I always loved the holidays…a chance to eat, drink and be merry with some of my favorite people…my family. But all of that changed last year, and I don’t know if thanksgiving, Christmas and my birthday (boxing day) will ever be or feel the same to me…and that is ok.

This month has been filled with a lot of painful first, “withouts” for me. The grief at times rolling over me in unexpected waves, but as the year draws to a close and as I strive to not focus on actions or feelings I cannot change or fix, I am striving to give myself both the grace and kindness I often extend to others, and hold onto the things that I am grateful for in my life.

A year ago, I spent a lot of time sitting in a hotel room feeling hurt and betrayed by some of the closest people around me, as I struggled to not fall from the tightrope I was walking with my depression. A tightrope in hindsight I had been walking for far too long, and one that needed a safety net beneath it that I didn’t have. Thanksgiving weekend, it took everything in me to not just stop fighting my brain, to give up constantly fighting to wear a mask to cover my pain and despair, and as I left to go to Hawaii I had this outlandish hope, that I would arrive to Jei, and our other home, and I would miraculously be okay…

I am still not okay, a year later, and that is okay.

I am on my path to making it to okay someday, I hope. And that hope, it is something I didn’t have a year ago or 8 years ago when depression first became a part of my life. I have that hope thanks to Jei. Jei proved what I often tell people, it takes just one person. I know that because I am that proof. If not for Jei pulling the knife out of my hand (again), using his basic medic skills to patch up my arm enough for us to make it to the hospital, and making a choice to give up his health for mine, I would not be here. I would not be here writing this, and finally making forward progress in getting better.

I owe Jei getting better. At times I struggle with my anger at his making a choice that was not his alone to make, but over time I have come to understand that due to his health and his PTSD, his struggles with getting care in the military, and circumstances within my family, it was the one he felt he had to make, and that selflessness that was at his core, I can only love and honor that.

But please don’t make the mistake that getting better has been or is easy, it hasn’t. My progress has not been linear by any stretch of one’s imagination. It has often been two steps forward, one step back.

However, I have been, and continue to be, fortunate that I have friends, who truthfully are more like family, who have dropped everything to make sure I could be safe as I have fought to get better, who invited themselves into my house or me into theirs, and didn’t push or prod, but just let me be when it was and is a struggle to just be. Although I am pretty sure a birthday champagne crawl was not on the psychiatrist or therapist orders…less than 3 weeks out of the hospital.

I am thankful for the time I was forced to take to focus on me…and it was a long time. I don’t know if I would have done that, taken medical leave, if my brain hadn’t stopped functioning like I was use to. My ability to focus, to think scientifically seemed to have flown away to parts unknown for several months. Work has always been my coping mechanism for my depression and chronic ideation…taking that away required me to take time for me. So, I am grateful, for as hard as it was, to have the one thing I feel defines me as a person, my intelligence, stripped and stolen away from me for a time. It forced me to need to get better, if for no other reason than to have one of my (maladaptive) coping mechanisms back.

And I am thankful that I have the financial means to take time, pay for therapy and pay a significant portion of my treatment regimen out of pocket. Without having that means, honestly, the attending I had in the hospital who told me “you know you are just going to end up back here or on a table” would probably be right. So, I am grateful, I am in a position of financial security, but it saddens me that not every patient has the opportunity to be in the same situation. A person should have the right to have a path to get better, from mental or physical illness, and they don’t here in the United States. Yet, we blame them for their inability to get better…it’s a bit of a walking contradiction, no?

So today, a day of thanks is my own contradiction. For today, is hard beyond measure for me, filled with grief and sorrow, of things that could not be, an empty spot at my table and in my heart. But I am also grateful that so many allowed me to find a path to get to this day, to start to find a way to get better, and look towards a future where it’s easy to laugh again, where it’s easy to find my center, where it’s easy to just stop and not constantly go, because a year ago that future, it didn’t exist.

So thank you, thank you for giving me a chance to get better.

Educator, Scientist, Geek and Military Widow, who wants to improve ALL Patient and Healthcare Outcomes