The Return of Self

Cooper Thornton
8 min readApr 24, 2022

They say that the first couple of years after a loss are the hardest. The first Christmas, Thanksgiving, the first birthdays, anniversaries, all the big mile markers. Having to negotiate them without the loved one present. My dad died in October of 2019, and to be honest, that first Thanksgiving and Christmas, or really any time at all, I’ve barely even noticed his absence. I’d already spent years missing his presence while he was still alive. He missed out on so much. He was so afraid of striking out, that he rarely if ever stepped up to bat. He should have. We were never trying to strike him out.

But it’s not his loss that I’m marking.
It’s the loss of my self. And the rebirth.

I still had the three b’s: breath, beat (a heart), and brain activity, but the me that was me was gone. Over a year’s time, I had slowly succumbed to the me without me. From butterfly, to caterpillar, to larva to bupkis. The de-evolution of self. Clinical depression.

The fall of 2019 to the fall of 2020. A year of the visceral feeling of myself vanishing. A kind of Invisible Man, but where the spirit and soul vanish and the shell remains. There, but not there. Alive, but not alive. Thank God, it was only temporary, but when you’re in it, there’s no sense of its temporary status. And even with that chapter now over, I know it could happen again. That thought is always there. Always with me. Like a shadow. Even as I reclaim myself.

My best days, which I’d say are about as good as anyone’s, are pretty great. But, even on those good days, there’s the voice that tells me it may not last. It’s a cancer that’s in remission. I’ve got my life back, maybe even with a new lust for life, a fresh determination to make the most of each moment. A sense that I’ve been given another opportunity to live life any way I see fit. Apparently, that happens a lot when people have a sense that they’ve survived a brush with death.

That’s how it was for my mom with her ovarian cancer. She had a good year and a half in remission, and she took up writing with a passion. She’d always been a dedicated journaler, but now set her sights on writing a children’s book. It was thrilling to see her light up as she talked about it and shared excerpts. She was fearless. But, she also felt that she was on borrowed time. Monthly…

Cooper Thornton

Parent, Actor, People Lover, Observer, Writer and Most Often Happy Depressive in NC by way of LA by way of UK by way of BC by way of TN, where it all started.