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 a 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’s 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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Robin Williams, a legend

I’ve stared at this blinking cursor for a while, I’ve saved and re-saved this draft, and I’ve deleted more than I’ve written.  My heart is heavy and I feel as if I have lost a part of my character, a part of my childhood.  The world lost a legend, a genius.  Robin Williams is a household name.  He was in so many shows, films, and on so many stages that I honestly cannot say there should be an adult alive (and even a child) who does not know his name, who has not laughed at his hand, who hasn’t absorbed some part of his character into their soul.  It is simply impossible.

I have never met Robin Williams, as I daresay most of normal society hasn’t, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken with me parts of him from the moments he shared with the world.  Great actors and great writers do that, they let you borrow a little bit of themselves to take with you on your own personal journey.  I cried many tears over the news of his passing.  Tears because he passed, and tears because of how he passed – that he felt so alone and so lost.  My heart breaks for the struggles he went through.

I’ve seen and fallen in love with so much of his work that it’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite.  However, there are a few that have touched me and have stayed with me just a bit more than the others.

My first date with my now husband, 22 years ago, was to see Aladdin.  I was 14 years old and loved Disney movies, not to mention that was the only movie playing my mother would let me attend with a boy.  I remember looking at my husband and thinking to myself, if he can laugh at a big blue genie with me then I’ll have to get to know him better.  In that sense, Robin Williams was there on my first date with my husband and brought us closer with his profound ability to make someone laugh.  Dead Poets Society instilled into me the courage I needed to write, to let myself be me, to go against the status quo.  It truly inspired me in so many deeply personal ways that I cannot name them all.

There is one movie that touched me so much so, I still call upon it to get over bad days.  That movie is What Dreams May Come.  If you’ve read the 100 things about me, then you’ve read that I have an irrational fear of dying.  Not how I will die, but dying itself and the fear of nonexistence – it’s a fear I’ve had as long as I can remember.  What if my faith is wrong?  I ‘what if’ myself into a panic attack that can only be compressed by my anxiety medications and the memory of this movie.  I never read the book because for one, I didn’t know there was one, but for two I didn’t want to ruin the movie.  My husband, knowing this very real fear of mine, introduced this movie to me years ago – back in the VCR days.  I watched it repeatedly and it captivated me.  I can’t say it healed me, but it has made dealing with that fear a great deal easier.  His role in that movie, his dedication, his faith, his love, his determination to make sure his wife wasn’t alone moved me leaps and bounds.

Yes, Robin Williams will always be a household name and his movies will live on in the hearts of millions.  Despite or even because of his illness, he successfully touched us all.

With respect,

The sadness in his eyes breaks my heart and when his smile doesn’t fully reach his eyes, one of the best parts of his smile, I know. I know something is wrong.  Still, I welcome him home after a long 12-hour shift and make his plate for dinner.  He has in tow a box of donuts for the kids’ breakfast in the morning, a bottle of my favorite wine, and a 4-pack of his favorite Dogfish beer (not a beer to take lightly with its 9% content).  These things don’t often happen, you see.  I can count on one hand how many mornings the children will have donuts for breakfast as it’s a very special occasion treat that we give them.  He mentions how The Little recently spoke fondly of his love for sprinkled donuts and there it was, that sadness in his eyes deeply rooted.

I made meatloaf for dinner, a favorite of his, and he eats it with an obvious heavy heart.  There are often times when his shifts do not go well, which I presume is the case for all EMTs and Paramedics, and sometimes I’m not sure I want to hear what tragedies he has had to endure.

He continues to eat and I ramble on and on about insignificant wifely and motherly duties I’ve done or dealt with throughout the day.  A typical Sunday for me, my biggest complaint is that of annoying children visiting ours for play-dates.  The television is on, more so in the background than for us to watch, but on the screen is a tribute to an actor who passed away this year and I see his eyes well up.  It’s alarming and breathtaking.  I’m nervous.  What could make him cry, especially since he doesn’t often do it?  In 20 years I’ve seen him cry only a couple handfuls of times.

I ask him what’s wrong and the pain I see on his face, deep in his eyes, shutters me to a stop and I know.  It’s a child.  Whatever horrible day he has had on his ambulance today, it involves a child.  He tells me it’s nothing, though we both know it’s a lie.  He tries to protect me from the horrible things that he sees knowing that my nerves/anxiety and irrational fears often cannot handle it.  I have to be strong, I have to be supportive.  He reminds me there are people with whom he can speak.  I find comfort, always, that he has a support team but today I can see he needs someone now.

I ask a few questions and slowly he begins to talk.  He goes through the last part of his shift, how he thinks he’ll be called in early, how he’s talking lightly to another medic who’s off today.  Then the call comes in.  It’s the worst kind of call and yes, it’s a child.  (I won’t go into details out of respect for the family and for my husband, but I will say the baby was not breathing when they got on scene and it’s a horrible accident that happened at their home)

The husband recalls the scene, what transpired, what he can see now that he’s left it, recounts things that maybe should have been done differently – though in truth there was nothing that could have been done to change the outcome.  He sobs and my heart shatters.  I cannot fathom this loss; I cannot understand the terror and hurt of not being able to bring back such a young life.  We cry together and I hold him tightly, words escape me.  There’s nothing I can say, there’s nothing I can do to soothe him.  It’s one of the most helpless feelings I’ve had in quite some time.  So I just cry as he cries and I pray.

I continue to pray for him while he tries to come to peace with what happened.  I pray for all of the first responders, for I cannot be more grateful of their gift and place on this earth.  I pray for the little one whose time ended entirely too soon, and for the family from whom the baby was taken.

This post, it may not mean anything to anyone, but this man, this husband of mine is one of the greatest souls I know.  We’ve been through some trying and very difficult times in our marriage and we’ve come out better because of them.  Nights like these remind me of how special a human being he is, how courageous and precious he is, and how very lucky I am to have him as a husband.  Being a wife of a first responder, an EMT in my case, is both prideful and heartbreaking.