stranger in my home

woman in mirror
János Vaszary via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a stranger living in my bathroom. She’s there when I get out of the shower every morning. Her furtive glances catch my eye, but I quickly look away. I don’t like the array of emotions I see play across her face. This is not a woman I know, not the woman I expect to see.

She’s disappointed with the body she sees. She doesn’t mind the gray hair, the sunspots on the once pretty face, the softening of the jawline. But that body, how did that happen?

I try so hard not to look directly in her tear-filled eyes, for I will feel helpless. I see sadness, heartache, loneliness. But it’s not what you think, because I’m certain there are people who love her.  But I am not one of them. I have no idea how to give her the acceptance and love she needs to heal.

I’ve got you

dark forest
Photo by Maria Boesiger

This one warrants a trigger warning for survived suicide attempt.

After over twenty years of fighting my demons, I had enough. My depression had become treatment-resistant, and bipolar depression is the absolute worst form of this insidious black fog. My brain didn’t care that I had a loving husband and family, that I was finally financially secure, that the stressors in my life had been reduced to a minimum.

I can’t really remember the chain of events, other than the fact that my husband was washing the dishes after dinner, and I walked into the kitchen behind him, grabbed my bottle of Klonopin and my container of blades that I use to slash bread before baking, and walked out the door without him knowing. It was October, it was cold and damp from a recent rain, I was wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants, and I was barefoot. This plan had been brewing in my head for days, I knew exactly how this would work, and I strode out of the house quickly without making a noise. The tears were pouring down my face, the only light outside in rural southern Ohio was the moon, and my brain was on autopilot towards the final destination of peace and quiet…forever. Past the garden, the skeletons of the long-dead corn stalks and tomato cages seemingly pointing the way, straight into the woods. The ground was cold and wet, covered in leaves, the pain of the sticks barely registered. But then I stepped on something sharp and looked down. The moon illuminated the broken bones of some long-dead animal. I could go no further. Pills in one hand, blades in the other, I stood there staring at those bones, wondering if that’s what the searchers would eventually find. The miasma of the insidious beast gripping my brain muted the sounds of gut-wrenching sobs; I didn’t even realize they were coming from me. I have no idea how long I stood there, feeling the black fog enveloping me, not hearing my husband’s voice calling my name. Then his arms were tight around me. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’m not letting go.” Oh I begged him to let go; I was so tired of fighting. But he kept saying the same thing over and over in a very quiet voice while he took the instruments of destruction out of my hands, slowly turned me around and guided me back to the house, blazing with lights. He sat me down on the side of the bed, washed the dirt and leaves from the woods off of my feet with a warm washcloth, and lay down beside me with his arms wrapped tight around my shivering body. “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I won’t let go.” I fell asleep to that loving lullaby, and in the morning I started all over, one step a time, fighting away the demons once again.

Those three words, “I’ve got you,” did more for me than “I love you,” “It’s okay,” “Everything will be fine.” That was about five years ago. I still struggle, I still think about disappearing every day, but I don’t…I keep fighting.

tired

person walking on road between trees
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

they must be tired of this
but they won’t let me go
they don’t feel the inky fog
enveloping me deep into my bones
they can’t feel the ache of exhaustion
in every fiber of my being
they don’t see the loop of film noir
unceasingly invading my brain
they don’t hear the invectives
reminding me of why
I need to go
disappear
run away
vanish
sleep with no dreams
and no awakening

but they won’t let me go

kneading away depression

Bread is loveI’ve been baking bread for about 20 years, and have found that the thing I love most about it (besides eating!) is giving it way. Being a perfectionist, I would immediately toss out anything that didn’t meet my standards when I first began learning. A friend of mine saw this and was horrified, telling me there were missionaries living in my apartment complex that would love to have homemade bread. The look of joy on the face of the young man when I handed him what I felt was an inferior batch of English muffins, hooked me on spreading yeasty love.

 

bread
Greg’s Everything French Bread

Fast-forward 10 years when I first met my husband. He was making sandwiches for a picnic we were going on and pulled out a loaf of Walmart “Everything French Bread” (at least it wasn’t Wonder Bread!). Not wanting to offend, I kept my opinion of his bread to myself and decided to surprise him the following week with something a little better. I devised a recipe where I added minced onion to the dough, and sprinkled the top with sesame seeds and poppy seeds, about three years later I moved in…coincidence?

 

bread labelAbout a month ago, I came across a woman on Instagram who made gift bags full of wonderful things she made which she sent to people who were struggling with mental illness. I watched her push through a particularly bad episode of depression by staying on task with making her beautiful ceramic dishes and sending out her gift bags. Depression had a hold on me at the same time, and I hadn’t baked any bread for months. Unfortunately bread baking is the first thing I stopped doing whenever my depression would envelop me. I started thinking about my friends who have received my bread in the past and how pleased they were (one friend called me the Bread Fairy because I would just pop by with a fresh loaf of bread). Often friends would ask if they could buy a loaf, and I won’t take money but I ask them to simply do something nice for someone else. I put a post on Facebook, naming my project Knead Through Depression, and told any locals that if they wanted bread to message me with what they wanted. The response was wonderful, and my depression was slightly lifted with each loaf I delivered.

My depression is still dragging on me, but I try to make time each week to bake a few loaves of bread…this week I need to replenish my husband’s bread.

If you’re interested, I have a page with pictures of bread I’ve baked and resources I use.

Isn’t it obvious?

staringWhy can’t you tell that I’m lying?

Why can’t you hear it in my voice?

Don’t you hear the halting speech, the pauses…searching for the right word to convey the illusion of sanity?

Why can’t you see it in my eyes?

Don’t you notice that they rarely look at you while I speak? They dart around the room, looking for an anchor.

Why can’t you see my trembling hands?

Don’t you see them shredding the tissue in my lap? Flittering around, trying to convey something I can’t express in words.

How can you sit there and say “I’m pleased to see that you seem like you’re doing well.”

And why do I hide it from you?

Why do I go from “I’m struggling, I need help” to “Oh yes, I’m fine and don’t need another appointment right now” by the end of the session?