January and February are historically the hardest months of the year for me. The Seattle gray gets under your skin and makes you want to scream your impotent, housebound rage at the lowering sky.
At least it does me.
This year has been especially fun: I weaned myself off my antidepressants last month (at my doctor’s recommendation; I was beginning to experience unpleasant side effects). Let’s just say it’s been a ride. And not a hay one. More like California Screaming, which I am too old for.
In the midst of the roller coaster of these past few weeks, I have several times found myself flat on my face (figuratively, you understand…well, except for once, when I really was face down on my bed, screaming into a pillow…but I digress), begging for God to unleash His strength and grace because I sure wasn’t feeling it, raging wretch that I was.
At the same time, once the storm of emotion passed (and thank God, it always passed), I was more or less okay, except for that icky feeling of having just thrown a really rotten temper tantrum over what was, after all, not terribly important. And the even ickier feeling that I might have damaged my children in the course of my tantrum. That part sucked worse than the emotional storm.
But God is nothing if not gracious. Except when in the throes of the anger that had me by the throat, I was able to see how much I’ve grown. If depression is anger turned inward, this anger turned outward, scary and ugly as it is, is actually a good thing. It’s a chance for me to hear what it wants to say, what it wants to teach me about how I need to live my life.
Mostly, it seems to be saying I live with too many stimuli. I let myself live at the absolute knife-edge of overstimulation. Then, when the least little thing gets louder or stronger or comes without warning into my line of vision, I go from seemingly okay to enraged in about half a second.
I cannot tell you how many times in the past weeks I have yelled at my kids because there were toys, books, blankets, papers, clothes, or whatever on the floor or the bookcase or the sideboard or the dining room table. Or because they asked me the same question one too many times. Or because two or three of them were trying to talk to me all at once.
When you live with four kids, these things happen. They’re a part of life. And my meds helped me cope with them, created a buffer between me and the stimuli of my world.
But it came at a cost. And that cost was myself. My meds enabled me—a strong introvert with a deep need for silence and stillness and visual simplicity—to live a cluttered, extraverted life.
Without the meds, three years of starving my inner introvert have come roaring back with a vengeance. In retrospect, I can see that even with the meds, she wasn’t entirely silenced. I think of my quasi blog fast last Easter and how that was her way of trying to get me to slow down and be quiet.
I think of my retreat days with Susan at St. Mary of the Lake and the way I would sit alone for an hour on the dock and just stare at the water and then spend another hour wandering happily around the grounds, grateful to meet no one at all, to not need to speak to anyone, not even Susan.
I think of the past 40 days of no blogging or social media—a plan I concocted without even realizing it would coincide with my SSRI weaning and withdrawal. Looking back, it seems my inner introvert was wiser than I. And that she’s been needing some TLC for quite a while.
I’m not sure what that looks like, honestly. I haven’t lived as an introvert for three years, at least. I have a house full of kids. We homeschool. It is all people all the time around here.
But I want to try to honor my need for silence and stillness and simplicity. I’ll let you know how it goes.
For now, I do know that one way I’m going to let myself be myself is to write fewer, longer blog posts. I like long. I like rambly. I even like repetition, so long as it’s not tedious. And I really like time to think and ponder and revise.
So I’m going to break every blogging rule there is—but then, I already have: 40 days offline? It may as well be 40 years. It’s professional suicide. Since I’m already dead, I figure I haven’t got anything to lose—and I’m only going to blog two or three times a month.
The takeaway for you who faithfully read my words is that you’ll probably want to subscribe via email, if you don’t already, so you don’t miss any posts.
Now I confess that I don’t usually subscribe to blogs via email. I hate having messages pile up in my inbox. It feels loud and demanding. It drains my energy. So I will completely understand if you don’t want to go that route. You can also subscribe in a reader.
In parting, for now, I want to share an image that keeps recurring to me: the image of John the Evangelist leaning on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper, which in turn reminds me of the image of the weaned child upon her mother’s breast in Psalm 131. That is where I want to remain: quietly leaning on Jesus, at rest, at peace, at home. I don’t have to talk. I don’t have to impress anyone. I don’t even have to think if I don’t want to. I can simply be. My inner introvert craves this.
And she is me.
Gather me in your arms, O God, quiet the words of my mouth, still the meditations of my heart, and carry me in your bosom, that I might hear the heartbeat of your love; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who when he was lifted up gathered all people to himself and lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.