“What a difference a year makes.” This thought bounced around my head this morning and reminded me of the pretty little pagan time interval of “a year and day,” which has strong meaning for that spiritual or mystical tradition. (It also has some legalistic meanings, but those don’t interest me at this moment.) Wiccans gauge study programs and commitments by this length of time; it’s the length of time that must pass between degree levels, for instance, as well as with the Scottish handfasting period that would confer martial status on a couple that cohabitated for that long, whether they took public vows or not. Chaucer gave his knight a year and a day to complete his quest in Wife of Bath’s Tale. So it was a fairly common time unit in times past.1
It’s also resonant to me, not only because it is one of the many details about paganism that I find alluring. (Perhaps that's a bit amusing, an atheist who likes paganism?) A fair amount of proverbial water can flow and has flowed under my bridge, so to speak, over the last year and a day – tons of change and opinion and reality shifting. As of today, it was a year and a day since I officially changed work roles. (I shudder to call the things I’ve done for pay “a career,” because that suggests that I maybe had a plan, and that was often not at all the case.) A year and a day ago, I was achingly and overwhelmingly relieved to have escaped the workplace tar pit I’d fallen into for the three previous years, a black hole of weak leadership, incoherent management, and a variety of lackluster or lackadaisical stakeholders that left me numbed in a depression snare so deep, I didn’t think I would ever escape it. I kept trying to find other jobs … and couldn’t. I kept trying to make things better … and couldn’t. I kept trying to focus on the positive, what little I could scrape together, and couldn’t. My mood suffered. My outlook suffered. My engagement with anything I enjoyed suffered, I stopped seeing a future, stopped hoping for a change. Enter stage left: antidepressants and sleeping pills. Ultimately, I had taken both those medications for more than a year, ending up less suicidal but distraught over the side-effects of the first and dependent on the second.
Oh, what a difference a year and a day brings.
For a while, that sense of relief and escape sustained me in the new job, and then I realized I needed more than plenty to do, all by my lonesome, and a never-ending task list to keep plodding after. As of today, I have come to the awful conclusion that the only way to get caught up on a To Do list at work is to quit a job and start a new one. Presto – you’re caught up. So I'm about to get caught up. Onward and upward. See what a difference seeing the future can make?
A year and a day later, I continue to measure my current state merely against the depths I crawled out of, and that’s no ringing endorsement, but it is better now, and I’m recovered enough in sleep and outlook to be finally ready to look for another, better way to spend my work days. In this last year and a day, I gained enough mental breathing room to discover microdosing with lithium orotate for my inability to sleep and as mood lifter, and I was able to walk away fairly cleanly from Ambien, which I never should have taken for as long or as frequently as I did. I was able to reset my circadian with the lithium and quiet the wired-but-tired state of my work-battle-fatigued brain. Reacquiring a natural sleep cycle helped almost everything else, and from there the rest of the muck became easier to truck through and dispose of. And now here I am, fragile but feeling a shade more resilient each day. I do not think I’m clear of the depression; I am increasingly in Johann Hari’s “Lost Connections” camp on the causes of depression, and I’m still disconnected from too much to be free of depression and all the lurid, onerous burdens that mental fugue carries. But it’s better than it was, and for now, that’s enough. A year and a day in, it's better than it could have been otherwise.
I build playlists as a creative outlet, a little hobby I have done since I was a teenager using cassette tapes; this was the only artistic outlet I could muster over the last several unpleasant years, and the one I built for 2018 is entitled “Uncomfortable and Miraculous.” Uncomfortable, because I was relearning how to be in the world and see color, hear sound, and perceive any sensation beyond dead detachment and an unending ringing silence between my ears. And miraculous, because I never would have believed that a metallic salt (lithium) would do so much to help me recover myself.
Startlingly, there were no good quotes to reference for a year and a day … so beyond the honorific of my 2018 playlist title, here is an offering to the quote panoply:
“After an endless, brain-suffocating procession of days where I could not see past the day’s end and its sinking sun, and wanting nothing more than to never see it come up again, to not have to do any of *this* anymore ... to now be able to again imagine a future and re-inhabit my own skin, to see far enough to dream again, and hope, and have this turnaround come in less than a year and a day … it’s the closest thing to a miracle* I have ever known.” ~ EveDestiny
*Not including Milagro, but that's another story for another day.
Reference: NYT Should We All Take Lithium?