Monday, August 26, 2013

Life in Chaos: Depression's Ugly, Insidious Tentacles

This is a melancholy day for me.
            My youngest, and last child begins his freshman year of college today. He transferred his residence from our home to a little dorm room—16 miles away. (Actually, I saw it yesterday, and it's not so little. He's definitely got it better than I did my freshman year!)
            I know, I know! You’re thinking, or muttering under your breath, “Gee, Andrea, what’s the big deal. Stop whining. He’s practically still living in your backyard. Get over it! He’ll be home for all of those holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. And then there’s spring and summer vacations.”
            But it’s a BIG deal for me. For most mothers, I think. My husband’s excited about this empty-nester thing, and I’m looking forward to being alone with him again, too. It’s almost like getting a chance to “start over.” But this transition is going to be harder on me than him.
            We had a Bar Barakah ceremony, a “Christian Bar Mitzvah” for our son when he turned 13, recognizing his transition into the male community and exiting the female, or motherly one. So, technically I’ve been preparing my heart for this for the last five years.
            But you know how it is when you’ve lost one; you tend to love a little harder, hang on a little tighter. I homeschooled him until he was 15. That transition was tough enough. This next transition for him also means a HUGE transition for me. Life will never again be the same: the daily blast through the front door after school, the impromptu discussions about his current weight lifting program, (I hold a Master of Science degree in a sports medicine field, so I helped him put together his program, and reminisce with him about my old body building days), laughing about the dogs’ and cat’s antics, big wave surfing in Hawaii (or anywhere), new trivia learned about science or history, discussing Scripture passages, or, just simply talking.
            This day—actually last Thursday—begins a new season in my life too. I’m not sure I’m ready for it. But I guess I don’t have much choice. I want to do this well, so I better pull myself together.
            Because the ground beneath me seems to be shifting, I’ll need to stay extra close to the Rock.
            I think I’ll be spending a lot more time on my knees…

Thanks for indulging my sniffling. Let the story continue…

            My emotions remained frighteningly unpredictable. So did my reactions to people’s comments.
            In weak moments the pain left me shattered, angered. In strong, resilient moments, their foolish words roused deep compassion in me. Forgiveness swamped my heart. Sometimes, when I looked honestly at myself, I found I was deliberately unwilling to move beyond the grief, choosing to dwell on my anxiety and bitterness. Envy ignited my soul’s recesses and lay there, content to smolder. Unconsciously, I may have enjoyed the attention I received, averse to anyone dismissing my suffering.
            Sometimes pain makes you very self-absorbed.

            At times I felt as if I were bouncing out-of-control on an eternal trampoline, only to have the thing jerked away during a mid-air maneuver, leaving me to crash to the concrete floor below. I was in consummate control one day then thrashing wildly in emotional quicksand the next. Sometimes I thought it easier to stop fighting and let the quicksand slowly, resolutely slip quietly over my head, allowing me to drown in silence. But just as it threatened to envelop me, I’d gain resolve to fight on and claw my way to the top for air.
            Being a trained competitor, fight on I did—by side stepping my emotional pain: returning to school in the summer and resuming my former work schedule after the standard six-week recovery hiatus.
            Then I experienced a psychological setback. Somehow my beloved cat, Pumpkin, who Chris and I—pre-marriage—had rescued as a kitten eleven years earlier, managed to slink, unseen, through an open door. Chris kept reassuring me he’d be back, but I knew he wouldn’t. I’d heard the all-too-familiar, eerie, piercing wails of a coyote pack hunting that night near our house. I knew Pumpkin wasn’t coming home. Ever.
            He didn’t. And for the first time in weeks, Chris wrapped me in his arms and held me firmly, lovingly, while my body convulsed and tears spilled.
            Pumpkin had been such an important part of our lives, our memories, both pre and post marriage. He’d been my faithful companion during my confinement to bed with severe morning sickness, making periodic nose-to-nose checks, sleeping curled—for hours—in the crook of my arm or warming my oxygen-starved feet. He’d followed me around the house, talking, rubbing figure eights around my ankles.
            When I arrived home from the hospital following Victoria’s death, he galloped up the driveway, barraging me with rapid-fire cat chatter before plastering cat smooches and rough licks on my head and cheeks. For weeks he languished in my arms all day and all night, heaving big sighs, acting as though my being home meant all was now all right with the world again.
            The last time I saw him he was perched in our kitchen, winking at me, inspecting my bustling movements as I prepared to feed the family then rush out the door to class. I made a mental note to stop and give him a head pat or chin scratch. But I didn’t. I was late. I told myself I’d be able to give that scratch later, when I got home.
            But later never came. Now he was gone, and my fragile mind and heart couldn’t sustain the blow. Unanticipated collapses into hysterical sobbing wasted me physically and emotionally.
            I was self-destructing. My healing progressed backwards rather than forwards.
            And I was having tremendous difficulty with God’s timing.


NEXT WEEK: Depression wins, and I make the decision to abandon my career…

Until next week.

Thanks for joining me!



PS I confirmed yesterday that their child moving out and moving on IS a BIG deal for mothers. I saw one come out of son's dorm, in which she had just moved her daughter. She couldn't control her tears as she walked down the steps; she kept turning around, giving the Corinthian-columned dormitory building melancholy, longing look. Her husband smiled as he wrapped his arm around her and gave her a forehead kiss. She wiped her eyes, folded her arms and shook her head. Ah, the depth of a mother's heart. Who can truly appreciate what transpires in its recesses? Except another mother...