Recently, my husband Jim and I visited an old friend - someone I hadn't seen since 1986. Back then, we lived in Washington, DC where Jim worked at the Canadian Embassy. On weekends, we would visit the beach house of our friends Pam and Norm on the Delaware coast. Norm passed away some years ago (we miss him) and Pam has settled into a new house at the beach.
It was wonderful to see our old friend and revisit our past. In Pam's guest bedroom, I was surprised to see this photo:
As I opened this chapter of my past, I felt strange. This was me before children, before caregiving. But what's more, it was me struggling with depression and anxiety. It was a time in my life when I was often in hospital and always in treatment. Our beach memories are very precious - those days in the sun were respite from my demons. It was only after a seasoned psycho-pharmacologist at the National Institute of Mental Health discovered a previously undiagnosed thyroid condition that I was able to finally recover. Luckily, I have never had a relapse since those days, but I am wary of my moods and humbled by my experience with the sordid reality of severe mental illness.
It's funny how difficult life experiences sometimes prepare you for what comes next. My 'lost years' gave me self-awareness and humility. They erased any sense of arrogance or ego that might lead me to believe I had control over what challenging life events might befall me. By slowly piecing my personality back together, I learned the real meaning of courage.
This is me with our friend on the beach last week.
The beach hasn't changed, but I have. I am a caregiver and I am happy.