This Too Shall Pass

Dylan, Bethany, and Jeramiah

April Something 2015

or at least I think it’s supposed to be 2015. I really am at my best when I don’t know the calendar day. I know it’s Friday–and Fridays are always good, feel good heading into the weekend. Last night I dreamt about Dylan. This is not unusual as I dream about him often, but last night? Ugh and exhaustion turning in a tumultuous half slumber/half alert state because I was both dreaming Dylan was dying and that he was dead. I hate waking up from these kinds of dreams because I come into my day just so be-raggedy and exhausted. Physically depleted. Emotionally spent.
But I don’t feel sad, just same old, same old. It’s taken almost three years to get here, but I find practicing mindfulness and wise mind and distraction to be my go-to standbys when I feel hungover and wiped out from the get-go. Today, I said a quick prayer–for strength, for fortitude, for go get ’em as I always used to say to Dylan, for direction, for perseverance, then simply tumbled out of bed and got into motion. 
It helps that I decided last night what I was going to do about breakfast. I had a recipe all laid out, so I turned on the kitchen lights, filled the tea kettle, turned on the stove, preheated the oven, and mixed together walnuts, almond flour, organic maple syrup, cinnamon, and raw coconut butter together in my food processor. From my freezer I pulled out what remained of a big bag of frozen organic mixed berries. Yum! Into the 8″ x 8″ pan they rolled out, first the berries, then dropping clumps of the walnut mixture onto the top of the berries. 35 minutes at 350–absolute nirvana. Healthy, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, protein, happy food, happy tummy food, happy feel-good food. And of course, the obligatory vanilla chai protein smoothie. At least Vega One makes a decent pea protein smoothie–1 scoop protein powder, 8 ounces flaxseed milk, several liberal sprinkles of cinnamon, stevia, a quick whir of the blender, then gulp it down quickly before I become aware of the monotony of starting every day with a smoothie instead of toast and jam, toast and almond butter, toast and fried egg, toast! I miss toast–
Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, anti-inflammatory, sugar-free, no legumes, no fun! Nah, eating this way’s okay. Now if I could just get healthy. Two plus years of grieving has done me in. Now an autoimmune disease, now the need for heart valve replacement surgery, now the need to count everything I consume as either medicine or toxin. Sigh. . .grieving just embraces and encompasses all that you are, taking over not just the external part of you others see, but the innards as well, upheaving all, tumultuous, stripping, eroding, sometimes quickly, other times the slow grating away, everything out of balance–vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, blood pressure, heartbeat, organ function, heartbeat. Outward the lines and markings of grief, outward the downward slope and bent over everything. It is effort to rise after carrying the weight of so much grief, but rise I must if I am to keep on keeping on.
But now? But now. . .sigh, endless physical pain, chronic pain in my already just-had-enough-for-any-lifetime-let-alone-this-one body. I’ve never lost faith on this grief journey, but I do have deep and ongoing conversations with God. I will be learning to live without Dylan here for the rest of my life, and this in itself is an enormous task, way of living, way of learning to have to live. And now, autoimmune disease that is pervasive and systemic and drains energy and reserves and changes everything–just everything.
Dylan’s favorite band and guitarists
But then again, what doesn’t change in this lifetime? I wish Dylan had lived long enough to see this–that things always change, the ups becoming the downs, the downs rising back up into the ups, the ebb and flow journeying though life.
In my heart, though, I know Dylan struggled with depression and that depression isn’t just the occasional blue day or feeling down. Depression is an illness-just like all illnesses here in this lifetime, on this planet, in this space. People get depression just like any other disease and just like other diseases, sometimes meds help and sometimes they don’t. The end result of meds that don’t work is always the same–death. Dylan died of depression, of manic depression. He no more chose to die–even though he died by suicide, than someone chooses to have a heart attack or stroke. He didn’t choose to get depression, especially manic depression, he didn’t choose to get sick, and he tried to get better–meds, doctors, the whole rigamarole and all that we have privy to at this time in the way of treatment for mental illness.
Depression is not just mental. I think this is a misnomer. It leads people to false thinking, to false assumptions. It allows us to cast judgement and to sit in judgement of those diagnosed with “mental” illnesses. We don’t heart disease a “physical illness,” neither do we call cancer, stroke, autoimmune disease, and so forth, “physical illnesses.” Truth be told, any illness can manifest with symptoms of depression and if there were an answer in 2015, I’d be the first to be in line.
Depression erodes everything–spiritual (it makes you question everything, ask big questions, existential questions, wonder “what if,” ache, dream of relief), emotional (it isolates you from everybody you love and know and pulls from you all that brought you joy–food, hobbies, life), intellectual (it paralyzes you, makes you stumble and fall, question, feel uncertain and shakey, pull away, hide out, and it lies all the time. It breaks you down and tells you you’re no good, that the world would be better off if you weren’t here). Depression draws the shades, turns everything gray, sucks the living joy and breath of happiness right out of you and as if that weren’t enough, it turns on you,  relentlessly droning on its lies and untruths. 
But depression can be a master of disguise, and I think for awhile, Dylan had a lot of us fooled. Dylan first told me he was depressed when he was 17. He said he’d been depressed for at least 7 years. I have gone round and round combing the details, replaying his and my life in reverse. Why didn’t I see his ache? his sadness? his struggle? his need? Maybe because I didn’t know what to look for, maybe because I struggle with my own depression, maybe because I just thought he was moving through teenage angst. 
Dylan was just a kid. Avenged Sevenfold, his wanna-be life, his escape, at first his fire, his passion, and then his ache, but always his rock and roll hereos


I never know where I’m going to go when I start writing. Mostly I just start, after that, the words and thoughts just kind of lead. I guess this is just where I’m supposed to end up today. Oh, and on a positive note, I practiced tai chi today. I was late to my class (I know, I know–what’s new that I’m saddled with this autoimmune monster I must contend with each day), but I made it and plowed through the achy joints and bones and muscles and tissues and fibers. I was never athletic in school or in life. I’ve always worked out, been active, enjoyed being active, but I’ve never had to live like an athlete–pushing past pain, pushing aside pain, distracting, and of all things, like the Nike ad, just doing it anyway, no matter what state I’m in. Sometimes. Sometimes, I really just need to rest and take heart that this too shall pass. And indeed, this too shall pass, for it always does.

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