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  • Lindsay S. Wheeler

Seasons & Tides

There is a reason children do not ask existential questions; in their minds, life as it is will never change. The future holds an eternal state of youth and an endless supply of Scholastic books and summer vacations. Family will forever represent security and comfort; it will always be something that is whole.

Behind my young-self lay a trail of wreckage. It was the silent but not uncommon deterioration of a kid who couldn’t find the words for what she was going through. Trapped by my own brain chemistry in a twisted illusion, it left me empty with nothing more to give. As with my peers, I could not envision a future without the things I held closest; Christmas with my favorite aunt, guiltless chocolate cake, and meaningless fights with my brother. Things changed. She stopped coming, food became the enemy, and I became increasingly volatile. With Chris, I was always the instigator; my frustration over what little time we had together manifested in tiny, annoying jabs. Though I couldn’t find the words for it, I knew the peace would soon be over and I would return to fighting my internal battle.

At some point, I had to grow up and let go of past pain and trauma. At one time, it was beyond comprehension that I could lose those I felt I needed to survive. Without them, I believed, there would be no air. But, in labored breaths, I got through it and realized I must let my losses ignite me in passion rather than in fire. It was a process of many years.

I recently turned twenty-six and it felt uncomfortable. I often hear people say, “she’s doing much better now,” and it’s not untrue. I will never be “better” if better means “healed,” but I am so much better by comparison. Being honest with myself was the best remedy; medication wasn’t bad either. People feel more comfortable with mental illness when they can identify and articulate exactly what it is they encounter out in the world. In my case, I’m okay with that; I wear my labels proudly, though I know it is a privilege that I can. I do fear I could unravel again, and I know my transparency about this brings solace to my fellow sufferers. Many of us are burdened by the reality that, at any moment, we could freefall back into a darkness we lost ourselves to years ago.

I was once so young I had no idea I would one day get old. It felt so easy, and though logic tells me I am still young, I am constantly reminded that I’m also halfway to fifty; that more than a quarter of my life has likely passed. And what do I have to show for it? I’ve had days that have left me feeling hopeless, worked jobs that have left me feeling incomplete, and written half a book that has left me feeling incompetent. But, I have also skydived over the Pacific, lived abroad, succeeded – by most standards – in the college thing, and evolved in ways that make me feel whole. Some days, I choose to focus on the former, but other days I am fully entrenched in the latter.

It can only be described as strange to know you are not old but fear the day you will be. I wonder if this is a ludicrous thought stream for someone my age because whenever I try to explain this to older friends, I get the predictable laugh, eye roll, or “you still look like you’re fourteen.” I wonder if you will find it disturbing that I’ve written two pages about this. There is a fine line between hating and loving the process. On one side is the bleak reality of my own impermanence; on the other is the precious gift of finding a purpose that many never will. Sometimes I straddle the line in an act that makes me feel completely powerless and hinders my ability to cherish the good side. Sometimes my position on this line serves as the wind on my back.

But, I am not a child anymore; I cannot skate my way into adulthood with minimal effort. I wonder if people will still listen to me, still care, as I get older. I wonder if in sixty years this will all mean nothing; if my work as it is now will be obsolete, replaced by something better and more relevant. I go to sleep with anxiety after my most unproductive days. If I rest my feet on the couch, I am overwhelmed with knowing I could have moved - done something - instead. It has become such a problem that I routinely force myself into structured “rest periods,” which typically only last fifteen minutes if I can make it that long.

My mom says she still feels twenty-six until she crashes on a mountain bike. My dad says he doesn’t feel twenty-six anymore. My grandma says she has lived through war, wealth, manual labor, and poverty, and is ready to go whenever that day may come. After my brother’s close call in Barcelona, I realized I have a whole lot I need to do before I can feel that way. Consequently, I have found I must either live without fear or let it consume me entirely. I must walk blindly into this dark space rather than stand before it in place. I have learned that wondering what could have been hurts more than failing, but still, I sometimes forget.

#mentalillness #change #growingup #loss #overcoming #childhooddepression

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