Depression happens incrementally but noticing it hits like a ton of bricks.
After an extended series of life challenges and emotional upheaval, I quit. For a day at least.
I hadn’t had a decent break in longer than I could remember. And I’m talking getting up by 6 a.m. and to bed around 2 a.m. and running around like a maxi-tasking (the ultimate form of multitasking) madwoman every minute of the day, after day, after day. So I asked my husband on Friday if he would be on single-parent duty Saturday until I got back at some unknown time the next day. He agreed, and I tried to put it out of mind what a nightmare I might come home to by telling myself everyone should at least still be breathing when I’d return on Sunday.
A couple of months ago, I had dared to step out for a yoga class one Sunday afternoon and returned home to a screaming baby, a disastrous mess in the kitchen, a minefield of toys, and my son shivering and blue standing soaked in his clothes while sucking on the garden hose unsupervised in the back yard. To be fair, I had managed to take almost a handful of yoga classes since then, but there’s usually some punishment waiting upon my return.
Last Saturday, I made sure everyone was clean and fed, the house was stocked and spotless, and the baby was in his nap while our 3-year-old was playing happily before getting in my husband’s hunk of junk for a car (leaving him with the good car, of course, since he’d have the kids) and heading west.
Going west is good for the soul.
A friend gave me the key code to her condo in WinterPark, but first I stopped at the Boulder Farmer’s Market to get some wine and devour a smothered tamale. I walked around gloriously aimless and made a few more stops on my way trying to force out the mindset that I had somewhere to be. I had left my watch at home but kept compulsively glancing at the clock on my cell phone. It takes time for anxiety to drain from a body that’s always going and from a mind that remains always vigilant.
I took the scenic canyon instead of the straighter highway to add some experience to my experience and managed to get some calls out of the way as I drove because even as one steps away, the to do list looms.
When I finally settled in at the condo late in the day, it was peaceful and quiet except for the heater I’d cranked high because the soft snowstorm I had driven through made me feel cold in my bones. Or maybe I just feel that way anyway, I thought.
I’ve lost touch of my feelings. I know my body hurts. Every time I find a moment to check in with myself or someone asks me how I am (and truly wants to know), I sense the tears pushing to breach the dam. I secretly fear if they do, they’ll never stop.
But it was time to stop everything at that moment. I curled up on the couch with salad, wine, and chocolate chip cookies and that most special ingredient rarely sprinkled on motherhood: Solitude. Ahh, perfect… Then the tears started nagging again.
Rather than answer their call, I just hung out. I read a magazine, called a friend, took a short walk in cold dark air, and watched mind numbing television. I sat and thought. I tried to sleep in, but the body clock doesn’t perform in an unconditioned manner.
It wasn’t until the drive home that my mind had been freed enough for the realization to come: I am depressed.
I don’t feel enough joy with my children; I don’t believe things can get better. I didn’t know that’s how I felt until I named it. How did I get here?
I recognize the hopelessness from when I had postpartum depression after Elijah was born. But that hadn’t been the case with Raphael, although there was certainly plenty of reason for it with the year we’ve had. I recall how joyous I often felt despite hardship and how capable and alive I’ve been through the many months of medical hell with our tiny boy. Friends have commented on how optimistic I always seemed.
But it’s been awhile for that. I suspect the shift slowly developed sometime this past summer. The word “worn” comes to mind.
It helps just pinpointing that I’m blue. I’m sad that I haven’t been functioning at my best and my condition affects those around me. But I also realize that judging the emotion won’t help change it.
Instead, I’m going to try inviting this sadness in.
I suppose I’m ready. Taking a deep breath… Let’s see what value lurks beneath.