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Does recovery ever happen this way for you? Something quietly takes you out of yourself?
My room at the inn on the Olympic Peninsula coast looked out broadly on the foggy beach, an early morning panorama grayed out by the ground-level cloud. I tried to discern outlines through that broken mass rolling in from the Pacific. I was struggling to reach through a confused depression to find any clear thing to connect with, something out there, on the shore, apart from me yet a link to the surviving stirrings of life that could bring me out of this dark mood.
I stared at the gray drizzling morning, light wind gently gusting – the water white, waves breaking a hundred yards out, their shallow ripples foaming toward the exposed flats. I had heard there was a record low tide, opening the huge, wet sand-apron of the beach. The mists kept roiling in and out, dissolving the scene for a time, then revealing the great muddy flat again. All at once, I saw dark figures moving about, first just a few, then in the sudden clearing, many small clusters of people. Who or what were they? Barely emerging from the grays of mist, the glistening shore, gray rain, these people weren’t just strolling about – they had purpose. Then I realized they must be out there for the great razor clams buried in the sand, available now because of the low tide.
Those shadowy-thin figures on the gray beach search with focus on their task. Each turn and nod brings them to life. I see from my room the purpose to their strolling, the intent bowing of heads, the turnings to one another for advice on where to go, bending against the cold spray and rain, wrapping of coats and arms tightly in the wind, then the discovery of the prizes, digging, probing into the wet shore, a slick mirror under their feet. Across it, long shadows gleam on the wet surface. There go three in one group – testing the sand with long sticks then walking on. These three slowly change places as one finds, then loses what he seeks – now they’re a triangle – now a straight line – they gradually circle each other – asking – helping.
More mist descends, and they’re gone, but another figure appears – as if out of the clay – alone – a heavy cloddish body, wrapped in thick clothing – at the very edge of the water – trying to follow a receding sliver of wave to the bed of razor clams. I turn away for a moment. Suddenly he is a hundred yards farther along the shore – standing still at the waterline – or in the water, I can’t tell – so far off I can’t see which direction he’s facing – just a huddled figure, indistinct – but then pulling something – a rope in his hand – he turns to look behind – walks toward the land, then back, as if measuring – pacing the ground for his position – his strides lengthen, his shadow is faint. Farther down the beach the first three I had seen reappear. They and the measuring man look as if they’re disappearing into the sea – so tiny are they. The gulls and pelicans are swinging by in long arcs. The wind picks up, its dull roar audible now, distant surf crashing can also heard, as if the sounds too have emerged from the mist. The sun begins to open up a few stretches of sky, and the exposed beach – seen at this tide once in a decade – bears the current markings of the waves – and the diggers searching calmly as if walking on shallow water – mindless of the force in those channeling lines cutting into the clay and sand.
Others walk out – I can see the prematurely bold stride of a young boy – still in silhouette as his thin legs march him toward the thicker slower figures – his torso arched slightly as he stands to his full height – the shore birds scuttering near him along the waterline. He turns in an arc – then runs toward his family emerging on the beach a hundred yards away – he tilts into the wind – his shadowed legs evenly pushing him – his charging plows the sand – pushing it behind him steadily, an even, fast rhythm – how the weight shifts from one leg to the other – both smoothly in his young form. He joins an older figure who distinctly favors one leg in his less certain path.
It’s getting later now, the sun has burned off the grayness, and I can see dozens – maybe fifty figures – a crowd – stooping and looking, bending down to find their prey – probing with sticks – some with long ax-like tools, punching lightly at the sand – a swarm of workers, each instinctively doing his appointed task – first in one place, then another. People with a simple purpose, a few tools, concentration on the goal, the weekend harvesters of razor clams. A little girl is hunched, as if ready to spring in the air.
Mist and misery lift from my mind – I don’t know why – and I pull on a jacket to hike out and join them on the shore.
Does it ever happen that way for you?
Anon for now says
Thank you both for the discussion. I apologize for not responding sooner.
Stephany, thank you especially for expanding on your original comments. I appreciate the idea of looking for one’s own rhythm with this. So far, my episodes have been years apart, so it’s difficult to look back and remember enough to see patterns. Knowing it is helpful to do so, though, is impetus to pay more attention.
I do know that my episodes seem to follow feelings of being overwhelmed, by responsibilities and/or by grief. So, that’s something.
I am sending you supportive energy, Stephany, hoping it might help you with your current depression and fatigue.
I think for me, with my life being a caregiver, and after an intense year of emotional turmoil, loss of a parent, etc. that the only way I have survived is to how you say about Lincoln, “critical one for him to cling to” is to cling to something, anything that would give me some sort of solace that will keep surviving. It’s all I have today, and this last several weeks as I admittedly am battling severe depression, and fatigue, which makes me want to use the phrase “battle fatigue”. There are days, where I have to perform, to be on target, at meetings, etc where I say, “I had to come back”, though I might collapse later. Then there are times less severe, where I feel like I am able to see a scene like you describe and it was ok for me to be ok, or I was ready to, or maybe already was….
It’s hard to describe all of this isn’t it? Thanks for the discussion.
John D says
As I think about what you’re describing, I can say that there have definitely been times I’ve come back because I had to, but these were quite extreme situations where the alternative was – not coming back at all. Usually I come back after a night of sleeping. I wake up and know instantly that I’m changing, usually because I can think clearly again. What you say about the solace of knowing that you do return reminds me of Lincoln. That thought was a critical one for him to cling to, and it shows up in advice he offered a young woman once. I can’t say it really works for me, even though I keep trying to focus on that and other beacons to find my way back. It’s true of the incident in this post that I was probably on my way back. I wouldn’t have been able to focus if I had not been returning already.
No, I do not feel this is something one can practice and get better at,–in such a simple term– but I do think one can center one’s self and learn our own rhythms and start to see patterns of our depression or behaviour, and if we pay attention to ourselves enough this way, it can in my experience be a sort of solace, that we know we do return. I know when I don’t feel well, I want to, and I want to return, and am trying to return to my own personal baseline, and sometimes, I have noticed when I have to….I do. It’s just my experience, and am not implying anyone can “flip a switch” or that it isn’t a horrible place to be when depressed or even manic for that matter. I do believe we can learn to understand ourselves and that is the key to some sort of peace in our minds. But, we are all different, and advice I cannot give.
Expanding my thought, what happens to me sometimes, is that I think or feel that I am “ready” to come back, return, and am consciously looking for the spark, the hope, the scene for example that John describes–where it just seems to come together all at once. Almost unbelievably to me at least, is how I could feel so gone and yet be back seemingly so quickly, with something such as John writes. It has taken me a few days to think about how to explain this, that I left in my first comment. Hopefully this does.
Anon for now says
Stephany, I’d appreciate knowing more about your comment, “Sometimes…it’s a choice when we return.” And, do you feel this is something we can practice and get better at?
Most likely you were coming out of the depression. Sometimes, I feel it’s a choice when we return.Not as unconscious as we think.