I saw no reason to exist, had no sense of meaning or purpose in my life, and felt I had been born into the wrong life at the wrong time, like I was some sort of cosmic mistake. I heard someone described once (jokingly?) as a terrible waste of good molecules, and that’s what I felt like. It was not so much that the world would be better off without me, just that it didn’t matter. I was using up oxygen unnecessarily.
My therapist repeatedly tried to show me that I did, indeed, have a purpose in life, that life did have meaning, but I just wasn’t seeing it due to my illness. One point she kept trying to pound it into my head was that my children needed me. She would ask me, didn’t I want to be around to watch them grow, to see them mature into adulthood and get married, to see my grandchildren and watch them grow as well? At some level, I knew she was right, but I fought very hard against the idea, refusing or unable to see beyond the mental anguish that engulfed me at the time. And I couldn’t even begin to look far enough into the future to imagine my daughters as adults and to think of what I might miss out on if I weren’t a part of their lives.
Sometimes when you have no vision for your life, you just have to rely on others’ visions for you. And ultimately, that’s what kept me alive. Life continued to have its ups and downs for me. That wasn’t my first major depressive episode and it was not to be my last. But realizing that – even with so little that I felt capable of offering – I was still needed, giving up was just not an option.
Fast forward several years, and I can attest that my therapist was right. I have watched my daughters grow, looking on with immense pride as they blossomed through adolescence and into adulthood. I cried with joy when they crossed the auditorium stage and accepted their high school diplomas. I watched them go their divergent ways – one moving on to receive her bachelor’s degree (even before she reached drinking age) and then continuing further to earn a master’s degree; the other to become a successful business owner in her early twenties, and now getting married and beginning a whole new chapter in her life.
I take pride in my daughters’ accomplishments. But more than that, I am overwhelmed with awe at the beautiful people they have become, and I am filled with gratitude for being able to participate in their lives. I couldn’t have imagined or hoped for having more meaning in my life.
As recently as seven months ago I was re-hospitalized for depression. Life continues to challenge me. But there is no difficulty that could ever overshadow the life I have been blessed with. I don’t wake up every day full of hope and bliss, but I do wake up every day thankful that I am still here. My biggest fear this past week was that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying at my oldest daughter’s wedding ceremony on Saturday as I sat and watched another milestone come to pass.
And my biggest hope is that anyone else, facing the situation I was in so many years ago, will find the courage to continue on. We really have no idea as to how our lives will materialize. As the saying goes, don’t give up before the miracle happens.
Please pass the hankie.