EVER the Twain Shall Meet

JenniferFor a long time, it was as if I lived two lives.

Parallel, and at times, intersecting, but to all those save a close few – totally distinct.  One hidden from the other; one nonexistent except for the shadow it cast on my life.

When I could get out from under it, it was much easier for even me to pretend that shadow life didn’t exist. I wasn’t suffering.  I wasn’t having trouble coping.  I didn’t need help.  Certainly, no one needed to know about it.

And then I was reduced down to nothing.  The two paths merged.  There was but one way to walk and it was a miserable path.  It would either stay that way forever or I would accept this was my path to take and get the help I needed to make it a better one.

Postpartum depression became my crossroads.  In coming to terms with that, I began to take stock of my entire life, trying to pinpoint moments where my anxiety and/or depression had been there all along. Looking back, I did see moments colored by anxiety.  But what good did it do? Besides make me feel like my life was a sham.  The modus operandi I thought I had been operating under had been a false pretense.  The “normal” wool had been pulled off my eyes.  One of the only positives I found was that what I thought had been a wimpy lack of self-confidence was most likely crippling bouts of anxiety.

A major tool in bringing my two lives together in a cohesive way was my blog, though it took me awhile to build up the courage to begin writing it.  In discussing the venture with a writing mentor, he asked whether I would be more comfortable writing anonymously.  I responded immediately with an emphatic NO.  He jumped back in surprise.  I explained that if I was going to do this, I had to own it.  I wanted women to see that there is no shame in postpartum depression and that they didn’t have to hide like I did.  Though it still scared the bejeezus out of me.

As I began to heal, the tenor of the blog sometimes shifted to the hilarity of motherhood and my own journey of selfhood.  As other problems cropped up, I would allude to my anxiety and depression, but the blog always encompassed a lot more than just mental health.  Still, I didn’t want to lose that focus, so in May 2013, I pledged to celebrate Mental Health Month in a more overt way, with my first daily post a shout-out to A Canvas of the Minds.  If I couldn’t join them in dedicating my blog to mental health, I could at least celebrate them.  By the end of that month though, at times during which I found myself struggling to write posts only about mental health and not inclusive of the rest of my life, I realized there is no separation for people who struggle with mental illness.  As I wrote in my final post, “although I started the month of May thinking these posts would be a departure from my usual in that they directly addressed mental health and illness, there really is no separating out depression from everyday life.  It’s the constant mantle on our shoulders, sometimes blowing lightly in the wind, sometimes soaking wet with rain.”

Anyone who blogs about mental health or who blogs with a mental illness is sharing his or her experiences, struggles, and triumphs.  These things define us and shape us, they make us empathetic and compassionate.  They create in us a desire to be better, do better – if not for ourselves, then others like us.

We may struggle to keep mental illness on a separate track in our lives, but whether we like it or not, it never can be.  Better to channel our energy into making it work for us, subverting it to the life we want to live.  We don’t have to take the high road; there is only one road.  And we all walk it together.

© Jennifer Butler Basile and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Butler Basile and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


21 thoughts on “EVER the Twain Shall Meet

      • You are welcome. I got to the comment part and just didn’t know what to say. I am glad you are brave enough to write about postpartum.. we women have it tough enough as it is without being shamed into keeping such things under wraps. 🙂

        • That’s for sure! I don’t know what’s tougher, though – keeping it under wraps or admitting to it. That’s why it needs to be talked about, I suppose. Thanks for your comment.

  1. Great post Jennifer, and I love your owning of your blog. It’s hard to do it but I believe it’s worth it. Welcome too, to the Canvas team. 🙂

    • This means so much, Cate, coming from you. I knew my stubbornness wouldn’t allow me to do it any other way; though I sometimes envy the freedom that others enjoy through anonymity!

      Thanks so much for the welcome. I’m so glad to be here! And in such good company!

      • I agree about the anonymity. Sometimes it would be so much easier. But while I respect others decision to blog that way, I do think that when we own what we write then it contributes to the fight against stigma. When I feel like I wish I could write anonymously I remind myself of that. One (or two) little drops in a bucket contribute to the whole ocean.

      • Yay! This is such a great place! I love it here and I hope you do as well. We laugh together, we cry together, we root for each other, we tease each other. it’s awesome 🙂

  2. I’m a bit late, but I wanted to offer you a proper welcome, and thank you for consenting to add your wonderful words and amazing self to our little family. I particularly like the thoughts in this piece and can relate, because I too came to the conclusion that there is no separation, that our mental health colors all that we do, and that this isn’t a bad thing, it can be used for promoting empathy and understanding.

    I am also so grateful for you and proud that you wanted to speak up about postpartum with your name, your face, your experiences. I don’t have any children in the strictest sense, but I have seen too many women I love very dearly dealing with postpartum depression and psychosis. It’s terrifying and frustrating as a concerned “outside” party, and most definitely something very near and dear to my heart that is not spoken about and understood nearly enough.

    I am so excited to see what you will bring to the table. 🙂

    • I totally agree that “it can be used for promoting empathy and understanding.” I personally found life better once I accepted the merging of the two. That’s what I meant by ‘subverting it to the life we want.” I was more open to finding solutions for the struggles I was having. That doesn’t mean it works all the time – human error always plays a role – but it’s an improvement.

      Thank you so much for the warm welcome – and the invitation to share!

    • Very true, Gary. Much the same way a person with special needs is not only special needs. However, mental illness is an integral part of life for anyone suffering from it. I feel that whether or not we choose to accept this and [pro]act accordingly directly affects our quality of life.

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