The Darkness

I used to be vivacious.  I vaguely remember those days, the days where I was always on the go and in want of someone’s company because life was full of possibilities.  I remember smiling and laughing without force.  Sometimes, when I try, I can even remember what it was like to not have constant darkness standing over me and threatening to pull me into myself.

I’m not that person anymore and I’m left with only memories of who I once was.  I clinically suffer from depression and anxiety.  I’ve only said it or admitted to a handful of close friends and my husband, only 2 people truly believe me and not one really knows what it means.  I should have a shelf full of Oscars for the performance I put on pretending that “I’m fine”.  Today, I’m not fine.

So, what does it mean?  For me, it means pain.  It means fear.  It means sadness.  It means anger.  It means loneliness.  For me, it does not mean suicidal or batshit crazy.  I was spared the batshit crazy gene, thank God.  For me, it’s most definitely NOT “in my head” and I cannot simply choose to “get over it”.  There is no medication I can take and magically feel better.  I take medication to manage this condition, but sometimes it’s unmanageable.

More often than not, I can be in a depressive state or having an episode and you’ll be standing right next to me and never know.  I still show up to gatherings with friends and family because I still show up for my kids and my husband every day and these are the things required of me.

I am a mother, wife, aunt, daughter, sister, friend, and coworker and sometimes that’s really hard for me.  Sometimes that makes me cry from the overwhelming knowledge that so many people rely on me and deep down I know I cannot even rely on myself.  So many days I just want to let the covers swallow me whole and disappear until these horrible feelings disappear.  But, I can’t.  I have a life, I have children, I have a husband, I have a career and all of this means I can’t escape to a corner in my room for days like I want to.

I wish I could openly talk to my loved ones about this to help them understand what I feel, but I can’t.  I can only write.  It’s my mask.  Today, behind my mask, I will try to explain it to those who don’t battle these consuming disorders.

Anxiety makes me feel everything all the time and at one time.  It feels like suffocation.  It feels like drowning.  It’s consuming.  It’s scary as hell.  I feel like I’m losing control.  I can’t catch my breath, I can’t see my way through my own fears and I just want to find a dark room.  Hearing my loved ones tell me to breathe or calm down or take a pill only adds to these feelings.  I feel like they’ve just pushed my head a little further under.

When the anxiety starts to fade and I come out of the suffocating fog, depression is there to latch on and its hold is so strong and so hard to get away from.  Depression knows that’s when I’m at my weakest and it twists and turns like smoke and smothers everything that is good in life.  My doctor once said that depression is an emotional paralysis.  He’s right, it really is.  Depression lies to me, fills me full of thoughts of how worthless I am, how much I have failed myself, my family, my friends, my coworkers.  Depression steals any ray of light that reminds me I am loved and worthy of being loved.

When the smoke of depression begins to pull back, it leaves me with anger.  Anger at myself for falling victim to this disease.  Anger at myself for being so miserable.  Anger at my friends and family for not seeing through the fake persona I put on so that no one sees just how weak I am.  I just want to scream “I’M FUCKING DROWNING, DON’T YOU SEE ME??”, but instead I smile and say, “I’m fine”.

Depression is exhausting.  Once the anger subsides I am too tired to care.  I am too tired to get up and cook dinner for my family.  I sit and I cry because I know I have chores, I have duties, I have kids to feed, dogs to feed, clothes to wash, a house to clean and I just can’t.  I’m so exhausted.  I’m emotionally drained and I just need to lay down and cry and cry and cry.

These are my bad days.  These are the days when I succumb.  I can be like this for a few days and then not again for several months.  It sneaks up on me and I’m never prepared when it hits me.  Depression is a sneaky bastard.  It’s an evil I never knew existed and then when I knew, I never fully understood what all it was.  Now that I live with it, I know all too well that depression can be debilitating and suffocating and incorrigible, and I hate it immensely.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. 
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
– Oscar Wilde

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Slowing down

Image courtesy of freeimageslive.com
Image courtesy of freeimageslive.com

 

I confess that when I first saw this picture prompt, I was elated.  I was rushed with feelings from childhood birthday parties.  I was fully prepared to spit out witty reminiscences of happy days of youth spent drawing with sidewalk chalk, balloon tosses, eating strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and visiting Disney World, but I digress.  You see, my 36th birthday is next week.

I’ve heard often during the passing of another year, ‘it beats the alternative’, and indeed it does.  However, this year is one year closer to leaving my mid-thirties.  I’m not ready to leave them just yet, I’m not sure I’ve appreciated them well enough and I know I didn’t get to know them like I had hoped to.  I thought we’d be better friends before we parted.  I feel like we hardly know each other at all.

Oh, how I remember my 20s.  We became close friends, there weren’t these broken years I’ve come to know in my 30s.  My 20s were just my 20s, no early, mid, or late, just them and all their youthful glorious fun.  Hell, it wasn’t until last year that I learned my 30s came with sections.  I felt so ill prepared.  I would have tried to hang onto the early ones a little longer and certainly would have mentally prepared for the mids.

All that’s left are the lates.  At least I know now not to screw that up, too.  Oh, I’ll be bitter for a minute, I’m a woman and that’s what we do – or that’s what I do any way.  After the bitterness I’m going to get to know them, take them out on the town more often, compliment them and tell them they’re pretty.  I might even try to give them some healthier options, slim them up a bit, maybe go on more walks.  The lates and I are going to be besties.  Plenty of movies, laughs, and slow dances, it’s what the lates are made for, I think.  Though, I’m not really sure since I’ve yet to introduce myself, but I will and I hope they will be as grand as their predecessors.

All I know is I hope to slow down a bit and savor them like an old bottle of wine.

 

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From a child’s eye

Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk
Images courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

I was 12 years old and my brother was graduating from Navy basic training in San Diego, CA.  I remember his going away party like it was yesterday.   This party, though, was one for the books.  We had a 3-floor split level home and one of my dad’s best friends brought a gas station sized American Flag to drape in front of our house. There were so many people, so many laughs, and so many tears.  I don’t really remember the day he left, but I remember the sadness that overtook the party at the end when everyone wished him well.

Fast forward 8 weeks and my parents let me know we were going to be flying to California to watch him graduate and spend a week touring.  California!  This was the summer of 1990, people!  Just after the movie, Pretty Woman was released.  You could imagine my excitement to see Rodeo Drive!  Of course, that was before I realized San Diego was not at all near Rodeo Drive.  (My dad, being the awesome man he is, later got us to Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign for a day anyway)

After his graduation and after I melted over the fact that I used the same bathroom in the USO building from the scene in Top Gun where Maverick followed Charlie, my dad wanted to visit Mexico.  Wow!  Mexico? Another country?  This was quickly turning into the best vacation ever.

It wasn’t a long drive, I remember, and we ended up at what reminded me as the toll booths on our highways back in GA.  We go in and Dad gets us to Tijuana, Mexico.  Naturally, I had no way of knowing what to expect.

My dad wanted to go to the shops in the town to barter for items on which he knew he could get great deals.  We ended up going down a small open tunnel that smelled of urine, rotting food, and God only knows what else.  I was scared beyond any of my monsters under the bed imaginations I had up until now.  I remember women and men off to the side-eyeing us.  Luckily, my father stands 6’4″ so no one really talked to us.  Except this little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old and there she stood with her coffee can looking at us with these huge sad, brown eyes.  My heart broke.  This was the first time I saw real pain and real sorrow.  She was hungry.  She was poor.  After much begging and pleading, I got my dad to give her some money.

The vacation ended up being very wonderful, but there are so many times in my life where I find myself looking back at that little girl in that tunnel, and for an instant, my problems seem so small.

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Sibling Lessons

It was Mother’s Day weekend 2006 and, as usual, we were broke.  Three kids tend to need things that take whatever small amount of savings you were hoping to keep.  It’s the name of the job, really.

After much budget finagling, The Husband was able to score a cabin in the north GA Mountains at a place that was home to a beautiful waterfall.  I had never been to the mountains, never seen a waterfall up close and personal, and never stayed in a bona-fide cabin.  The cabin came with no television, no radio, no entertainment but the nature of the land and the family who accompanied the trip.  The Eldest, 8 years old at the time, was none too pleased to go a weekend without his trusty SpongeBob fix.  After a plethora of reassurance that he would love it by the time we left, he sucked the pouty lip back in and decided to give it a try (what other choice did he have, really?)

We took to the paved trails and read signs about the nature before us.  We read how the paved trails were made of recycled tires.  We read all about the trees of the area.  Finally, we reach the bridge to admire the remarkable waterfall.  The bridge was about half way up this little section of mountain and the view was quite nice.  Naturally, I wanted a picture with my three little bundles to cherish our time together for years to come.  The Eldest went bouncing down the bridge while, sturdy as it was, my feet were a little less enthusiastic to frolic.  He ran down and back a few times before remembering his siblings and took to help me coax them onto the bridge for the picture.  The Middle took her precious time testing each board like Indiana Jones would though her bridge had no missing or rotted boards.  She made it nearly half way before she would go no farther without a trusting hand.  The Little, however, would have no part of this little venture.  He was fine just where he stood, thank you very much.

No amount of bubblegum or candy promises made him budge.  He was pretty firm for a 3 year old.  Just when The Husband and I were about to give up on the picture and just take snapshots of what we could, The Middle lent her helping hand.  It took only a few words of encouragement and an outstretched little hand to persuade him and, just as she had done, he tested each board until he was just next to the falls.  Soon he let her hand drop and turned with pure joy as he made it to the middle of the bridge.  That day not only did The Little and The Middle find trust in each other that would never really die, even now 8 years later, but The Little found the courage he would embrace everyday moving forward.

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“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
~Edmund Hillary