Reentry is Not for the Weak

Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon on Unsplash

How I Came Back to the Land of the Living

After two years of floating out in the space of depression, the gravity and drag of reentry takes a toll on the body and soul. If you do a quick Google search for what happens when an object enters earth’s atmosphere, you will find pictures of items, such as a space shuttle, hurtling through the membrane we rely on to protect us from “out there.” Often, it simply looks like a huge ball of fire.

Reentry is not for the weak.

My depression was not caused by losing my job. I’ve likely had depression most of my life. I was officially diagnosed by an OB-Gyn when my first child was almost one. The day I sat in her office in tears explaining that yelling at a baby seemed to be out of line, she suggested medication. I would have tried going into space at that moment if I thought it would have helped!

Over the years, as we know from the vast amount of research that has been done, depression progresses. It is a progressive disorder. My particular version of depression comes with a nice big side order of anxiety. There have been three times in those 18 years that I have tried to live without the medication.

The first was when I became pregnant the second time. I had a lot of ANXIETY about taking medicine while being pregnant. My doctor helped me weigh the pros and cons of the decision and strongly encouraged me to remain medicated. I did not. I weened off of the daily dose. Within weeks of it being out of my system, I was treating my three year old in ways that were (and still are) shocking to me. Back to the doctor. Back in tears. Back on the medicine. We all lived.

The last time I tried to do without the meds was more dramatic. I was having insurance issues because I had lost my job. I wasn’t sure what to do and I was so angry that I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be mad and sad. It just so happened to be a moment when I was stage managing a children’s theatre festival. (Helpful Hint: Do not quit taking your medication while you are stage managing a children’s festival!) To do such a thing requires enormous amounts of time and energy, not to mention patience. It culminates in a weekend of activity that is joyous and wonderful. The first day of the festival, I cursed out some teenagers in a bathroom! (I had my reasons. One reason, really. Kid #1 was sad and these girls were being mean to my baby. At least I perceived it that way.) This was so out of character for me that it feels like I was standing by watching someone else do it.

The next week I went to the doctor and got a new prescription. I won’t say that I’ll never try it without meds again, but I will say that it seems like it would take the force of being blasted into space to get me to do so.

The worst bout of depression I’ve gone through was while being medicated. The circumstances of life sent me burning through the space and time of grief. Grief, I had experienced, but never quite like this. This was something altogether different while at the same time following the familiar patterns.

What do you do when you are doing what you feel called by God to do and it is ripped away from you? It felt like those heat panels on the sides of the shuttle being pulled away, exposing bits of me to the forces of nature around me. I did not want to be exposed!

I wonder if when astronauts go through the reentry process if once they are safe again, on the ground, breathing earth’s air again, if they look back and think, “Wow, that was something! I didn’t even realize how rough that was until right this minute.”

It seems like in the middle of the gravity and drag, in the middle of the fire-ball hurtling through space, we are just concentrating on what is right in front of us. For astronauts, they remember their training, they push the right buttons, pull the right levers. For someone in the throws of depression, we get ourselves to the table for dinner and brush our teeth. On a good day, a shower is involved in the reentry procedures.

I’m only just now truly beginning to look back at those two years of depression and my gradual reentry into life and see it for what it was. I certainly couldn’t see the big picture while I was in the middle of it. I THOUGHT I was holding up pretty good! This from a person who literally slept more than she was awake every single day and just thought, “Well, that is how God made me!”

It isn’t that I didn’t know I was depressed. Of course, I knew I was depressed. Hubby and BFF knew I was depressed. Dear Friends knew I was depressed. But, the circumstances called for it. The circumstances demanded deep sadness and despair. At least that is how it seemed at the time. What do you do when the THE THING you do isn’t there? Well, you have to figure out to BE instead of DO, for one. And, you can’t really see all that without some perspective from the other side. It seems like it might be kind of like waking up from a coma.

That happened when my father died too. I was pastoring a congregation and things were going well. They had loved on me and helped me through some of the grieving process and I was becoming a stronger leader. At least, my perception was thus. I mean I had really been DOING some LEADING. I was making decisions right and left. I was speaking some truth to power. I was making a way where there was no way!

Six months after my father died, I was literally in the middle of a meeting with the leaders of the church when it felt like I woke up. This is not a metaphor. Okay, it is a metaphor, but I’m trying to say that it was a real thing that happened in that moment. I was in THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE and it felt like something clicked in my brain. I stopped speaking. Everyone around the table waited to see what I would say next.

“Um . . . oh . . . okay, y’all. My dad died six months ago. I have no business making any of these decisions. I don’t think I’ve realized how foggy everything has been. I thought I was clear. I was not. I think I’m just now waking up from that grief.”

The drag is what gets you. It saves you too. Without the drag you would crash and burn. Gravity would pull you in so fast that you wouldn’t be able to survive. The drag slows you down, makes it easier to land back on earth without crashing. It is a tricky thing, though, this drag. The object is rubbing up against all the particles of air in earth’s atmosphere. While that sounds like it could be fun, the friction caused by it brings about intense heat. Thus the hurtling ball of fire!

Reentry is not for the weak.

The drag means that my reentry into the world of the living from the world of the sleeping was gradual. I didn’t really notice it was happening while it was happening. Oh, that doesn’t mean there weren’t really bumpy moments when I thought I was going to die, but you don’t witness reentry as it happens. It just happens. And, if you are lucky, it doesn’t burn you up along the way.

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In no particular order: Writer, pastor, Mama Bear, LGBTQ+ ally, wife, preacher, watcher of TV, seeker, mystic want-to-be

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T. H. McClung, she/her(s)

T. H. McClung, she/her(s)

In no particular order: Writer, pastor, Mama Bear, LGBTQ+ ally, wife, preacher, watcher of TV, seeker, mystic want-to-be

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