Tag Archiv: depression

Together on the wide, wide sea

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Boy one came home unusually chipper the other day. He had happened across someone who compulsively turned open padlocks backwards and set closed locks to zero when passing lockers. Together they had raced the halls in a mad attempt to set every lock in the school to zero. Although he spent a great deal of time bemoaning the hallway they had failed to finish, the first words out of his mouth were, “Mom, I actually met someone like me. I’m not the only one.”

I was once a woman in her early twenties, at least battling depression. Post traumatic stress syndrome would have fit too. I was haunted by nightmares that paralyzed me, drained me of energy, and left me unsettled for days. Being objective about my emotions was an idea I could grasp but not put into practice most of the time. I tried to rise above my troubles, but my downfall appeared inevitable. I felt confused, hopeless and desperately alone.

I didn’t know anyone, including myself, comfortable with mental health issues, or knowledgeable about the need for help and where to get it. I sought advice, but for years did not find anyone who understood. I remember an older woman I spoke with. That she was a woman with a lifetime of fragile mental health was unknown to me. She was respected and admired. She was old and not dead yet. That was put together in my books.

I was in the habit of testing people on small doses of me, so I poured out enough troubles to relieve the pressure. I remember at first, I was irritated, wondering if she’d even heard me. ┬áBut what seemed at first a non sequitur, made a lot of sense.

“You know those stairs down the hall?” She had a bit of a southern accent. “When I stand at the top and look down, I know I’m going to fall. They’re so steep I don’t even like to think about it. Every time I can hardly move because I know am going to fall. But I stand at the top, grab the railing tight and step one stair at a time, two feet on every one. Takes me forever, but I get down. And I haven’t fallen yet.”

Lately, sadness and loneliness have sat their ample bottoms down on my chest and refused to move. Life goes on, but they are heavy and quitting tempts. Monday, I remembered the railing, two feet on every stair until I get to the bottom. Which reminded me that we are never alone. A long time ago, someone who didn’t know me or understand me, possibly accidentally, gave me really good advice. My stairs were different, but we were both afraid of going where we had to and it helped.

I picture her stairs and think. We are inadequate answers to each other’s questions, and insufficient medicine for each other’s pain. Yet out of the immense alone, what cannot be, is. In darkness for tiny seconds, we find each other’s arms and we are known. You too? Yes, me too. From imperfect and impossible rises us. We glimpse our belonging and for that moment, heaven.

Night sky

I like the idea of reaching for something beautiful like the stars, but it takes work to keep my eye on something so far away. When not overcome with passionate optimism, I am a person given to weary sadness. Sometimes it translates as hopelessness, sometimes as an inability to forgive the inordinate number of trespasses from those who surround me, and sometimes as  kind of general malaise. During the impassioned phase, it is not difficult to look up.

I am not in that phase at the moment. I am in the phase where my Pollyanna self would be shot on sight. It is called highly critical, general malaise mode. Inside that place, it is very difficult to look up. Ironically, when I could most use a steady gaze on something higher, my neck prefers to stretch sideways to inspect the shortcomings of my fellow travellers.

In nature, my children, unexpected things, I am sometimes given the needed adjustment for my view finder. When those fail, I flounder. More often than you would think, Mrs. Auchter comes to mind. When I knew her, she was in her eighties, blind and living alone. She had three people in her weekly life, Alice, who did her hair, Marion Fisher who got her groceries, and me.

I thought she had good reasons to be depressed, bitter, and resentful. But if she was these things, I couldn’t see them through her delight at seeing me every Sunday afternoon. She saved up all kinds of things to tell and show my high school self. A piece from Mozart played properly. Warnings from the radio about drugs. The state of her toenails. The good work of prunes. I picture her curly white head with marks from where she slept, her hunched up shoulders, the thick glasses she couldn’t see out of, covered in finger prints.

Recently I read about Josephine Bakhita. She was a very poorly treated slave for many years. Her enslavement was eventually pronounced illegal by the French courts of the day. No longer a slave, Josephine chose to live at a convent. She was assigned as doorkeeper and subsequently was familiar with the local people. She became beloved and very well known for her kindness and generosity of spirit. Literally thousands came to her funeral.

I need to know how this woman was dealt such an ugly hand and ended up a dealer in tender humanity. I have never been a slave, and I think what I do is at least as pleasant an occupation as doorkeeper. I notice the cupboard doors left open, the shoes kicked across the floor, and the dirty Tupperware from the lunches not returned and I am not a happy camper. Josephine Bakhita puts a serious wrench in my ideas about payback for such indignities.

But maybe she is giving me something better to aim for. Something to keep my head up looking at the stars.