tough week

This has been a tough week. The last several weeks have been tough weeks. Clearly, an ideal time to start a blog – to share the dirt and drama in a public space, for all to see. Luckily, I’ve generally been one to do things that make sense – so this falls right in line. (That last bit was a joke. It’s hard for a depressed person to be funny, so bear with me. And I’m not terribly funny even on a good day.)

My mom used to call me her “long-shot daughter” because I always went after things that she deemed long-shots…you know, the usual sorts of things, like applying to spend a summer studying monkeys in Bali when I had no background in behavioral science or field research; getting into a college that my college counselor told me was a waste of application fee; convincing a publishing house to hire me when I had never edited anyone’s words other than my own; etc.

I won’t bore you with my mottled resume, but wanted to say that doing this – starting a blog at a time when I can barely get dressed in the morning – seems appropriately “long-shot” and therefore, very me. 

I’ve actually been trying to start a blog for about five years now, but had severe TOPIC BLOCK (yes, this is an actual thing. At least as much as anything else I’ve ever made up). I felt paralyzed by the fact that I didn’t have a niche, a perfectly unique theme, a witty tagline, a compelling name. Who am I? What do I have to contribute? Why would someone want to read what I have to say? I thought. And furthermore, What am I going to write about???  I could write about music, or life in New York, or being a Christian, or being a new mom, or being a musician Christian Texan transplant in New York new stay-at-home-working-from-home mom. But it all seemed overdone. So I never started. Or, rather, I started several times, but never shared (or wrote more than one post in any given six month period).

But here I am. And instead of telling you what I plan to write about (because wouldn’t that be a bit like talking about what you want your life to be like? Or how you think next week is going to go?), I’m just going to start with a story from my week.

This is the story of Thursday.

Thursday was a bad day. It wasn’t bad because I spilled coffee on my laptop (although that, indeed, would have been bad), and it wasn’t bad because I had to put my cat to sleep (a difficult feat since I don’t own a cat and probably never will). It was bad because for about twenty years, I’ve lived with depression. And, by default, some days are bad days.

Now, I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me – ooh, depression, twenty years, poor thing. Plenty of people live with it their whole lives. It’s just that I’m only now realizing that I might be one of those people. I guess I had always thought (hoped) it was just a phase to get through – the feeling terribly emotional and overly sensitive and out of control.

But then I realized that I felt that way when I was 13, and when I was 15, and when I was 17. I can quote my journals from pre-teen years: “I am feeling too much. This can’t be normal. I feel out of control.” I remember being young – maybe nine or ten? – and feeling inadequate, not good enough to be loved, undeserving of life abundant. This depression-beast has been hanging around for a long time.

So while at first I thought it was something to be tackled – first officially addressed in college – and to “get over,” I’m starting to understand that, like it or not, my story wasn’t written that way. Because I’ve tackled it plenty – often daily. I’ve tackled it with drugs, and I’ve tackled it with therapy. I’ve tackled it with a newfound, rekindled Christianity, and I’ve tackled it with my husband. I was determined to fight it (kill the beast!) before getting married, so that it wouldn’t interfere with our marriage, and then I was determined to figure it out (tame the beast) before our first child was born, so that it wouldn’t interfere with my mothering.

Yet, it has interfered with both those things.

This changeling beast of depression has reared its ugly head in a myriad of ways – as searing anger, as endless tears, as chilled-to-the-bone numbness; as anorexia and bulimia and suicidal thoughts; as cutting and burning and borderline alcoholism and plenty of other ugly words and labels. I am all of these things.

But I am also a mom. And a Christian. A musician, a writer, an arts administrator, a runner (well, before children), a nostalgic, a New Yorker-Texan, a woman, an INFJ. I love the ocean and the sky and big thunderstorms, beautiful words and images, the way a Hopper painting is so lonely and so familiar, the way late Beethoven makes me believe in God. So I am all these things – and more, and I am also a fighter. I fight the demons, the darkness, the negativity. Some days I win. Some days, I lose.

Thursday was a day when I was losing.

I have been in a downward spiral for a while – occasionally startling upwards, pulled in a positive direction for a moment or hour or two – but things haven’t been good. Let me describe the scene on Thursday: wailing 16-month old, standing in his crib, screaming away. Door closed. Sobbing mom (me), huddled in bed in the room next-door, head buried beneath the covers, door closed. I felt terrible, and too much, and empty.

I was angry and bitter – resenting my life and the way that having a child had changed it. I was overwhelmed with guilt for not loving my son enough, not delighting in him, not being able to provide for him the environment and kind of mom that I wanted for him. I was sad and lonely and the depth of what I felt was almost too much for me.

I told myself that my negativity was sinful and then another voice told me that God didn’t care about me. I tried to think of something hopeful, but nothing came. I told myself, Jesus has felt this way – alone, deserted, despairing. He felt this way for you – but the words seemed empty. Jesus seemed a long ways a way. I needed someone to comfort me, to take the pieces of my life and fit them together in some way that would make sense.

But I was alone. I wailed. I knew I had to move, had to get up, but I felt immobilized. I wanted so desperately to hurt myself and it took every ounce of willpower not to give in – to cling to the simple truths that I had rehearsed so many times before: it won’t help, it’s just as escape, you’ll regret it, you don’t want to start living a lie again, you promised not to, honor your body, you were bought with a price. I tried to pray, but the only thing that I could think was deep calls to deep.

So I repeated that over and over. Deep calls to deep. God, hear my prayer. God, help me. Deep calls to deep. God, hear my prayer.

Eventually, I got up and went into my son’s room and brought him to my bed. I looked at him and was hit with a fresh wave of tears. In his precious face – his face which reminded me of everything I resented: the new life as a mother, the lack-of-career-job-on-hold-what-am-I-doing-professionally-now, the enormous chasm that has opened between my husband and me, the selfish desires I can no longer gratify (long runs, pedicures, uninterrupted lunches with friends, European travel), the energy I don’t have – I also saw myself.

His eyes welling over with tears reflected the blue pools of my own. I saw his fear (what’s wrong with Mamma?), his frustration (what’s wrong with Mamma! Why won’t she play with me? Why won’t she get up?), his anger (Mamma! Get up! Play with me! Pay attention to me!). I saw that he felt overwhelmed – as I did. He didn’t understand what was going on – as I didn’t; he couldn’t control his many emotions – as I couldn’t.

It seemed as if he was feeling all the same things as I, but 32 years younger and simpler. I cried and he cried. I cried out of desperation and anger and sadness; he cried out of frustration and fear and need. And I clung to him. I saw how he needed me – he needed me, mess that I was, imperfect Christian and mom that I was – and he needed me. I didn’t know if I could pull myself together to be what he needed, but I knew that I needed him, too. And I held him, and we rocked on the bed, and cried until we could cry no more. Image


Filed under depression, god & faith, identity, motherhood, parenting

4 responses to “tough week

  1. Katie Cameron

    This is beautiful Leah- thank you for sharing.

  2. Pingback: depression this time around | grace in the darkness

  3. Pingback: what’s in a year? | grace in the darkness

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