A mental health website asked the question “How do you keep going when despair takes over?” I wanted to participate in the discussion, but I couldn’t think of an answer. I’ve been in self-destruct mode for quite a while, yet every morning I wake up and think “OK, try again, just one more day.”
Then last night, while playing Trivial Pursuit with my husband, I looked up and saw the answer. He was looking at me, and in his eyes I saw a reflection of a tiny spark of light. It finally dawned on me that he sees beyond the miasma of depression, to that small flame that still flickers deep within me. That must be what he holds on to, what helps him to make it one more day with me. And because I can see it in his eyes, even when I think it’s gone out, I can keep going…one more day.
What do you have to be depressed about?
You have a wonderful husband.
My brain doesn’t feel his arms around me.
You live in a nice house.
My brain only see the dust.
You look younger than you really are.
My brain only sees ugliness.
You are so slim.
My brain sees a fat cow.
You have nice clothes.
My brain doesn’t care what I wear.
Why can’t you just smile and think happy thoughts?
Why can’t you hear my brain screaming?
Luxury is unattainable.
I am a child, luxury is a hug from my mother.
I am a young girl, luxury is a Barbie Dreamhouse.
I am a teenager, luxury is acceptance.
I am a college student, luxury is self-respect.
I am a young mother, luxury is a loving partner.
I am a survivor of domestic violence, luxury is freedom from fear.
I am a person with mental illness, luxury is sanity.
I am a woman, luxury is self-love.
via Daily Prompt: Luxury
During the few times I allowed myself to think of a future as a parent, I never imagined that imparting wisdom derived from my experiences would include how to survive abuse. Nor did I picture myself and my future child having discussions about psychiatric medications.
My mother taught me how to sew intricate Vogue patterns, and then accessorize my outfits with the right shoes and jewelry. She instilled in me the importance of a Chanel black dress, and the need for it to be worn on the perfect body. In addition to an appreciation of the fine arts, I learned the appreciation of fine dining. But all her wisdom was not superficial, I went with her to meetings of the League of Women Voters and Another Mother for Peace.
Not once did we discuss how to cope with mental illness, either my own or that of others. She did not tell me that I was entitled to be treated with respect, nor did she instill in my psyche the importance of “No.” We talked about medicines for birth control, acne, and cramps. Frightening side effects of psychotropics were never brought up, I don’t even think there was a need for this sort of discussion at that time.
I had no idea parenting could be both heartbreaking and heart-enriching. Visiting my child in a psychiatric ward or talking about how to deal with a narcissist were not in any book on parenting. Yet here I am, about thirty years into this adventure, finding myself grateful that none of that came up during my upbringing. Would I have been scared off? Might I have chosen not to have children? I’d like to think that I would have been brave and willing to take on the challenge; but even though I wouldn’t give back my daughters, I’m not really sure I would have been strong enough to say “Yes, that’s something I’m sure I could handle.”
Almost 20 years ago, I filled a few suitcases full of my daughters’ clothes and comfort items – toys, blankets, etc. Threw a few of my own essentials into a bag, and escaped to safety. Once the dust settled, memories of baby books and other special items would fill my heart with sadness. I would find myself thinking “Where did I put that?” then remember that I would never again have what I was looking for. A program about a family that had lost everything in a fire gave me an idea for how to deal with my missing treasures. “It was lost in the fire,” became my coping metaphor. And of course, my children and I were safe. That was, by far, of utmost importance.
Then the most ridiculous thing happened, I thought of my beautiful Kelly green grosgrain pumps that had a bow on the heel. My heart broke and I began to cry. “Are you kidding me?” my brain screamed at me. For days I lamented those shoes, not the Steiff bear, not the girls’ pictures, not my books, or anything else of sentimental value. Those damn shoes haunted me. The reasoning behind this never did become clear, but I can only imagine that it was easier for me to deal with a silly pair of shoes instead of the heartache of leaving behind important mementos.
The Things We Leave Behind