Friday is an uber special day here at Just.Be.Enough. because it is our day to showcase the voices of many that have stood tall around the blogosphere. Many are standing with JBE in our mission to spread the Be Enough message, many have their own stories that have led them to be the amazing people they are. So it is with great honor and joy that I introduce Kristin of What She Said. Kristin is a woman whose writing speaks for itself, and whose heart is kind and friendly. (And also, she has an adorable cute short haircut!)
Twelve years ago, I was not in a good place emotionally. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal, exactly. But if a bus had hit me, putting me out of my misery in the process… well then, so be it. Call me indifferent.
Seeing my friendships unravel, my work suffer, and my life as I knew it begin to slip away, my mother gave me the name of a therapist – someone who had helped one of her colleagues through a nasty divorce. His name was Phil.
Over time, Phil helped me to see that I wasn’t crazy; I was ill. He diagnosed me with a mood disorder called Dysthymia – a mild, but chronic form of depression that left me subject to sudden depressive tailspins under circumstances of extreme stress.
Phil referred me to an antidepressant specialist, and together they worked with me to determine the right course of treatment and dosage. They explained my illness to me in layman’s terms, saying I had a “leak” in the feel-good chemical serotonin and that medication would help “plug” it. And they closely monitored my regimen, especially during the weaning process a year later when the leak had, in fact, been plugged.
These men saved my life – figuratively, if not literally.
A devastating break-up had been the catalyst for the depressive free-for-all that landed me in therapy. So, even as I felt myself grow stronger, I worried that I no longer possessed the emotional stamina to love or let myself be loved.
Phil admitted that I was on the cusp of an emotional rebuilding process and suggested I approach it with baby steps. Starting with a plant.
If I was able to sustain the plant for a year, he said, perhaps I might consider adopting a pet. If both plant and pet continued to thrive for another year, then it might be time to think about another relationship.
I was dubious. I had so far managed to kill every living thing for which I’d taken personal responsibility in my life, including several plants, a few ill-fated goldfish, and a string of dysfunctional relationships.
Still, I went out and bought the heartiest houseplant I could find – one that my mom had deemed “unkillable.” A Philodendron.
I named it Phil.
In hindsight, Phil the Philodendron symbolized the start of a personal rebirth. Prophetically, I was presented a year later with an opportunity to adopt a little black furball of a kitten, part of a litter born to a feral cat. Boo has been my faithful, if somewhat aloof, companion ever since.
A year after that, I met the man who would become my husband and embarked on what could, on most days, be considered a healthy, functional relationship. Our marriage is not without its challenges, but even at our worst we share a love and commitment to each other that I once doubted I had the ability to sustain.
Two years ago we welcomed a daughter. With her, I have discovered a capacity to love so deeply and so thoroughly it sometimes takes my breath away. I never knew love like that existed, much less that I was capable of it. But it does, and I am. I know this now, and for that I am grateful.
Recently, Phil the Philodendron went to that great big greenhouse in the sky. I guess even unkillable plants eventually succumb to old age.
I considered this as I spread Phil’s depleted soil and wilted leaves in a thicket behind my house to be reabsorbed by the earth. For twelve years, I had nurtured the plant to the best of ability.
And it, in turn, had nurtured me.
Kristin Alexander is the self-deprecating author of the family, life, and humor blog What She Said. Because if she didn’t laugh, she’d cry.