deep down

The Thief

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.


We Already Knew Him

Ten years ago today, Tim and I met our first boy for the first time.  We finally saw Luke face to face, and even though it was the first time we looked into his squinty, swollen eyes, we already knew him.  We didn’t know yet that he would grow up to be a grace-filled, brave, creative, empathetic and goofy boy.  We don’t know what kind of man he’ll end up being, but we knew him back when he was a scrawny, cone-headed newborn.  We know him now and always will.

He’s our first born.  Perfectly Luke.

At two days old, he came home from the hospital to our tiny apartment.  We spent one sleepless night at home before finding a funky looking sore on the thin skin of his shoulder.  Tim called the nurse, who calmly, yet urgently, told us to go into the emergency room.  This initiated the process of the unraveling of our souls.

We packed his tiny body into the car.  When he was awake, he wasn’t fussy at all.  He just looked up at us in the E.R. waiting room, cool cucumber like.  Later we would find out that this was his default for life.  Smooth, just rollin’ through.  Of course, his demeanor changed when the nurses tried unsuccessfully to get an i.v. into his nonexistent veins.  Tim and I watched as he screamed and writhed on the table as nurses tried five times to stick an enormous needle into his back for a spinal tap.  All of those unsuccessful too.

I don’t remember much of the conversations with the doctors.  My brain grew fuzz as hormones and emotions surged.  My body still ached from being in this same hospital days before.  Tim told me later, much later, that he remembers asking the doctor one thing.  “Are we going to lose our boy?”

Tim doesn’t remember much after the doctor replied with a complacent and dull, “I don’t know.”

Shock flooded over us.  I don’t remember them admitting Luke.  I don’t remember how we all got upstairs to the room in the children’s wing where we would live for the next four days.  I don’t remember what the doctors thought Luke had.  What was wrong with our boy?  I do remember they didn’t really know either, or at least they weren’t letting us in on their diagnosis yet.  They spat words like spinal meningitis and unknown infection and samples for the lab.  According to Tim, there was a Seahawk’s playoff game going on throughout our wait in the E.R.  I don’t remember that either.  By the time we got upstairs, the game over and a W in the books.

Luke lay in that starchy hospital crib.  Wires, connecting him to a myriad of monitors, streamed off him in all directions.  A nurse successfully found a vein in his head so the i.v. tube got taped to his scalp, sticking to his fine, black hair.  All I wanted to do was to hold him, but all those tubes and wires felt like walls.

Luke and ITim and LukeTim, Luke and I

Over and over nurses came in to check on him.  All of them commenting on how laid back and chill he was.  Huh, I thought, aren’t all babies like this?  That was just Luke, still is.  Blase, blase.  Looking back, I feel like he was teaching and guiding us.  I feel like if we could have turned our freak outs down, we would have looked into his eyes and known everything was cool.  Of course we now know the splotchy skin thing turned out to be nothing.  I’m not sure if it was a miracle or all the medicine they pumped into his body healed whatever the lab couldn’t even figure out.  Maybe it was health officials just taking necessary precautions with a newborn, or maybe even newborn rash that looked funkier than usual.  We don’t know, never will.  I do know that hindsight gives a fuller picture, but some part of me knows that even if it had turned out to be something serious, Luke would have surfed right through it still.  Teaching us how to be so chill.

Being a new mom, I was so unsure about it all.  How would I bottle up all this love so I could adequately function as an adult, instead of crumpling in a puddle while my insides flung into all parts of the world?  I should have listened to my gut when I saw Luke for the first time.  I should have let that moment bring me through the turmoil in the days to come.  I already knew him, always will, and that’s all I needed to remember when the chaos came.  I just needed to know that sometimes he will be the one to guide me.  I’m not sure how to go with the flow when my world is falling apart.  Luke does.  Even when that huge wave is about to crash down, I get to watch Luke surf it.  It has taken me ten years to realize this lesson.  I still mess it up most of the time.  Sometimes he looks to me to show him the way, but mostly, I just watch him and learn.



Only Our Kid

I didn’t think much of it at first.

Jack pulled a bright green paper out of his school folder and tossed it across the table to me.  “Mom, I want to take this new class.  Can you sign the paper so I can go?”

I read over the information and found out that his teacher was going to offer a class before school for kids who wanted to learn how to type.  Whelp, I thought, he might as well learn now.  That’s a skill he will use for the rest of his life.  Well, until Stephen Hawking gets the patent for a robot who can read your thoughts and record them onto paper.  Until Stephen or somebody else figures that out, typing class it is.

I still didn’t think it was that big of a deal on the Sunday night before the first Monday class started.  I looked over my weekly planner and reminded Jack that he couldn’t diddle around the house tomorrow morning if he wanted to make it to his new class on time.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t as mopey as he normally is when the school week has to start up again after a fun, carefree weekend.  I should have clued into that slightly abnormal behavior, but I still sat in naive oblivion at that point.

When the next morning rolled around, he pretty much snapped his fingers and his chores were done.  And done very well, I might add.  When he bounced happily into the car, I started to get slightly suspicious.  Something strange was going on, but I couldn’t put my finger on it yet.  Monday mornings are especially hard on Jack because he’s a boy after my own hermit heart.  A carefree, lazy weekend is heaven so when an obligatory all day function like school rolls around, normally there are scratches on the kitchen floors from dramatically dragging feet.  Sometimes he leaves a trail of tears on his way out the door too, but that happens only about once a month.  He loves school, but he loves being at home with us even more.

I had to make a special trip to drop him off early since the class started a half an hour before school.  I would circle back and take Luke later.  On the drive there he chatted happily away in the backseat.  Normally he gets more talkative the more excited he is, which is sometimes overwhelming for anyone else in the car.  This morning the chattiness was bearable, actually it was quite enjoyable, since the topic veared away from fifty billion vague minor Star Wars details in each episode.

We both pulled up in the car to the drop off zone so he could easily hop out and zoom over to the school’s front door.  Instead of getting out quickly and slamming the door as I yell, “I LOVE YOU!  HAVE A GOOD DAY!” like we do everyday, he leaned forward and tried to give me a bear hug.  It turned into an awkward sandwich hug with the driver’s seat in between us and Jack’s hands reaching around my neck and strangling me in the sweetest way possible.  It was endearing,  I promise you.  I got to look him in the face and tell him I loved him that morning instead of the normal, slam and me wishing his butt and backpack a good day.  Usually he and Luke walk quickly away from the car, look in the opposite direction, then to each other in confusion, as if they are both wondering who that weird lady is yelling obscene “I love you’s.”

By then I could tell his excitement level was high because he kept eye contact with me even after he shut the car door.  I waved cheerfully as he returned the gesture.  He paused and waved exactly four more times before he passed the car.  I was so shocked by what happened next, I almost rear ended the parent in front of me, also dropping off their kid.  He turned back for the last time, for what I thought was the fifth wave, but instead of waving, he put his grown-up boy hands up to his lips and blew. me. a. kiss.  I am not kidding you.  He did this in public, in front of all his typing friends, on a Monday morning, no less.

And that is when I knew there was no denying it.  This kid was definitely ours.  Only Tim and I could make a kid who would be flipping out over an un-required, extra schooling class that involved learning how to type.  We sure know how to make some pretty sweet nerdy kids.

Update: I went to drop off the boys at school yesterday (the day after Jack’s inaugural class) in my normal morning school run attire, which is whatever I rolled out of bed in plus boots, a hat and my coat.  Yesterday I wore my vintage Sonics t-shirt (no bra) and my pink and black floral pajama pants.  On Tuesdays I normally come in to volunteer in Jack’s class about an hour after school has started to help out with math groups.  On our way out the garage door, Jack stiffened and paused as a horrified look spread over his entire body.

“Mom.  You’re not wearing that when you come into my class are you?”


And that is when I realized the excitement of a new typing class had worn off.  Apparently, he couldn’t appreciate the fact that I had stylishly tucked my pink silky pants into my boots.  That and I tried to save him from embarrassment by zipping up my coat to hide my no-bra status.  Dude, my blue and orange hat matched my coat.  I do have some fashion sense left in me, after all.  Your welcome.

There weren’t any loud displays of affection when both boys hopped out of the car that morning.  I wished their little behinds a good day and an I love you.  Normalcy restored.


Since I had some time before making an appearance in Jack’s class I went home to attempt some self improvement.  I slapped on some make-up and sprayed my hair with shiny spray to make it appear like I actually washed it.  Then I put my fancy Target cardigan over my t-shirt and jeans, because I. am. a. professional.