It scared me to be here again.
This morning when I woke, my first thought was a scrabbling sense of panic. Maybe I was depressed, I was so tired of feeling this way …. I took that label and stamped it across my forehead. I texted my therapist asking if she could squeeze me in this week.
And, as is my ritual, I turned to my morning pages, praying that in the truth that shows Herself through paper and ink, I would find my way. The words flowed forward.
In this gray place, I am out of sync with the rest of the whirring world. The world hurtles along at its merry pace, while I sit on the sidelines and watch it zoom by, not at all interested in the mad dance. Though I feel I should be. And don’t care that I’m not.
But what if (magical words) …
What if I let go of judging this feeling as bad or wrong? Let go of labeling it at all?
What if relief could be found in the permission to simply exist this way without trying to fix it?
What might I learn if I didn’t see depression as a deep abyss I had to escape from?
What if, rather than trying to escape it, I embraced it, welcomed it?
What if I decided that gray and brown were worthy of my paintbrush the way blue or green or red were?
What if this visit to the shadowlands was not wrong or bad or dangerous, but rather my Soul’s call to slow down, get quiet, go in? Again.
Perhaps this detour was to remind me not get ahead of myself in the healing process. There were delicate nerves to be rewired, tiny threads being rewoven as I rebuilt this life of mine. I could not force the process, accelerate the timing.
I began to shift my perspective on how I viewed what I was feeling. Instead of looking at this need to sleep and be alone as depression, maybe I needed to view it as a call for a retreat.
What if this calling was leading me, not to a monastery or a mountaintop in India, but to my own heart, my own shadowlands where peace and healing could be found?
And with these thoughts came an almost immediate sense of relaxing, a letting down, a letting go, a deep deep breath of relief.
Yes. This retreat would be a gentle, compassionate, profound listening to what my body craved, my soul desired.
This was a time to let go of the calendar, the clock, the illusion of accomplishments.
It was a time to sleep when I was tired, no alarm clock wanted.
A time to eat beautiful nourishing foods in greens and reds and purples and yellows.
A time to stretch and dance to music that made my heart weep and my soul expand.
A time to meditate, go quiet, go still, float.
It was a time to be alone if that’s what I wanted, or to speak with friends if I desired company.
This was a time for prayer, and silence, and deep healing.
This was a time for sacred stillness.
As my body welcomes this shift, I find I am no longer afraid of the shadowlands, this place of gray and quiet. I know I will not stay here forever.
I also know that in the mystery of the shadowlands there are treasures to be found, dreams to be discovered. I will enter one way and come out differently. Of that, there is no doubt.
The spiral turns and dips and ride it we must. The question is do we resist or do we surrender? And what magic might be found if we surrender….