* I am writing this so that others can see one of the many faces of depression. I am not seeking pity or attention.
One thing I have always been in my writing is honest. So this is me being honest, unfiltered and raw. I am not editing this at all, so please forgive the James Joycian run-ons and stream of consciousness, it’s the most accurate representation of how my mind is working (or not working) right now.
Tonight, I feel broken. I feel like I can’t move. I can’t breathe. There is something inside of me that won’t work no matter how much I tinker with it. And, believe me, there is much tinkering going on.
I don’t like this. I don’t want this. But this is me. I have clinical depression. At any given moment it visits me. It doesn’t care if I have everything I need, everything I want. It comes without warning and stays for as long as it wants. The sun may be shining. The clouds cleared, but inside of me the storm rages despite the current forecast. I try to fight it, but it’s like fighting the undertow. It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.
But think of all the good things you have. You have so much to be thankful for. No shit. I know that. But my depression doesn’t care. Those of you who say this, I don’t fault you. I don’t hate you for thinking it’s as simple as that. In fact, I think you know it isn’t, you just don’t really know what else to say. It’s okay. I don’t know what to say either.
It’s like someone asking you how you are. They are being polite. It’s what you do. It’s not like I’m going to answer by saying, you know what, I’m not good. In fact, I feel like I’m disintegrating. You just don’t say that. It makes people uncomfortable. I get it. It makes me uncomfortable too. 24 hour kind of uncomfortable. Unless there is wine. And then it’s only mildly annoying. Until there’s a sad song. And there’s always a sad song, isn’t there?
But I’m a mom. I can’t “self-medicate” like my mind tells me I want to. I can’t keep a travel mug full of “peace” with me at all times. And, honestly, I don’t want to. It scares me that the wine helps as much as it does. I don’t want to be that person. But a part of me is that person whether I like it or not.
Then there’s the most awesome part of all. My oldest son also has anxiety and depression. And every time I look at my youngest I wonder if I have passed the curse on to him as well. Do I think I shouldn’t have had kids? Absolutely not! This world needs my kids because they are incredible. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty, which fuels my depression…vicious circle.
Did I mention I’m tired, but I can’t sleep? I feel like I’m losing it most nights as I try to drift off with all of the what ifs shooting off like firecrackers in my mind. Problems that aren’t even my problems. Sadness that doesn’t even belong to me. I am too connected. So connected that I disconnect in order to survive.
I just want to rest. I just want to feel like everything will be okay. I want to trust the words I feed my children every day. It will get better. You just have to believe. There are plenty of days where I feel like I’m just setting them up for the firing squad.
I’ll find my way out. I always have. But every time I surface, I can’t help but wonder when the next wave will hit.
“Oh I don’t know, Tourette’s can be kind of fun. I knew someone with TS and he would throw the “F” word around all the time,” the stranger said with a laugh.
Silence. Suddenly I was bombarded by the image pain of Jake sticking his finger down his throat hundreds of times a day. I was reminded of the time I stood in the kitchen doorway, unknown to him, as he repeatedly punched himself in the stomach, tears running down his face. He was six. I recalled the angry stares of strangers who judged him every time we were out. And I felt my words stick in my throat as they so often do.
Sadly, this is a scenario that has played out in many forms over the years. I have since learned to speak out for Jake and other people like him who live with the suffering that accompanies Tourette’s and OCD. I can assure you none of them are having fun.
When Jake was diagnosed I was under the impression that his biggest problem would be peer bullying. Kids can be cruel. What I have learned instead, is that adults tend to be the worst bullies of all.
Over the years I’ve wondered about this. Why, when adults have so much more life experience, are so many lacking in compassion? How do they justify such insensitive remarks?
As adults we tend to inhabit our own space, both physically and mentally. The longer we remain earthbound, the easier it is for us to grow cynical and care less and less about the “big” world, concentrating instead on our personal lives. Unless a person’s life has been touched in some way by disability, and special needs, I think they just don’t get it. Instead, they are driven by the media’s skewed stereotypes.
All people with Tourette’s curse. False. Less than 10% are afflicted with coprolalia – a tic that causes them to use obscene language. I once met a twelve year old boy who was deaf because one of his tics was to box himself in the ears. I’ve seen a fifteen year old girl in a wheelchair because one of her tics was squatting while she walked. Hilarious,right?
All people with OCD are neat and are germaphobes. Just give them some hand sanitizer and all is well. False. Jake’s OCD immobilizes him at times, making him unable to leave the house. He struggles every day with repetitive thoughts and fears, causing him severe social anxiety. Good times, yeah?
Clearly, there is no humor in these conditions or any others.
So what’s different about how children process these differences. I think that children are simply more connected to the world than we are. They are newer beings on this Earth and are naturally curious. They haven’t been media-trained in the ways of callousness. We have so much to learn from them, and such a responsibility to protect them from becoming hard-edged.
But I think it’s important to note that compassion is more than just caring. As connected Beings we all need to practice empathy more than sympathy. And if we allow ourselves to reconnect with our spiritual side (not religious – that’s completely different and man-made), we will realize that it’s our natural state because we are all connected.
Music moves me. I’ve always imagined my life as having a soundtrack playing in the background. Seriously. I’m sure it’s just a result of my being an 80’s mixtape kid combined with my former career in music store management. Whatever it is, it’s still hanging on even though record stores and the 80’s are long gone.
When I’m working on a novel, I have a habit of creating a soundtrack for my characters. When I am writing that character, I listen to her music to get into her head. It really helps. Plus it’s fun to figure out exactly what kind of music my character would listen to. I’ve found some very interesting songs researching my books.
As an audiophile it just makes sense to me that my character would be defined by her music choices. And for me it’s the lyrics. The type of music is not as important as the sentiment. On any given playlist you could find Johnny Cash alongside My Chemical Romance. It just depends on the character and the character’s mood.
It’s hard to write a novel and not write parts of yourself into it. So my characters will always reference music and use it as a way to process parts of their lives, give voice to their emotions. It’s very natural for me.
If you’d like to hear one of my character soundtracks and you happen to be on Spotify (which I highly recommend) here’s a link to a playlist I created for a character in one of my books. I won’t give you a character analysis, but you might just get a peek into another world if you listen to Anna’s music.
Writer’s block. We’ve all experienced it, and chances are we will again. But just remember, it’s a block, not a wall. Blocks can be jumped over, moved, or built upon.
While attending (that seems such a formal word for such casual, intimate gathering of writers) the Texas Writer’s Retreat a week ago, I had the opportunity to get to know John Grogan, author of international bestseller Marley & Me, and The Longest Trip Home. I’m always surprised when I meet people who have a certain celebrity status because, more often than not, they are just normal people – well as normal as writer’s can be. 🙂 And John was no different. Very down to earth and full of great stories.
Over several dinners and glasses of wine, John shared some of his insights on writing. He encouraged us all to read an essay in The New Yorker by John McPhee, Draft No. 4. The essay gives a great tip for dealing with writer’s block. I won’t spoil it here because it’s well worth the read.
*This post is honest. It is painful to write, but I feel that it needs to be said for those who can’t say it.
My son bears the weight of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) daily, but this post is not for him. This post is for the parents and loved ones who must learn how to live with OCD as well. I do not wish to take away from the burden he carries; believe me, I have seen him crippled by this intrusive, invisible bully and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
But I am here to acknowledge the others who are involved in this journey alongside them. I am here to remind you that we, too, face a bully. However, our bully is easily recognizable every time we pass a mirror.
How often have you retreated behind the safety of a closed, locked door and screamed into a pillow? How many times have you been blinded by the hot tears of frustration as you drive anywhere just to get away? And how familiar is the feeling of guilt that gnaws at you for all the times that you lost it, yelling at your son out of anger? The emotional turmoil is unrelenting.
I have slammed doors and punched pillows.
I have felt so much pent up rage that I’ve resorted to hitting my thighs with fists clenched so tightly that my nails have drawn blood, just so the bruises on my legs hurt more than the ache in my heart.
I have escaped the tension with a few too many glasses of wine. And then slept through my sadness.
I have sat outside my son’s door listening to the quiet of him sleeping, pretending that he’s just like everyone else. Enjoying the silence maybe a bit too much.
I have driven to an abandoned lot, turned the music up as loud as I can and screamed until my throat was raw and I was out of breath.
And each time I’ve berated myself with ugly, angry words.
The same kind of sharp words I have heard my son use on himself on his worst days as he curls up in his chair, the chair that is off limits to the rest of the family because we aren’t clean enough, and cries until he has nothing but shadows left inside him.
The same words I save for the days when I hate myself most. You are worthless. You are a burden. You can’t even help him. Loser. I can’t do this anymore.
There are times that I think if only I had done this instead of that. Said these words instead of those. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad for him. Maybe he would be better. Maybe I’ve made it worse.
I make myself physically ill worrying over the things that I think I did wrong. But the truth is that on any given day, I’m doing the best I can. My best may not be perfect, but I. Am. Trying.
There is a song in the Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George that really resonated with me one day when I was out trying to walk off the voices in my head that were telling me how wrong I was.
Stop worrying where you’re going – Move on.
If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone.
Just keep on moving.
I chose and my world was shaken- So what?
The choice may have been mistaken,
The choosing was not.
You have to move on.
As parents and caregivers of kids with special needs, it’s easy for us to forget that the best thing we can do is to keep moving.
Some days we will move backwards, tripping over yesterday’s mistakes. Other days we will move forward full of a hope we can barely see. But the only thing that matters is that we are moving. We may not know where we are going, or how we are going to get there, but we will get there.
Yes, we are exhausted. We are overwhelmed. We are heartbroken. We are afraid. We are angry.
It’s hard to ignore a sign when the Universe displays it so brilliantly. Today is the day that I start some new practices that will propel me forward in my writing. So when I saw this rainbow (and actually it was a full double rainbow) how could I not see it as a sign that I am on the right path?
“We trade the magic to learn how to create the illusion.” -Joe Clifford
As young readers, we found ourselves escaping into various worlds created by our favorite authors. Narnia. Camelot. Middle-earth. We walked through fantasy lands in search of nothing more than adventure and story.
As we discovered our own words, and began to believe that our stories were worth telling, we found ourselves reading the same books again, only this time we were searching for something more, something hidden between the lines that stained the page, the visions that bloomed in our minds. Instead of asking who,what,where or when, we toyed with why, and how.
We wanted to understand how the author got from point A to point B, and why he chose either point to begin with. We started to dissect the stories, stripping away the colorful layers of adjectives, exposing the veins with actions coursing through them, and studying the organs, both minor and major so that we could understand the anatomy of the story. And in doing so, we began to hone our craft, and create our own magic.
Perhaps the only magician we have is the artist. -Anais Nin
We are master magicians. Page performers. Word wizards. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.
I’m off to cast a spell on some unsuspecting characters now.