I know I must sound like a broken record on this blog. I sometimes go back to see what I've written in the past few years and I’m sad to say that my topics don’t branch out all that much. I’ve been here before on this blog and in my life. As much as I try to deny the diagnosis and inevitable accompanying symptoms, depression haunts me. The symptoms of depression exist within me on many levels and reveal themselves in varied ways. Some of them can be managed with medication, some respond to just the distraction of the daily routine, and others I can just push away or aside if I’m able to focus on something, anything good. The sunshine, a glance from my husband, the dog, the laughter of my girls, the words of the Mass, the Eucharist, or a great cup of coffee can sometimes offer a temporary reprieve.
This time, however, the symptoms ingratiated themselves far down in the recesses. I feel this depression physically as though I have a pile of bricks on my shoulders as I go about my day. I feel my heart beating faster. I can't concentrate. I'm forgetful. It feels like I’m choking but nobody notices as the lump in my throat never subsides and the tears fall profusely against my will. I have learned over the years how to successfully hide the symptoms of depression and have gotten good at functioning in spite of what I’m feeling and what is stirring about in my mind. The suicidal thoughts and grand schemes remain and it takes an exhaustive effort sometimes to not pay attention to them.
Adding to all of this was an allergic reaction to a medicine that I was taking for about a year. It seemed to just stop working one day and I had horrible itching and hives and slight fever. I had to immediately stop taking it – which is never a good idea with any antidepressant. The timing couldn’t be worse for a medication change over and the subsequent waiting period for the new medication to start working.
Thank God, the new medication seems to have started working ever so slightly, just in the last week. I am starting to feel as though I can breathe again and I’m able to concentrate a little better which may be debatable by the readers of this particular blog post. I’m far from 100%, but I’m at least headed in that direction. I have to be.
When the veil of depression descends, it touches every part of one’s life; at least it does for me. Everything just goes black. I go through my days like a robot already programmed with the required tasks to accomplish. There’s no joy, there’s no laughter, there’s no happiness. Everything that’s bad is magnified and the anger becomes angrier. And when it’s really bad – there’s nothing.
Nothing is the scariest part.
While I’m in the nothingness, my mind starts to rewind back to every bad thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s not just the abortion –it’s everything from start to finish. It’s everyone who’s ever hurt me and it’s me convincing myself that I deserved it. I start to replay moments in my life over and over again, obsessing over the details, trying to remember even more clearly what would better be forgotten. The soundtrack of my mind accuses me of any and everything. Before long I’m walking around and even sleeping with a thousand thoughts, all of them bad, sucking the very life out of me. Everything in my life is then viewed through these gray glasses where any glimmer of goodness is darkened. Anything that’s remotely good, my mind convinces me is actually bad. I am a horrible person. A complete whore. You aren’t fooling anyone. You’re a joke. God doesn’t even know who you are. There is no God.
Wouldn’t it just be better if I weren’t here? Wouldn’t it be better if my husband didn’t have such a screwed up wife? Wouldn’t it be better if someone else raised my children, someone who they would listen to? Wouldn’t it be better if I just ceased to exist somehow? If I just faded into the background while their lives continued on? Maybe if I just disappeared now, before things get any worse, then perhaps their memory of me would be better than the reality.
For weeks I felt in my soul that this was true.
Even when I don’t admit it, even in the blackness, there remains some small flicker of light which is just enough to make me reach out for help, to ask for help in any convoluted way, so long as it brings the help I need and the help I didn't even know I needed.
I’ve found hope in a few places to sustain me the last few weeks and hopefully will continue until I’m on the other side of this depressive episode. Apparently, there is nothing I can do to make my husband not want me and believe me… I’ve tried. I have succeeded in making him not very happy, but I can’t convince him to leave me. No matter how depressed and miserable and irritable and mean I can be, he still likes me. No matter how much I retreat physically and mentally – he’s still here. No matter how many times I remind him of my past and how I’m damaged goods and I had an abortion – he’s still here. And even in the worst of this depression, there remains a sacred space and time between a husband and wife where love is all there is. There are moments where all of these feelings and depression and memories cease to exist and peace and joy take their place. He’s chosen to love me through it, again and again, whether I allow him to or not.
In my darkness and solitude I begin to convince myself that my children would be better off without me. They don’t love me. They don’t listen to me. They don’t respect me. But, every so often, a smile comes across their face that reminds me that I am irreplaceable in their lives no matter what kind of day we’ve all had. No matter how long I sit on my bed and convince myself that I don’t even deserve happy, healthy, beautiful children because I killed the first one, one of them inevitably busts in the door and reminds me that my love and attention is what they seek out above all others and there is nowhere else they will find it.They are oblivious to my horrible past and my present despicable behavior doesn't really matter to them either because there are far more pressing issues at hand like nails that need to be painted, snow that needs to be played in, or books that need to be read.
Even in my darkness, I’m reminded that no matter how much I yell at God and pout and lament every bad thing that has happened in my life, there is good that remains. No matter how much I try to ignore Him and shove my Bible and all my spiritual reading stacked on my nightstand into the drawer in a juvenile attempt to tell him to @#$@ off, He remains… waiting. And when I go to find him, He’s there. When I come limping back, crushed under the weight of this ridiculous mental state that has no rhyme or reason that I understand, He’s there… waiting. Just when I think He actually listened this time when I shouted in my mind, “what’s the @#$#ing point? I don’t need you,” He somehow reminds me that I do. Sometimes it’s the lyrics of a song, sometimes it’s the beat of my own heart, sometimes it’s the touch of his hand.
Because of my abortion, because of my past, because of my depression, because I am a wife, because I am a mother… I need him. And even just because, I am... I need him. He’s the light that remains.
No matter how hard I try, my emotional state or station doesn’t predict His existence in me. He’s here regardless. When I’m broken and crawling through the dust or happy and laughing - there’s no criteria that needs to be met for needing Him. I used to think that I had to be perfect before coming to him, perfectly worthy to go to him – lately I’ve been afraid that if I’m not broken I can’t go to him for I’ll have nothing for Him to fix. I often think of myself as the woman about to be stoned, or the woman reaching out to touch the hem of His garment – but I never really think past it and what happens to the woman after she gets up and goes on her way? She must have had a life after that moment. What would her life have been like after touching, really touching, Jesus?
I wonder if He would still take my hand and hold me when I’m not broken in a myriad of shattered pieces? Could I ever so slightly began to see myself through His eyes and allow love to grow within and He would still be there for me for any reason… or none at all? Does He only pay attention when I’m at my wit’s end and my life is in shambles? Is He still paying attention when I’m content in the love of my family? Does He only listen when I pray out of desperation or does He ever listen when my ramblings put a smile on his face?
Would my husband? Would my children? Would Grace – whom I came to know only after I was so broken that I had no choice but to face her?
In all of my depression and self-pity and self-destruction I think about how no one could possibly love me, or even like me. And there He is, in the middle of it all, showing me that unconditional love exists in the very air I breathe every day.
I pray that as I take each step out of this episode of darkness – that He’s there in the sunlight.