I'm trying hard to figure myself out. That's one major purpose of this blog - "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." (Flannery O'Connor) I spent most of my life ignoring myself while trying to help others figure themselves out, so I guess I had a lot of catching up to do.
The problem is, I keep changing. Sometimes it's good, upward growth (not literally, of course - I'm afraid that ship has sailed), sometimes I fall down, take steps backward and sometimes the changes are lateral ones, neither positive nor negative - just change. Now, I know I've just described life in a nutshell. For those who have been more or less self-aware, it's old hat but for me, at forty-one-and-a-half and just beginning to ask the questions in the last few years, it can still be a little disorienting.
In my most recent assessment, I've concluded that I have no less than three distinct personalities: one when I'm free from depression, one that emerges when depression envelopes me, and one when I'm teetering back and forth on the brink of depression. (Yup, it all centers around depression these days. And that's ok.)
When I'm free from depression, the world is my oyster! I'm the confident, people-loving, bubbly Joy with whom most people who know me are familiar. I am hopeful, full of plans and goals. I'm able to do the things I need to do, to participate in activities I enjoy and to delight in the world around me. I can care about people and share myself with them. This Joy has her issues and shortcomings, but she's learning to accept and even enjoy who she is.
Depressed Joy is best described as numb. (Incidentally, isn't numb a weird word?) Shrouded as she is in a thick cloud of nothingness, she doesn't feel much. Hope is gone, energy is gone, delight is gone, emotion is gone. The only real thing is delusion - which isn't real at all, by definition. She plods through her days in a dense fog, trying to do what's necessary. Being with people is agonizing at best; being alone is even worse. This Joy doesn't think much about accepting herself, her only goal is to keep her head above water, to keep herself from drowning in this invisible sea of despair.
I've only recently identified the third Joy - the one who is somewhere in-between. It's a strange place: hope is there, but delusion is there, too. It often feels like a tug-of-war for my soul, between two well-matched competitors. One will have the upper hand for a time, and then without warning, the tide will turn and the other side looks as if it will win. I've spent the last few weeks there, and it's terribly confusing and unstable. (I think I feel most sorry for my family and friends when I'm this Joy - like me, they never know what's coming next...)
You'd think that this discovery would be demoralizing, maybe - even frightening. However, instead of bringing me down, this observation has been most beneficial and freeing for me.
One of my newest disciplines is to consciously look for God's hand in everything. And the more I look, the more I see that His fingerprints are all over my life. Even in this.
So, armed with this new self-knowledge and more aware of God's presence than ever, I put one foot in front of the other, again and again. And when I can't, I can still know His peace, because peace is Jesus and He will never, ever leave me.
Thanks be to God.