my body is
while my mind lives
in future worlds
will never become a
part of my past.
my body is
while my mind lives
in future worlds
will never become a
part of my past.
how can i be strong for you
when my bones have been crushed?
how can i comfort you
when i sleep in blankets of sadness?
how can i hold you
when my arms carry the weight of the world?
how can i listen to you
when the voices in my head are screaming?
how can i walk a mile in your shoes
when i can’t even get back on my feet?
how can i be part of your life
when my own life isn’t whole?
how can i be anything to you
when i’m nothing to myself?
— on being there for you
If I asked you to pick the photo that shows me in a depressive state, you’d probably pick the second photo. Right?
Well, you’d be both right and wrong.
Those of us who carry this darkness around with us, are very good at showing the world what they want to see. Or better yet, shielding them from what they don’t want to see.
These photos were taken on the same day. One was posted to Facebook. One wasn’t.
Why is it that mental illness is so hard to talk about? In my experience, it’s just easier not to talk about it. In order to avoid questions that I either won’t be able to answer, or choose not to answer because the person asking won’t like or understand the answer.
Sadness is an emotion. Emotions can be easily understood, or accepted because we all feel them.
Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder is a state of being. It doesn’t run it’s course and then leave. It isn’t a reaction to something that happened or didn’t happen.
It lives inside of me all the time. Most of the time it stays hidden. But it’s not something I have control of. I can’t just choose to get over it.
So I’ve learned to smile for everyone who needs it.
Is there someone in your life who might be smiling on the outside, while struggling on the inside? Are you?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And if you aren’t comfortable talking face to face, you can text the Crisis Text Line (741-741). The most important thing to know is that you are not alone. You have never been alone.
Crisis Text Line: 741-741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. The service is free, confidential and available 24/7.
Today I’m depressed. I’m not just sad. I’m stay in bed, there’s no hope sad. Otherwise known as depression.
Sometimes you will say to me, “yeah, I know how it is to be sad”. I know you mean well. Of course you know sadness. We all do. But depression is so much more than just sadness. And I hope you never understand this completely.
Depression is like being in a beautiful yard with a big hole in the middle. You walk around the hole and are sad because your yard is temporarily ruined. It’s an inconvenience, an eyesore. But you will fill the hole and your yard will be beautiful again.
I, on the other hand, walk around the same hole, but I fall in. The hole is much deeper than it appears. And then it starts to rain and the hole fills quickly. I am barely able to hold my head above the muddy water.
When you are sad, you sometimes say you feel blue. When I’m depressed the world is void of all color. No rainbows exist for me. There is no gold.
But you have a two healthy boys who love you, a husband who would do anything for you, and a beautiful house, you say. What have you got to be depressed about?
Nothing and everything. Yes, my life is full of wonderful people, and I am blessed to have the comforts that I do. I know that. But my depression couldn’t care less.
Depression, while often triggered by life’s hardships, can just as easily be triggered by nothing. And, let me tell you, that is the worst kind. Because when people ask me what’s wrong and I answer, I don’t know. The look I get says it all. They just don’t get it.
You might want to fix it – help me. And that would be incredible if it was that easy. But it isn’t. Depression runs its course, no matter how much I am loved. It doesn’t care.
Then why are you smiling and going about your day? Good question. Those of us who are depressed, often have to learn how to exist in two worlds simultaneously – the world of normalcy and the world of darkness that we have learned to mask when necessary.
Believe me when I tell you, we can smile with the best of them. We can crack jokes, show up when needed and act the part of happy camper most of the time. What you don’t know is that inside, we are not there. We are on auto-pilot. Inside we are counting the minutes until we can be alone, until we can give in to the darkness, because we know that the only way out is through.
But aren’t you on anti-depressants? Yes, I am. I’m so good at being depressed that I’m on two different ones.
Then why are you still depressed? The medicine is not a cure. It’s a damper. It tends to make the episodes shorter. If I wasn’t on medication we’d be on season 49 of this show. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d be here. Yes, it’s gotten that bad before.
When I’m depressed, I feel lost. I drift aimlessly through the days without purpose or motivation.
When I’m depressed I am Atlas, the weight of the world making every movement a monumental effort.
When I’m depressed I just want it to be over. It’s exhausting. Depression sucks all of the life out of any given moment.
And it happens in a blink moment. This morning I was fine. Tonight as I write this the light is dimming and my dreams are too.
So next time I tell you I’m depressed, just know that all I need from you is compassion and understanding. I need to know that you know I’m not being dramatic or looking for attention. I need you to know that I have a mental illness, and I’m trying not to let it define me.
Mostly what I need you to know that I’m in here. Don’t forget that. I’m still me. And I will be back.
* 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.
I am a notebook lined with intimate inkings that are not my own.
I am an untrained runner in a marathon with legs that quiver and quit on me.
I am a brittle-backed leaf on bare limbs, desperately hanging on.
I am the earthworm tirelessly trekking the sun-soaked concrete path in search of the cool dirt, my skin shrinking around me.
I am a discarded bag forced by the wind to kite dance, dipping and diving, an empty carcass of plastic skin.
I am bone-tired, and every breath breaks me.
I am all these things on any given day. But I am here, and I am trying.
“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.
So how about you? Got Compassion?
*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.
But we are here. We are here and we are moving.
There is a place I know that feels a little too much like home. It’s a house of mine I rent from time to time, but it isn’t home. I’ve visited it so many times that I know it well.
It could easily become my home – if I let it.
But that is something I won’t do.
Each time I visit I struggle to leave; there is a familiarity that is comfortable, like a warm hug. But that hug quickly becomes a smothering embrace, threatening to dissolve me.
I go to this place kicking and screaming, fighting against it, and yet, I continue to show up.
I don’t like this part of me – the part that visits this place. But the older I get the more I realize that it’s just who I am. I am a person who lives in two separate places at any given time. I am a person who puts on a smile while I am at my home (as much as I can), but who wears no masks at my other house.
The other house is a house of darkness where no masks are needed because there is no one else there to be bothered by my countenance.
The other house is desolate, lonely, and dark. Hardly a place that a person would choose to visit. Instead, it seems to choose me. In some kind of Amityville-esque way, it haunts me and consumes me.
Thankfully I have a home – a real home – filled with those I love who wait for me. I worry that one day they will choose to close the door and leave me stranded in the echoing hallways of my other house, having grown tired of my extended, and frequent vacant-tions.
Here’s what I want them to know.
I see you trying to figure me out and help me and “fix” me. And I am grateful that I mean that much to you, but there is nothing you can do. The darkness is in me, and I am the only one who can fix the broken switch.
And I. Am. Trying. This is not a place I want to be. Know that. Above all else, know that.
Being who I am I feel too much. I think too much. I bruise too much.
Sometimes life is just too much, and I feel like I’m suffocating.
That doesn’t mean I want to die.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. I want to live. God how I want to live.
I want to be the free spirit I am. To explore and dream and create and shine.
But there are moments in my life that break me. And these are the moments that send me to my house to be still. To retreat. To repair.
I am here.
Though I may be far away, I am here.
Though I may be there. I am here.
Wait for me. I am here.