When you suffer with depression and anxiety…
You wait until the last minute to get back to people about getting together because you don’t know if it will be a day that you are yourself or a day that you can’t stop the sobs from shaking your body. If it’s the latter, you text them “So sorry for the late response. Can’t do today. Let’s try for next week!” And then you wait it out and do it all over again.
There are days when you are not the parent you want to be, when being a parent seems to make things worse. You are not the mother who supports her children through their tough moments. Instead, you tell them you ‘just can’t’ and walk away so you don’t make thing worse for them by crying and making them feel awful. And then you cry alone and hate yourself for being a terrible parent.
You skip the news because it’s just too much. You can’t bear the weight of the world’s sadness, the world’s tears. There are so many people who are facing horrors you’ll never face and they keep on going. They are strong. You can’t face the anger you feel at yourself when you cry for ‘no reason’ and can’t even move. You are weak.
You list all of the wonderful things in your life like a mantra and remind yourself how lucky you are – as if it makes a difference in warding off the beast. You make sure not to let anyone see the part of you that doesn’t care how lucky you are, the part of you that holds you down in bed, crying hard, while the birds chirp and the sun shines and children laugh outside.
You wonder how anyone could ever want to love you when it comes with such a burden. So, you hide it. Cry alone and then throw some make-up on and a smile and do ‘you’ as best you can. Sometimes, that feels good. Sometimes it feels lonely and scary and you wonder if anyone could really want to love you, want to bear that burden, if they really saw what it meant they would have to support. And because you’ve done this behind closed curtains and locked doors for so long, it feels safer and easier than to let someone you love see it, all raw, and have that person feel scared, burdened, helpless and wanting to run away. Or, actually running away, either emotionally or physically. Because it’s happened before.
You fight the beast hard on these days when it rears up. You list all the things that might help you win this day’s battle – exercise (except you can barely move), some music (never works- just adds more noise), a nap (where the beast transforms into dreams, narrative nightmares that bring your fears to life and you wake up more exhausted than before). In the end, some days you just do life because someone else needs you to that day – the kids need to be picked up and eat dinner, a friend has had a rough day and needs an ear or a shoulder, you have a work commitment. Sometimes that, in itself, is enough. Sometimes it just keeps the beast at bay for a bit – which is also ok.
Sometimes you write, your laptop screen blurry through the tears, in an effort to expose the beast, try to take away its fangs, claws, mighty weight, and ferocious roars.
You are angry that you live with this beast. You don’t want to be its keeper. It transforms you into someone you don’t like, don’t respect, don’t love. It turns you into someone you don’t want to be. You want to tame it, own it, be its alpha beast. And it fools you into thinking you are, sometimes. And so, when it rears up on its hind legs and towers over you, you are angry.
And sometimes it retreats to a small dark corner, glaring at you with its threatening, intimidating eyes, reminding you that its just taking a break, recharging, and that it’s not leaving yet, reminding you to prepare for next time. It might be a day, it might be a month – you can’t know. But – relief, lightness, yourself again. So you laugh, and love, and make plans and see friends, take care of the people and things that need taking care of. You are a strong mother who is a mentor and a nurturer. You are a good friend and a present lover. You love the work that you do, you love empowering women and families as they face their own struggles. You are a strong forger of your own life path. And, often, you almost forget what it feels like to battle the beast. It feels like another reality, one that you know exists but that you can’t conjure up the sensations and feelings of. On those days, you are outside with the chirping birds and breeze in the leaves and laughing children. You wonder who is behind the curtains in their bedroom fighting the beast that day and you want to tell them that you are sending them strength, that they are still there inside themselves, not to let the beast win, to call for reinforcements, to remember how the breeze feels on their skin, how it feels to hold someone’s hand and be loved.
Keep on fighting, you. And I will too.