It sneaks in, like a thief in the night.
Most of the time I don’t realize it has taken up residence, until it begins to steal bits of my day. A botched interaction, a snippy, nasty remark, the inevitable, face-staining tears. By the time I realize it has come to stay a while, I stare at the rubble already caused, the items that are missing.
Depression is a thief.
It takes away my sense of humor. My sarcasm decoder is stolen from me, unbalancing my normal interactions. I don’t understand anymore when someone is just joking around. Everything is taken personally and seriously to heart. As a result, I lash out. How dare you say that. How. Dare. You. An institution that normally brings joy and laughter is ripped out of my hands.
Depression peels away my already thin skin barrier. Light touches scrape against me, bruising my soul. Even noises are louder. The low hum of my family becomes an unbearable screech in my ears.
And when my nerve endings are completely exposed, depression comes in to add a cloud layer that squishes around in my brain and floats into the corner of my view. I begin to walk in mud. Every step is an effort. That’s when I know depression has taken my clarity.
My patience is stolen too. Irritability makes it hard for others to enjoy being around me. Knowing I’m not enhancing the daily experience of Tim and my boys pushes me to spiral even farther down into the pit. The guilt comes and I retreat, so as to lessen the impact on the ones I love, but leaving impacts them too. Lashing out or closing in on myself, both hurt my people. I don’t see any other positive options, I can’t even think clearly when it gets like this, so despair arrives and I descend down farther.
Last Saturday Tim and I knew I was about two days into the spiral downward. Actually, we’ve figured out that Tim realizes it’s starting about 18 hours before I can wrap my brain around the dark period. We both know there are certain triggers and we work together to minimize them, but we also know there is no logic when it comes to predicting my depressive episodes. Some of the triggers were there this time around, but mostly it arrived without the usual prerequisites and during an unpredictable season. Both of us know the average episode lasts about four days, some have been way longer. That is also about the time it takes for my meds to kick in. Medicated or unmedicated, I knew I had about two more days of living in the dark pit.
It was the weekend and as a family we always try to jam in some quality family time. Tim had been traveling, we had been hosting family and friends fairly consistently for the last month or so. Family and friend time is rejuvenating but, we were in desperate need of just the four of us time. My depression didn’t get the memo that I needed to be “on” this weekend. I needed to be an active participant in the quality interactions. Tim graciously rearranged the weekend activity schedule.
Instead of all of us hopping over to the driving range, he dropped me off at the nail salon and took the boys to the card shop. While they searched for their next great football card hit, I cracked open my new book. The massage chair scraped against my back while the kind pedicure lady picked away at my toes. I couldn’t even jump into the story. Normally this pedicure/book situation is heaven. Today it became a frilly torture. I couldn’t find my normal joy and I knew depression took this away from me too.
I wanted to get sucked into a new story so I could forget that I had a minimum of two more days here. I wanted to be relaxed while I got pampered, getting my nails did. None of that happened so I dug deeper into the thick mud.
The boys knew I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. I told them I was down, feeling sad, for really no reason at all. I reassured them it wasn’t anything they did, it was just my body and brain screwing me over for a few days. They understood, like they always do. And then I worried how this was affecting them. Would all their childhood memories be tainted by a mom who just didn’t have the energy to go to the driving range like we planned? Logically, I know it’s a good thing for me to be honest with them about all this. They are smart and intuitive. I couldn’t hide the depression from them, even if I wanted to. But that still doesn’t stop me from wondering how they will be negatively affected by my episodes. Again, depression takes it all. It takes my logic. It makes me worried about the well being of my own children. Am I passing this on genetically? Am I creating an environment that hinders them more than it helps. Are nature and nurture both against their well-being? When my intelligent reasoning comes back to me, I can see that there are certain factors beyond my control. And I know with the ones I can control, the nurture part, I am doing the best I possibly can with their environment.
With the grace approach to life, comes a great covering over of mistakes or mistaken situations. Even when the chemicals in my brain shift, when I am taken hostage, grace is freedom. When you weave grace into your environment you can’t go wrong with the nurture aspect. My boys are evidence of this. They love me and extend grace to me when depression changes our plans. They know that this is not something to be fixed, nothing is wrong, it’s just a stupid situation to wait out. The sadness is not something to be cured, it’s part of who I am. As Tim always reminds me during these periods, grace is hardest to give to yourself. And it is. Starting over in the middle, not holding past blow ups against myself, that’s hard to do.
This last weekend, Tim and the boys were totally fine with me being this way. We were good. It was me who was having trouble with myself. I felt sludgy, cloudy. I couldn’t enjoy all the things that I normally do. I got irritated with normal everyday occurrences. During these times I spend a lot of time on the couch. So we brought the mattresses down to the living room. We gathered all the blankets and pillows we could find in the house and dumped them onto the mattresses. Tim brought the little t.v. and gaming system and planted them next to the mattresses. The boys thought it was brilliant, so did I. We got up and showered for the couple obligations we had that weekend, but the majority of the weekend was spent covered in cushy, warm blankets together.
Tim is always my voice of reason during these times. When depression sneaks in to steal my clarity, he gives it back. He knows I just have to wait it out. He knows that there isn’t anything that will fix it or solve it. He knows because we’ve tried everything. This was before we were both okay with depression visiting every once in awhile.
And this could be the turning point of the essay where I tell you all the things depression gives back. I could tell you about how it gives you the opportunity for your loved ones to love you and wait it out together. I could tell you how it gives you the opportunity to practice grace within your own heart.
But I don’t want to do that right now.
I’m still on the tail end of this current dark episode. I don’t feel good about it yet. I don’t want to see the bright side of depression because all of it totally blows. I don’t want to have to have honest conversations with my boys about why the chemicals in mom’s brain go wonky sometimes. I don’t want my husband to have to censor his sarcasm because I’m too touchy and peeled open. I don’t want to have to change plans because it’s really hard for me to get off the couch. I don’t want to have to write these stupid words every few months looking for the bright side of living in this deep, dark pit for a few days.
Depression is a subversive thief. I hate it. And I want all my stolen stuff back.