More Yang, Less Yin

The yin (shade, darkness) and the yang (light, sunshine) are opposite and interdependent, constantly changing, sometimes more one than the other and on occasion, one engulfed within the other.

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Mercurial, haphazard, in perpetual motion and full of contrasts: light and dark, day and night, happiness and sorrow. Our lives embody the yin-yang and for our part we must learn to adapt, knowing that bad times will eventually give way to good. As a reasonably optimistic person I live in hope that any periods of yin in my life will eventually give way to yang and on the whole that’s what happens. Living with someone who is suffering from fairly severe depression calls the whole yin-yang into question though and at present I’d appreciate a bit more yang and a lot less yin in my son’s life.

When someone develops cancer it’s immensely difficult for them and for their family and friends. As well as being a distressing sometimes frightening experience, family members often feel helpless because they believe they are unable to do anything that will change the situation for the better. Clinically this is likely to be the case but spiritually and emotionally it is not so. I know this all too well as I’ve been on both sides of the cancer fence, patient and family member. I now know the same sense of helplessness can be true when sharing your life with someone who is struggling with depression.

Watching a person you love withdraw from the world, continually question their worth and slip into thought patterns that hold no glimmer of hope or positivity is extremely challenging. Emotionally it’s very draining and this is especially so when you think you’ve turned a corner only to find yet another brick wall shrouded in darkness. That darkness is insidious and as a parent it chills my heart because I have no way of knowing how long it will continue or how much darker it might get before some daylight eventually creeps into my son’s most desperately unhappy episodes. Though he is making progress (we both thought the worst might be over) it seems minor incidents continue to throw him back into the void. Often that journey is highly traumatic and when he goes back to the darkest place we have to start again from the beginning, covering old ground and having the same conversations.

“Life is unfair,” “why do bad things happen to good people?” and “how come nasty people make other peoples lives a misery without consequences?” are regular features of our cyclical, circular communiques. It takes a significant amount of rational discussion and sound reasoning to help dissuade these views once they’ve taken root and I am not always successful. When I explain with clinical precision that fairness, bad things or nasty people are simply concepts and value judgements i.e. they are all made up, the message sometimes strikes a chord. Illustrating that life is a series of events to which we attach meaning, meanings are subjective and intangible thus fair/unfair, good/bad or nasty/nice can only ever exist in our personal view of the world occasionally comes across as off-beat or plain weird enough to provoke a degree of confusion and in doing so lets a sliver of light reach in.

I seem to serve as a constant reminder that a caterpillar sees only the end but for the butterfly life is just beginning. It takes patience, time and unwavering commitment when we’re having the same conversation for the two-hundredth time. I’m not a psychologist. I have no real idea how to help challenge the spectre of depression yet I feel compelled to do so. Something primordial whispers do whatever it takes, prevent it gaining so firm a hold that it might never let go… because deep in my own psyche lies the thought that it might not let go.

In those moments I think of the caterpillar. There is a period of complete chaos where it is nothing more than cell soup inside a paper-thin wrapper. During a few weeks metamorphosis it’s yin is transformed by the developing yang and then, almost miraculously, a butterfly breaks free. Life is once again in order and it has chosen a new and vibrant shape. No trace of the caterpillar’s doom remains to be seen.

This, I have to hope, is what lies ahead. In the meantime, patience and tenacity prevail.

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14 thoughts on “More Yang, Less Yin

  1. Tracy, I can so relate to what you’re going through, trying to lift up a child who is struggling with demons. I’m so sorry you have to face this, but I can feel how much you love him in your posts, and I know that you will comfort him with your quiet strength. Be sure to take some time for yourself to replenish your reserves.

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    • I try to do whatever he needs at the time, whether that’s comfort, talking, sitting quietly (but not alone) or making sure he’s still eating even if he might not bother unless prompted. It can be exhausting because I’m never quite sure what I’ll be facing next and I do wish it would relinquish its grip on him or at least stop re surging as much as it does.

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  2. Tracy, I am so sorry about your dear Son’s depression and know all too well the deep valleys of sorrow, confusion, frustration, fear that you both travel after dealing for years with our daughter’s depression. now, she is a mother of two little girls and with a lot of support from both family, friends and professionals, is doing well. i am glad you’ve written this post so both you and your son can be enfolded in the arms of those who care deeply, and will send you big hope and encouragement to help you both through such difficulty. warm hugs, too. Karen xoxoxo

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    • Thank you Karen. It is encouraging to hear of children coming through this, having happier lives and families of their own. When you’re in the depths it can feel extremely isolating, sometimes enough to make me question my own sanity! I’m sorry you’ve also had to walk this path with your daughter, it seems much more common than we really know and that’s very sad. I’m glad for you, her and your grandchildren that she is now doing well xoxox

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      • dear Tracy,

        YES! the isolation is a huge part of the angst we experience. all through our daughter’s high school/college/early young adult years, it seemed we were surrounded by so many other parents whose children had so many positive achievements in their lives. it was awful to try to be happy for them, while at the same time feeling so desperately sad and fearful and helpless. there were times we couldn’t bear to be in social settings, or even answer phone calls from friends and family who had no idea of what we all were going through – even when we told them about the depression. and questioning one’s own sanity thrown into the mix is a terrible place to be.

        thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. I will continue to hold you and your son close to my heart, and hope you don’t feel so alone. xoxoxo

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    • Thank you Elizabeth. I’m sure my health issues have made a contribution to this horrible situation, they certainly haven’t helped.

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  3. I can relate to all you say having dealt with my daughters depression.. As a mother it is very difficult.. But after much professional help my daughter lives a happy and full life with her wonderful husband… But finding that balance is not easy at all…. ❤️

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    • Though I would never wish this for anyone else it is so encouraging to hear other mother’s who have been through this process with their children and come out the other side. Thank you for sharing this with me Helen, it helps a good deal.

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      • Knowing that you are not alone is a comfort and when you are in the middle of the darkest times you wonder if there will ever be an end.. If ever you feel you need to share please know i am here… My daughter was eventually diagnosed with Bi Polar and from that point with a change of medications and much therapy she was able to start to really live… Looking at her no one would have any idea that she lives with a mental illness…. Helen xx

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  4. Tracy, keep your head high, he’ll turn the corner, you’re his mother and will always look after his best interest no matter how wearing. Hugs my dear ~D ❤

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    • I try Diane. I try everything I can think of and all I can hope is that one day that’ll be it, the cloud will lift and life will be near normal for us both. Thank you for your support, it means a lot

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  5. Very well said Tracy. As one who has struggled with the Yin and Yang for many years I know only too well that despite all efforts, sometimes the Yin gets the upper hand. Unfortunately it takes time to come to terms with the fact that life isn’t fair and that those who have no conscience seem to prosper. I hope things soon improve again and that much more Yang returns to J’s life.
    Much love to you all. Dad xxx

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    • I know you know this all too well Dad. You and I are both quite rational and have some years of experience to try making sense of it all. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be at 20 (probably 18 as this has been brewing for a while I think) but I can imagine things being different, hopefully better, if we both keep working at it. Thank you for all your help and support xxx

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