So, I hit a downswing last week. I warned you at the start, didn’t I? That sometimes things would go sideways because sometimes my brain decides to shake itself all out of balance and all I can do is hold on for the ride? Well, sometime last week, apparently my happy brain chemicals decided to check out for a while and here I am in a downswing.
They’re all different, at least for me. I’ve never been inside anybody else’s head, of course, but for me, every round of depression is different. Sometimes they’re violent and frightening, like a storm in my head and I’m never more than a half-breath away from breaking out sobbing. Sometimes they’re so subtle, so sneaky I don’t even realize I’ve slipped into Downswing Bizarro World until they let up and I look around and go “huh, that’s different.” Sometimes they’re insidious, with a hundred little voices filling up my thoughts, pretending to be me, pretending to speak truth, and telling me every second every awful thing they can come up with to cut into me. Sometimes they’re more physical, the symptoms manifesting like a cold or PMS, and I’m just tired and achey and not sleeping and everything else like being down with a cold minus the cold.
This one has been part physical and part mental. The physical aspect has been draining. My energy reserves have been low no matter how much sleep I got or how much I ate or how much I rested between other things. It was an effort, mental and physical, to get up and do something, anything, and then an impossibility to do more than one; I’d sit back down and have to start all over again.
The mental part has been some mix of the constant voice of self-hate and a propensity to be easily overwhelmed and need to escape. Which was kind of terrible timing.
Since we had planned to have 18 people in the house on Sunday for Ostara.
I don’t celebrate Easter — not being Christian will do that. But I do celebrate Ostara, and I invite my Clan, my family-who-are-friends-who-are-family to come join me. Sarah and I cook a bunch of food, hide plastic eggs in the yard, and prepare baskets of chocolate and goodies (and other non-food goodies for those who prefer) for everyone. And everyone else brings something to share and games to play, and we take a whole afternoon and evening to eat and have fun and spend time together. The kids come, too, and they get their own egg hunt, and then the last few years they’ve vanished into one room to play Legos.
I couldn’t actually tell you how I got the house ready for Ostara this year. I always get less tidy when I’m heading for and then in a downswing, and this was no exception. But, this time, I had to fight almost to the point of tears to get up and do things, from the grocery run to setting up chairs. It was maddening and exhausting and I truly didn’t think I’d manage it. Even with Sarah helping as she could, there’s a freaking metric ton of work to do for that many people in the house. Cleaning, cooking, organizing…
But then, this is my Clan, my family.
And the truth is, if I’d failed, it would have been okay.
If I had needed to cancel Ostara completely, they’d have understood. If I’d been okay to host, but couldn’t do the food, someone else would have taken it over for me. If I’d not been able to set up chairs, someone would have come early to assist (as it is, a few people did come early and they mopped the kitchen for me). If I’d left the house a mess, everyone would have been fine. There would have been no judging, no disapproval, no blame.
Because this is my Clan, and they are amazing.
I spent a huge portion of the party in whatever room was quietest. Games happened at our big table upstairs, and I hid out in the downstairs with the people not playing games just talking. And that was easier than being surrounded by noise. I played with the kids a bit, but less than other years because to have the energy to be good with them was simply beyond me. I didn’t fuss over the food or the mess once things got going, and I didn’t worry about if everyone was individually fine or having fun or happy. I just…settled into a comfortable niche and let everything else go.
And it was all okay.
I wish everyone in the world had a family like this. I wish every family was like this. This Clan of mine…it’s based on trust, on respect, and on love. And there is room for us all to be whatever and whoever we need in it — and we’re all okay with that. So if I am having an off week, or if someone gets horribly sick, or if someone needs help, it’s all fine. Nobody can be everything to everyone, but there is probably somebody in this group who can be what someone else needs for a little while.
All I really needed on Sunday was to be around my Clan, to sit at the side and see them playing together and having fun, and to know that I was perfectly safe, that I was wanted, that I was loved. That’s all I needed. And that’s what they give me.
My family is the BEST.
The downswing goes on and I’m as tired and downtrodden and self-hating as I was before, but I know it’s okay. I know it’s temporary, it’s Brain Out-of-Order Come Back Later time, and it’ll pass. I know that if I get in a jam I can’t handle, or if things go so far sideways I’m falling down, there will be a boatload of people I can reach out to for help, and one of them will come. I know that tomorrow may not be better, or the day after, but that ‘better’ is out there. And I just have to hang on until I stumble on it.
And one day I’ll open my eyes and go, “huh, that was different” and it will be over. And I might be annoyed that I missed Ostara and had to spend it in a downswing, but even that is okay. Because my Clan will be here next Ostara, and the one after that, and all the parties in between. My family isn’t going anywhere, and neither am I.
My downswings are sine curves, so they never truly bottom out and fall off the graph. They can go pretty damn far down, but not forever. At some point, the graph will curve and I’ll be heading up above the suckitude again. And, in the meantime, even if it feels like falling, I won’t hit bottom. I’ve got too many people to catch me.
And even my downswing brain can’t take that away from me.