Despite the calendar showing another month left to the winter, Valentine’s Day marks the beginning of the spring season in my life. It marks the first day of what is usually the most mentally tumultuous six weeks of the year for me. But it also marks the darkest hour before the new dawn.
I guess I can trace it back to my freshman year of high school. I had already started experiencing depressive episodes. I felt alone and part of me believed it was only a matter of time before I decided to solve my problems the only way I thought I could. I already had the bottle of pills hidden in my jewelry box. It was Lortab. My mother had one of those fancy pill books and I looked it up in there to make sure it would work. On February 16, 1992 I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. Then there was the fight with my mother. I didn’t think that it could ever get better. I called one of my friends- the one who told me to call her before I did anything stupid. She said she was watching TV and asked if she could call me back. She never did. So I went to my jewelry box and grabbed the bottle of pills. I don’t remember how many I took. Maybe 5, maybe 25. I felt like this was the only way I could escape the turmoil in my own mind.
Obviously, things didn’t go the way I planned. After I started to feel hot and tired I confessed to my mother. A few slices of bread, some ipecac syrup, and 5 or 10 minutes on the exercise bike was enough to empty my stomach.
I truly believe that was when it began. It took another decade before I could start to see the pattern: relationship issues, family deaths, the rape, the slump that I still often feel. But it hasn’t been all bad. Over the years I’ve often had my greatest moments of inspiration during this time. It was also during this time of year that I returned to the Catholic Church.
I was told a number of year ago that giving something up for Lent isn’t actually required, and I can’t explain the relief I felt. For several years I had all I could do to get myself through my six week emotional roller coaster. Then a funny thing happened and I began to embrace it. I saw that pushing through each year made me stronger, and I began to see this time as an opportunity to grow spiritually. That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes fight to keep myself from sinking into melancholy that I still feel around me. But as I face my demons year after year, I start to feel a little stronger every time.
I don’t always realize what my challenge will be for the season. But other times it’s clear from the very beginning. This is one of those years. The internal discomfort has been building over the last couple of weeks and today I realized what my mental battle will be.
It’s about love. I guess in a way it’s always about love. It’s about loving others while still loving myself. It’s about recognizing that love isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it’s really hard and it hurts. Most importantly, it’s about learning when to fight and when to walk away.