I have hemmed and hawed at writing about the past few weeks. I guess it just feels so close and so personal. I know that is strange coming from me. I have bared my soul here in the past years. Nothing was off-limits. Why this? Life is complicated when it comes to my mother. Always has been. I think myself and all my siblings understand clearly she is a product of her upbringing and the subsequent years of life in survival mode. She did what she had to to get out and to get away from that small coal town in Penn. She ran till she got to NY. As each of us can attest we have seen an anger in her that never seems to die. It simmers there just under the surface just waiting for some event or perceived slight to unleash it. Though that never seems to extinguish it, not in the least. Most people get angry, snap or yell. Fight or flee and the anger subsides. In the process of reacting our anger diminishes as it is released. Molecules evaporated off the boiling liquid and we are less angry. It never seems the case with mom. There is always something else to be angry about. Yet another item slides into the place of the one she had just become angry about. And so this goes. Life exists sliding between poles. Cool and distant, almost hermit like until yet again conflict erupts beneath a shower of rage. It doesn’t always have to be an all out eruption. Those are easiest to deal with. It is the insidious quiet conflicts that tear the family apart. The endless need to create problems. To push people away and turn them against their loved ones. I don’t know if it is jealousy or contempt but often it is those that marry into our family that get the worst of it. They are the ones subjected to endless criticism and biting comments. They get driven out, weakest in the herd. The decision made they don’t belong. And the pattern repeats. Sadly, I am not sure she even sees that she is doing this. Each of us pull away and keep our families at the perimeter for fear we will get lost in the imbroglio. I don’t blame any of us. We do it without thought or awareness anymore. We know and are conditioned to understand the cost of venturing in. and so she is alone. Lonely and sad. For that I feel terrible. I wish we could tolerate the maelstrom and live within those quarters but the risk is too great. I do not want to lose my partner just as my siblings do not want to lose theirs. and so the dance goes on. We come together for dinners, holidays, or short days spent together before we once again run for the hills. I understand that. It doesn’t work anymore. She needs us now. We have to be there for her in a way we have not ever needed to be. How do we navigate within that perimeter without losing ourselves? our lives? our loved ones? How do we create boundaries when they don’t exist for one half of the equation? To mom boundaries = rejection. They are never about creating a healthy relationship. She does not understand their place and how critical they are to keep everyone okay. Without them anything is fair game, even preying on those she dislikes. As she has gotten older it seems this habit has gotten worse. She is willing and apt to say almost anything even if it causes those near her to cringe. I can only hope she doesn’t speak of me or my partner that way when we are not the ones present. It seems the edit button function fails with age. As I sit and listen I repeatedly stop her. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care nor do I see the point. Why bitch and carry on about someone? Why expend the energy, never mind I can’t understand the hate and disdain. I don’t know where the hate comes from, or why it breeds so readily somewhere within her. I do not understand. I just want to live my life and hold on to my partner. She means the world to me yet I understand I must also care for my mother as she ages. This incident was a wake up call to all of us. It won’t be long. For now I know my life must begin to integrate her into it. Not just from the perimeter on occasion, but within that mine field. There is no option now. The avoidance and distance I have employed for years in an attempt to protect myself just doesn’t work now. I can only hope I am stronger than I once was and that I can handle the anger and the hate with patience and kindness. Sadly I doubt my ability to do so. I doubt my capacity to engage with her for any length of time. I can only hope each of my siblings can carry their weight and that we can each take turns in the mine field.
I hate that I wrote this. It feels dirty and unkind. It bristles because it is the truth. The unspoken truth about living with my mother.
I read this after seeing the link somewhere in my FB feed. It was a mix of hysterical laughter and thoughtful moments. In all my years I have read just about everything published about depression. From the depths of Stryon’s soul to the searing words of Woolf & Plath and everything in between. I have taken my search seriously and found comfort in re tracing others tracks down the very same path. Usually in far more poignant and eloquent words than I could ever find to assign to my existence. In the most bizzare of Plath poems I could finds pieces that resonanted with me. Within the deepest darkest moments I could drift within Dante’s Inferno to find respite from mine. It was such an escape for me. I have always found books and poetry as a way to run away from reality. Even as a youngster. Books have been my salvation in many ways. As I read this blog, one I had never seen before, it hit so close to home. I truly found myself captivated. I loved the raw straight up honest voice. The illustrations just capped it off. One of the hardest parts of depression is the apathy. People talk about not giving a shit about hating their lives. Talk about the mundanity of life. This is different, completely different. This is the complete utter emptiness that encompasses all life. I felt this blog did such a great job, and in part 1 it talks about the hatred, self hatred that spirals from the get go.
Depression is such a insidous silent awful disease. It is beyond a disease- it is an existence. A ways of being.
(unedited) It is strange being on the outside looking in at something I have spent so much of my life grappling with. When someone says “I don’t want to be here” it resonates for clearly within me, whether suicidal in that moment or not. sadly this dog salivates at that bell. every time. Life hasn’t been great around here. Stress looms and life soars out beyond my control as it often does. Her words ricocheted around my skull. I felt my pulse race off. “ok, then we need to get your meds sorted out”. this calm voice, so very far from the emotional roiling going on within me. “maybe the hospital would be a good spot to do that”. That sent her off. I backed off. went back to the meds. “We’ll sort it out. I promise” I felt I could reassure her. That calm quiet confident voice told her that. Within I envisioned her death, her funeral her end. All while I quietly tried to give her some sense of calm. I saw myself on Virgil’s couch decimated by her ending. Whether natural or not. I saw the reality that she will be gone, just as my father will be. I’ll be alone.
I watched as she walked away. I felt so shaken and anxious. I have seen her like this before and my rational side tells me she isn’t going anywhere. That her thoughts are passive and she isn’t planning. She is okay for today. But am I right? What if I am wrong? I started making phone calls, sending emails. May? what? your first available appointment is May of next year? 6 months from now? I think my jaw hit the counter. I hung up. paced the kitchen. tried to salvage what was left of my rationality in that moment. I walked to the barn and tried to act like the world was normal. That my mother didn’t want to be dead. That the day was like all the others. no better, no worse. I held on for a bit but made a fast retreat for the house. I could not keep myself together. So very much was moving within me. My body ached from the long 14 miles I pushed it into yesterday and a run today was out of the question. I knew it was too stupid to try. I went for the hot bath and a good book. I climbed out of my skull and into the courtroom of Grisham;s creation. Thankful for that. Sadly the world crashed back the moment I walked out the bathroom door. Restless and uneasy I find myself writing because I don’t know what else to do.
I know what it feels like when your meds are all fucked up and your head is a wreck. I know the feeling of physical illness as your body craves a drug it doesn’t have. I fully know that feeling yet there is nothing I can do to fix it. I wish I could reach within her head and shuffle around the serotonin and dopamine. Stop her shakes and anxiety. To allow her to feel better and not so hopeless. Yet part of me understands her desire to walk away. I guess I am far from well.
-unedited- I thought I’d be thrilled with the okay to go off depakote. I really did. Part of me is but part of me can’t help but get anxious and worried. This is what I want. Truly. and have wanted for a long while now. I cannot wrap my head around all that has transpired since the initial discussions to try this route. It has not been a good 7 months. not because I have been depressed, that isn’t it. It is because I have felt so lost and out of control. Whether it be when I get on the scale or when I stand in front of my medicine cabinet. I guess my views are distorted and I see it so very differently than Virgil. The session that I felt so horrified and coerced by seems barely the blip on the radar. I don’t think she remembers it as I do. Not sure she understands how deeply hurt I was by that and how terrified it has kept me for the past months. I wanted nothing more than to return to her and once again speak my mind and refuse the depakote. But what I saw and heard is probably very different from what actually happened. I was indeed very fucked up on the heels of this last hospital visit. Every possible trigger had fired off and every possible button had been pushed. It was a given I walked away as I did. I was angry and upset. Anxious and fearful. It was a perfect environment to have a session come undone. Maybe none of it was said. For all I know it is all in my head, but whatever the case all I walked away with was the imminent threat. It is what I heard. It was take the drugs or you will get sick and you’ll get 2PC’d and it will be a mess. I know in my heart that there is truth in some of that. I cannot just walk away from my handfuls of pills. I know to be non compliant would be a disaster even if it seems very tempting at times. I understand I need these medications. I stand behind my feeling that this was a cross roads for me. There will always be a cost now, as there has always been but the stakes are higher and the drugs seem far worse. We have reached the deep end of the pool and there is no amount of bargaining I can do in my head to convince myself otherwise. This is no kiddy pool, there is no prozac here. We have moved far beyond. When I recoil in my mind as it flashes images of the stereotypical lifer mental patient worn by too may years of hard core drugs and even harder core episodes I want to run. I want to get as far from that medical cabinet as possible. I want to make believe this isn’t my life and this isn’t happening to me. “Your not that sick”, or “you won’t be 200lbs” just don’t stick in the face of the panic I feel. Those are the moments I wish I had never seen all I have seen. If only I didn’t know what sick looked like, or what chronic mental illness can do to a person’s mind and body. To have a firm grasp that what keeps us “stable” is also destroying us from the inside out. There is the trade off. The bargain. Do you accept it in the pursuit of stability in hopes of less episodes, and less hospital visits and keeping yourself alive all the while loathing what you have become. What is okay? acceptable? what is too much? I have no idea where that line is. I know that what depakote did was too much for me. I could not handle it and could not stomach the continued change in my body but did I give up on stability? I won’t know that least not for a while. I can’t just shut up and be happy, no. I have to worry and dread. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Dante
A quote that has stuck to me much these past days, and it seems fitting since I can’t seem to shake the worst that life has had to offer even in the face of such kindness and compassion.
Virgil, you do not deserve my doubt nor my fear. I can only hope it does not drive a wedge between us as I struggle to come to terms with my vulnerability and confusion in the midst of a mine field of triggers, both real and imagined. My gratitude is vast for you have given me the ability to see them and express myself for there was once a time when mute silence was all I could summon in the face of such suffering. There is some hope as now I can put words and feelings together and piece together a mosaic of pieces, strange and sharp as they may be. For that I am blessed and thankful.