Personal Entries

A menacing beast

*I’ve put up this post and taken it back down several times in the past day.   During the short time it was up it seems to have struck a chord, and so it’s back and it stays.  Thank you so much to those who so kindly emailed.


Like  many, I’ve had bouts of depression in the past.   Like all who have ever suffered from depression, I’d like to avoid it in the future.

The difference between struggling and depression, for me, is that when I’m struggling I can still help myself.  I can still move to do the things I know will strengthen me.

I’ve been struggling  for weeks now,  straining too much under the weight of responsibilities that come with single motherhood, the stress of a challenging year. This single mom thing?  I wouldn’t recommend it.   I adore those boys.  I love them through and through with every tiny bit of me, but Lord, is it hard.   I’m It.   Everything comes back to me every minute of every day, and there is no time when I can lay my basket of responsibilities down.  I’m the cushion, the net, the armor, the levity, the balance and the Mom and the Dad,  and I’m so worn out.

I’ve been trying to do what needs to be done to get me strong again:  exercise,   rest,  eating well, asking for help and support, evaluation of the stress I’m under–stress there isn’t much I can do anything about.  My brain can’t take this much struggle, this much stress, this much draining out and nothing coming back in to strengthen me,  and this past week there’s been a tipping point.  I’ve come to the end of my resources, and I just don’t have anything left in me.  I’m cooked, and the  huge, menacing beast of black depression is here -it’s this close, so close I can feel its breath- and I’m terrified by its proximity.  I’ve been trapped and lost in that horrible darkness before, and I’d do almost anything to avoid returning to that place.

My Mom will be coming home from the Netherlands for a week.  I ‘ve found that at this point, the point where my dreams are becoming troubling, when I can’t straighten my thoughts out, when the swirling in my head won’t stop and I can’t seem to help myself, the only thing to do is to hand things over to someone else before it gets worse.  I need to let someone else be in charge, to let someone else pick up the basket of responsibilities I’m too worn out from holding to hold right now.  Thank God, thank God, my Mom will do this for me, and I feel lighter just knowing she’s arriving tonight. The tiniest little light of hope has appeared, and I can’t tell you how welcome and surprising it is in the darkness.

The last time I called upon her this way was over three years ago.   She came home for two weeks, put me to bed, and handled my life for me.  She loved my kids, fed me, and served as Drill Sergeant of Rehabilitation.  Eat!  Sleep!  Sit in the sun!  Sleep again!  This seems to do the trick: a break.   Preemptive, prophylactic bed rest.   A complete immobilization of my head seems to be what is necessary to keep if from slipping into scary darkness.  I’m a big fan of doing what needs to be done to keep that from happening.

My Mom will graciously step in, and I will happily relinquish control.

Why am I telling you this when I don’t have to?  I’ve thought long and hard about that.  A lot of people read this blog.  A lot of people struggle with this condition, and yet there is a certain shame to it; you must be weak or selfish if your head goes haywire, to have symptoms you can’t control.  You must be lacking in faith, you must be meant to learn from this.  Bullshit.  No one would say that about diabetes or heart disease, and it’s the same exact thing: human bodies do this.  But, unlike other illnesses, the workings and mechanisms of the brain are still largely unknown.  The brain is the last frontier of the human body, and we just don’t have this physical malfunction figured out yet.

The only reason not to tell you this is shame, and yet none of us should be any more ashamed of depression than we would be of a broken arm.  I want my children to see me handle this pragmatically, effectively, and without the subterfuge which would imply this is something shameful.

This is how I handle this condition: I know this is a weak spot in my health, and so I try to live in a way that makes me strong, I try to practice good coping skills.  If the illness breaks through, I try to act quickly to stop it.   That’s what you do with illnesses, right?

If I had any other illness, I’d be open about it, and so I will be with this one too.

But people?  Seriously?  Don’t forget the monsters or I’ll kick all your hienies.

Personal Entries

Stupid babies

I’ve been a bit emotional lately, and it’s all those damn kids’ fault.

Last week I was thinking about Jake’s upcoming eighteenth birthday and how we might celebrate his coming of age in a special way, when it occurred to me that this might very well be his last birthday at home.   Next year he will be away at college for his birthday, and after that….who knows?  And then it will be my Riley’s turn to go, and then my Matt’s turn, and then the loves of my life with be gone and my heart will be broken and we will all die a horrible death, the end.

I’ve been in tears a lot.

My first baby, the one who redirected my life onto a path I’d never considered taking, is almost gone.  And that’s as it should be, and that’s what I want for him, and yet I’d like to tether him to the house so he won’t go anywhere and I can see his smile everyday.

So much of the past seven years has been filled with getting through.  Getting through with humor and laughter and love, but getting through.  My mind  on keeping utilities paid,  making sure kids are healthy, and getting the huge laundry basket of single mom responsibilities tended to every day.  It’s been scary, and it’s been overwhelming, and there were years worth of every-other-weekends when Mike would take the kids and once they were gone I’d sit and cry because I felt that my shoulders were too small to handle the burdens they were bearing.

This past year, though, I’ve noticed a change.

When Mike and I separated and divorced, I read everything I could get my hands on about marriage: what makes marriage work, what makes it fail, what makes divorce successful, what makes it an injury which never quite heals. One of the best books I read said that it takes families six years to stop showing signs of stress from divorce, and at the time that seemed such a long time, and so disheartening.  It was right.  After all our hard work, this year has been our best in a very long time.  Financially, there is hope.  Emotionally, everyone is well.  It’s as if there is a peaceful clarity that has been missing for so long  I didn’t even remember it existed.  Life has become about now and the future, and it’s no longer about being tied to the past.

As Jake hits eighteen and gets ready to spread his wings, wings I’ve tried so hard to help him make strong and master the use of, it’s bittersweet to know that so much of his teens have been spent with me struggling with the preoccupying worries of a single mom of three.  Could it have been different?  No, not really.  How can one not worry about children recovering from divorce, bills that can’t be paid?  Do I feel guilty that I haven’t been carefree and more emotionally present ? Yes.  Have the struggles of my single motherhood effected him?  Undoubtedly, but not necessarily in ways that are bad.

He’s incredibly mature and competent, because I’ve needed all my boys to be.  Everyone must pull their weight in this house, because nothing will get done otherwise.  He’s learned the skills his brothers are now learning: Jake can cook an amazing dinner, install new faucets, use a chainsaw, chop firewood and do his laundry, and I’m not sure I would have pushed for such self-sufficiency if it hadn’t been necessary to delegate those tasks.  With his knowledge of his self-sufficiency there is a confidence in himself that is lovely to see.  Our situation has made him this young man, and yet our situation hasn’t left me nearly enough time to enjoy him before he goes.

He’s an incredible person, and he and his wonderful brothers will be gone too soon.  The smell of kid shampoo replaced by that of shaving cream, the freckles replaced by whiskers, the bicycles replaced by cars they’ll pack up to head for college and beer and pretty girls and their futures.

But, I swear,  it was only five minutes ago that he was born, and I’m just not ready for him to go.