It was one of those Facebook reminders. “Three years ago today…” The time capsule I had unwittingly left myself was an enthusiastic message of wide-open spaces, creativity, optimism. It had been, I can see with even more clarity today, an unusual period of life. I had just completed several months of experimental treatment for what is termed in psychiatric circles “treatment resistant depression.”
The daily rounds of synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation followed more than a year of all that very clinical-sounding designation summons to mind; the results were profound. For two months I possessed a mind bursting with the newness of a child, the knowledge of a big ‘un, the evolving wisdom of one who had walked through a generous dollop of suffering and enjoyed an impartial distance from which to survey it all. It was the bright, breezy mind I had been waiting for, truthfully, remaining for.
It was the experience, three years gone now, I would record in staccato bursts of spruced-up blog posts in my book, “After Depression: What an experimental medical treatment taught me about mental illness and recovery.” It was a title not so much crowing of accomplishment as offering evidence of a world stumbled into. It was testimony, an encouragement of sorts for others plodding through their own bleaknesses to grasp, if only momentarily.
Today I look back and wonder at the years that have followed. I observe myself, leaning into a more engaged life—the future yet a frighteningly fractured, branching realm of possibility. The sensation accompanying this moment feels like looking up from the anchored root of a sea fan, sizing up the the low branches of a leaf-less oak, anticipating a Cambrian explosion. Just over a year ago, I’m sure Facebook will one day remind me, I announced I was entering a master’s program to become a clinical mental-health counselor. Then I dodged, entering a program in international relations instead. Truthfully, I’m still straddling the decision. The IR program has proven to be a marginal one; the therapist’s calling simmers.
Robert Frost may have lingered over a shady fork in the road in that “yellow wood,” inspiring countless future indecisives to ramble down the way with the fewest observable tracks. But in this moment, I can’t gauge the paths. From here all futures appear ill-formed and utterly treadless, the multi-polar mind fabricating facsimiles of them all in rapid fire stuns.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of this drawn-out negotiations is the love I still hold for environmental journalism. Rooted and stress-averse, I find it a less likely career going forward. The solitary freelance life is almost unbearable, the options of the local media market virtually non-existent.
Only one thing is certain: There remains within an irrepressible desire to be of use, hence the machinations toward the therapist seat (a sidle over from the couch), hence the more focused study—if its end point is more abstracted—of ecological crisis and evolving global governance. Less concretely stated, this desire is to work as an icebreaker to stunned and frozen natures, the amplify the message of the unity of all life, of our utter dependence on the diversity of forms reverberating around us, and live as a reminder of the joy of simply settling into that (albeit unraveling) tapestry and refusing to surrender to the mania that is perceived isolation and disconnection.
So I occupy the moment. I breathe and wait for another fortuitous gap in the expected, another wide-open space, accepting it may never arrive in a way that can be perceived. The struggle continues to accept that the longing itself may provide all that is needed to accomplish my individual portion of our current arising. That will be good enough.
‘Fractal Weeds’ at top, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.