It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…
As in I’m feeling incredibly sad. I knew this was coming even thoughout the past couple of months I have been genuinely happy and at peace with my life. A friend suggested that maybe I had been burying these issues. But it didn’t feel like I was denial. More that my happiness was that bittersweet sensation of a person who knows that winter is coming but dances in the sunshine anyway.
Like Jacob Marley I’ve been visited by some familiar ghosts. The first let’s call the ghost of primordial darkness. I’ve always found this time of year difficult. And I know from speaking to others and from working with people struggling with their mental health that I’m not alone in this.
As the darkness grows like ink swirling through water, as the trees stretch skeletal fingers towards the dying sun, as the earth freezes appearing so barren nothing will grow. Some primal fear catches me and I begin to worry that the light will never come back and we’ll remain in this internal twilight forever. And I always breathe a sigh of relief when we pass midwinter and the longest night and begin to move back towards the light.
The Ghost of past trauma
It’s fitting that the actual longest night has always been the anniversary of the darkest night in our family history. 32 years ago today, my first Christmas, my sister was knocked down in a hit and run. I haven’t written about this on the blog before. It isn’t my story and I don’t want to cause any pain by talking about it in detail. But it has always been a difficult day. There is an ambivalence between the pain of what happened to my sister, the loss of the person she could have been, and the joy at the person she has become despite the most difficult odds. My sister is the kindest person I know, a talented artist and a silly bugger. To think only about how she became disabled is to ignore the gift that is her, ‘the girl that lived’. But neither can I deny how sad it is that choices have been taken away from her.
Tonight in Brighton there is this pagan festival that sums up this ambivalence. During the burning of the clocks people march through the streets with paper mache clocks and sculptures which they throw in the sea. We are going as a family. Although we haven’t talked about it I think it reminds us that even in the darkest night the sun still rises eventually.
The Ghost of recent loss
I’m sad because Christmas always reminds me of Lianne. If you’ve ever experienced a loss you will know that anniversaries and special occasions are bittersweet. She loved Christmas and every year we would go drinking Christmas eve in reindeer antlers. Spending every Christmas day with a stinking hangover was a small price to pay for a night of laughing with your friends until your ribs ached. Even before she died as she got sicker and sicker and finally was unable to come out, Christmas became infused with fear. Would this be the last Christmas with her? I really miss her and have so much I want to ask her and talk to her about. So Lianne if you’re there and not a ball of energy somewhere or been reincarnated as grumpy cat: what’s heaven like? Are the angels hot? Do you miss us too?
The Ghost of future pain
So we’ve covered seasonal pain, old trauma, recent loss and that brings us nicely like Jacob Marley to the ghost of future pain. Another year passes and I am still not pregnant. And I’m not going to lie Internet friends, this fucking sucks. When I started trying for a baby every month I would get my period I would console myself by saying don’t worry it will happen next month or surely the next month after that. By the end of last year during a similar depressive episode I told myself ‘don’t worry it will definitely happen next year’.
This year that hope has burnt away to ash and I no longer make any predictions at all. I hope against all evidence that I could get pregnant next year but know it is equally likely to take years and also there is a possibility, slim but it exists, that it may never happen for us.
Do you want to know the cruelest thing about infertility? As it becomes more clear that the problem is with me I realize I can bear my pain. But I love HWSNBN so much, how can I bear the thought of being the one to prevent his dream of being a father? We talk about it and I know this is my fear not his. That he loves me more than that. But it hurts.
My period was late for a week and a half this month and even though HWSNBN and I tried not to hope we couldn’t help but imagine a different Christmas one of possibility that next year would be different. My period came last night and I wept inconsolably. Speaking to HWSNBN and my parents helped. Knowing that they will be on my side wherever this journey takes me helps. This pain is changing me, tempering me in the fire into a new person but I worry about losing who I was. I worry I might snap and break under the crushing weight of a thousand disappointments.
And so it goes
ESTRAGON: ‘I can’t go on like this.’
VLADIMIR: ‘That’s what you think.‘
Waiting for Godot, Beckett
Like many others with depression I’ve been here before. This is territory I’ve mapped too many times. And there is something almost comforting about the bleakness of the vista, the scarred rock face, the waves tumbling over my head.
There is nothing I can do about these ghosts. The more I work with trauma the more I realize how unhelpful the notion of closure is. There are some wounds that never heal, despite our best efforts we have to learn to limo along with them anyway. I can’t protect myself against past loss or from future pain. All I can do is sit and feel these feelings until they pass. The only way out is through.
Small things help. The realisation that I am not alone, that other people find this time of year difficult too. That there are people who love me even when I am not my best self. Letting go of expectations of how Christmas will be helps. If I cry then I’ll cry and if I laugh that’s OK too. Writing about how I feel here helps even if only my mum reads it.
But the thing that really helps that keeps me trudging forward when path is so dark I can barely see is the knowledge that no matter what long dark night of the soul I am experiencing this too shall pass and somehow, somewhere the light is returning.