Dark Days

I come with the hardest form of artillery. One is two and the other is four and they have small, smooth feet and cute tiny noses. They have the loudest of voices and the most beautiful of spirits. They bring giggles and hugs and peanut butter crackers.

When I can juggle it all, I bring my strongest ammunition, but even when I do I know we cannot beat the beast that we encounter. Sometimes though we can soothe it. Temper it. Entertain it.

At the very least, we can be there with it.

I know which wars I’m likely to win and which ones I’m not. Since I refuse to surrender, all I can do is show up to every battle and keep on fighting and take any gains I can get. Any small moments of victory.

I know I can’t win them all.

I can tell it is a good day by her gaze. She looks alert, she looks at me, she follows the conversation with her eyes. She smiles – more with the crinkles around her eyes than with the movement of her mouth, but still. On those days, I talk. I talk and I talk and I try to think of interesting or clever things to say. If I’m lucky I get a chuckle, a nod, a smile.

A win.

On bad days, her eyes are glazed. She is not able to be fully present. It’s hard to describe but easy to observe. She doesn’t have the energy for much in the way of eye contact, conversation, or responsiveness.

“Bad day?” I ask.

I am not really asking, I just want her to know that I see it.

“Bad day.” She confirms. She shuts her eyes and squeezes them tight for several seconds before opening them slowly as she exhales and shakes her head, as in disbelief at the shit she’s dealing with.

I’m glad she can tell me. She doesn’t need to explain.

I do not need her to justify her pain to me. Or her reaction to her pain. I just need her to know I’m there.

In many ways, I get it.

Life is hard. It is sometimes too much.

On those days, I’m quiet. I massage her arms. They are frail and bird-like and her skin is softer than any other skin I’ve touched. It is smooth and supple and if it is a little bit dry, a small bit of lotion revives it immediately. I rub her back, her shoulders, her neck. I brush her hair. I hold up her insulated mug of ice water to her lips so she can drink it through the bendy straw. When she gulps it down I think of the 34 ounce jugs she used to keep on her counter, refilling them throughout the day to ensure her hydration. I wonder now how many ounces she consumes when I’m not there to hold the jug to her lips.

Every once in a while I bring in a single serving of pink moscato and hold it to her mouth after she’s had her water. She gulps down as fast as her weak lips and her weak throat and her weak stomach will allow.

Parts of her body are weak – too weak to move a whole lot – her arms, her legs. But other parts are hearty and strong. Her heart, her lungs.

Her depression.

She hates her weakness and she hates her strength.

When I leave her, I give the others the update.

“She’s having a bad day.” I say.

“Why?”

“What?”

“Did something happen?”

At first, I’m confused. I thought I already explained when I said “she’s having a bad day.” It takes me a minute, but then I realize.

Some people only have bad days for reasons. Because of things that happen externally. And certainly she has some external reason, but for the most part it’s her insides that are broken.

People who aren’t broken on the inside don’t understand that bad days are just a given for depressives. Some days are just harder than others for no reason at all.

“I wish I were dead.” She can articulate this on the good days. Because sometimes that is what a good day looks like for a depressive.

And her “good days” aren’t really good days. They’re not full twenty-four hour periods. They are more like flashes of light in her darkness. Brief cracklings of lightning that illuminate a pitch black sky for a quarter of a second at a time. Sometimes maybe a half-second.

All I am is a spark. A brief bit of lightening. Powerful, yet fleeting. There and gone, in an instant.

 

Advertisements

If It Ever Gets That Bad (What People With Depression Want You To Know)

Everyone who has battled with depression has their own analogy for it and for me, it’s drowning. I’ve been riding high and dry the last few years but after Baby Grouch Number Two was born, I was swiftly sucked out to sea in a riptide. It happened quickly, a sharp jerk that startled and surprised me. Because, we’re always surprised when it comes back, aren’t we?  We always think it’s gone for good because we are strong and capable and we really don’t have anything to be sad about, anyway. We’ve got it all. Except no matter what, it creeps back in, like a looping vine ruining the landscaping in the backyard that we can never get rid of, even with the strongest of weed killers.

Every depressive sometimes considers how they might end it, if it got bad enough. It might just be a flicker of a thought, a blip of morbidity that occurs right after the thought about how to prepare the chicken for dinner and right before the thought about do we have any vanilla ice cream to go with the apple pie for dessert.

It is a thought that exists like any other, it isn’t special. Did I get the mail out of the mailbox? Is tomorrow trash day? Should I just end it today? When is the Smith-Miller wedding?  Oh, look, Adidas shoes are on sale, awesome.  It is not selfish, it is not dramatic, it is just THERE, coexisting with all the other not-selfish, not-dramatic thoughts.

A million little ideas nag and grab hold of us, constantly running through our heads, repeating in our brains, it’s just that the How Would I End It thought is not benign, and is one that we have to constantly battle.  And I don’t mean the same type of battle as the one about remembering to put the car keys on the hook or the one about remembering to take the coffee cup off the roof of the car before driving off, I mean a real, legitimate, drag-out-fight for our lives.  The How Would I End It thought has a whole military brigade of buddies, it never shows up alone, it’s just one of the many dark thoughts that sour our brains, capable of becoming quite dangerous, when all working together.  For me, the thoughts I am fighting are usually lapping waves, that push at my back at regular intervals, sometimes lightly and sometimes with enough force to knock me from my feet.  I can usually scramble and keep my chin up high, just barely above the surface, while I reach down and curl my toes, grasping at the sand.  I make it back to shore.

I know I need to keep a relatively fit body, and need to practice gratitude and remind myself how good I really have it, to keep the constant tide at bay, to prevent the blips from becoming an all-consuming internal barrage of horrific self-talk.  Those things help, they really do.  But I also know that someday doing those things might not be enough.  I know that the possibility exists for stormy thoughts to create a tsunami.  It’s pretty fucking hard to battle a tsunami.  Most people wouldn’t call death by tsunami a selfish act.

If it ever gets that bad, I will get the names of doctors from people I trust.  And I will actually attempt to call one.

If it ever gets that bad, I will stop lying on the forms asking me to rate my anxiety and depression.

If it ever gets that bad, I will remind myself of some tricks and tips to help make things better, if only temporarily, if only by a smidge.

If it ever gets that bad, know that being angry at me or trying to guilt me into feeling better is equivalent to shoving my head back under water.  It will only make things worse.

If it ever gets that bad, please don’t take it personally.

If it ever gets that bad, please support me by just being there.

If it ever gets that bad, please remind me where I can get help from, and remind me that it’s okay to ask for the help when I need it.