My first mistake was thinking that I could keep the same running pace with one foot lopped off. My second mistake was getting frustrated at the now singular foot that then collapsed – mid-stride and rather drastically on the loose, grimy soil.
But the mental image of a runner with only one foot is easier to explain, right? Mental injuries make a whole lot more sense when we see them in the same light as physical injuries. It also gives others – as well as the one-legged pirate – a better perspective on what is or is not progress. For example, I wouldn’t be asking my stumpy leg when it will grow a new foot. Instead, I would accept that the old foot is gone, build myself a new foot out of iron and leather straps, and adopt a wild, yet epic dragon for some sweet night flying.
If only Depression was that simple to fix and tame.
That is what PTSD sometimes becomes, you see – good ol’ Depression, Anxiety and more. Not for everyone, of course; but for some of us, losing that foot instigates a fall so hard that all the breath is knocked out of us for a while. Not forever, but for a while. And this is where it gets tricky.
Because we cannot predict how long it will take for us to breathe again.
Most of the time, life doesn’t give you extra grace points for having one foot less in the biped race. Sometimes the invalid is helped to the side lines, lavished with copious amounts of peace, quiet and generic convalescence, and fanned with a palm frond while watching the gold coins stack up again for the second lap.
Others totter about dazedly in the middle of the track, trying to heal, failing to feel, dying to steal back just a few hours of their life before the wholeness became halfness and the game changed forever.
And yet… I am one of the lucky ones.
Yes, it has been 17 months of displaced and non-grounded existence, during which time I have lived in 19 houses, drifted through four or five different countries, and swung clumsily between helplessly receiving government assistance, enthusiastically working as a freelance writer, and listlessly lying in bed for days on end trying to figure out why I should get up at all.
Fortunately, I have penchant for being clean. I also have a sister who is a nutritionist and makes me eat my vegetables when food seems to be the most pointless part of my existence. Showering and eating go a long way towards feeling more human. Or at least, looking more human – which consequently gives you more time to fake it till you, I guess, make it.
Depression is… depressing.
Mostly because, once it hits you like it did Dory and Marlin, it seems pretty well impossible that you will ever find your way out of the jellyfish fields alive. But I will say it again. I am one of the lucky ones.
How many of the homeless that we brush past on the street are suffering PTSD or Depression?
How many of them have simple comforts like food and warmth to slightly lessen the crushing symptoms of Anxiety?
How many of them have someone to talk to, cry against, find hope with for a future that seems filled with darkness and sorrow?
It breaks my heart that someone should feel the things I have felt, without even the comfort of a human touch of kindness to ease their suffering.
I have had a family to keep me fed and safe and hugged, even when I cannot do anything more than quietly hand back an empty plate.
I have had kind friends to lean on when I can’t remember how to stand.
I have had gentleness in the face of my misplaced anger, and patience in the face of my irrational despair.
I have people who knew me “before” yet still love me “after”.
Because that is how it is, now. There is “before” and there is “after”. And yes they are two different things and no I can never go back to where I was before.
And that’s okay. Because I am still me.
Me with PTSD?Me with Depression?Me with Social Anxiety issues and endless tissues?
Doesn’t matter. I’m still me, albeit hopping around in that leather iron boot with a dragon pal waiting outside.
I’m scarred. I’m scattered. I’m stronger.
Me with the same old dreams rattling around in my head (so what if I have to gather twice as much courage for them now – it only makes my determination more powerful).
Me with the same old laughter that bubbles out with friends (so what if I cry sometimes too – they’ll just wait for tomorrow, when I’ll laugh again).
Me with the same old, unquenchable desire to write and create and paint sunsets with my words (so what if sometimes more salt than ink fills my page – even tears can give birth to words that otherwise never would have been born).
I could have one foot or three, but nothing will change the fact that I am here, as me.
So maybe life sucks sometimes. So maybe I trip more often than I want to. So maybe I write this article without the same word flair and content finesse that I used to conjure with ease.
Maybe sometimes I just plain and simple hashtag fail at life.
But I keep trying anyway.
Depression and jellyfish be damned.
Emma is an Italian-South African with a New Zealand passport and an international heart. She spent years running a puppet ministry and directing student choirs, before going on to serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship in New Zealand (7 years) and Papua New Guinea (3 years).
Emma’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/emma-mcgeorge.html