This post is dedicated to my editor, Holly, who tells me to write from where I am, not where I want to be.
It seems as though whenever I do that–write from where I am–you guys appreciate the honesty because either you are being pulled to the big Black Hole of Depression yourself or maybe it helps to know that other people who work and raise kids and look normal are so very fragile if you take a closer look.
Here’s a glimpse inside my neurotic head yesterday.
7:00 a.m. Explained to my husband that for the last eight weeks I have off and on been fighting the death thoughts–that I want so badly to be on the other side–from the first moment I get up. Sometimes they continue throughout my day no matter what I do … during my runs, at work, and especially when I’m with the kids. He looks confused because he has only seen me cry a few times. I tell him that’s because I’m much better at acting than I was four years ago, when I had my mega-breakdown. In fact, I can smile and want to die at the same time. I can fool practically anyone into thinking that my brain is filled with normal thoughts … if the kids are done with their homework, if soccer practice is today, and if one or both wear their gym uniforms tomorrow … all the while I’m praying to God to take me. “Please, take me! I promise I’ll do a good job from heaven,” I say. “I will be like St. Therese and send everyone roses.” I further confess to my husband that I don’t want to burden him. He is already stressed out with the kids. The last thing I want to do is make his load heavier.
10:00 a.m. A half-hour reprieve from the death thoughts after running seven miles. This is by far the best time of my day, the hour after I exercise. And this is why I am addicted to my workouts. Sometimes I don’t think about death once because of the mood boost from getting my heart rate up. If only it could stay throughout the day.
1:00 p.m. I take the kids to a pumpkin patch. They pick out two humongous pumpkins and paint them and I’m thinking to myself, “This is a happy moment. Enjoy it.” But as soon as I try, I hear all the voices listing all the reasons why I am so pathetic. I attempt to untwist and adjust the cognitive distortions. I take on one distortion at time. I try to “examine the evidence.” I come up with reasons to prove the contrary. Then I try mindfulness. “This thought is not a fact. The thought doesn’t mean anything. It’s not permanent. Let it go. It is transient.” I take one moment at a time. “Don’t worry about anything but this moment,” I tell myself. But the nausea comes back when I start believing all the reasons why I am so pathetic, why I can’t take the kids to the pumpkin patch without thinking about death and wanting it to be over, why I can’t enjoy this bloody moment. I start yelling to God, “Get me out of this head! Take this head off of me like David does to Katherine’s Barbies! Get me a different one.” I tear up, almost crying.
But then I spot a fellow mom and know I have to pull it together. I can’t unravel. She is a cardiologist, she is successful, she is in shape, and she is taking the day off to be with her twin daughters. She is the picture of how I want to appear to people. She asks me how I am and I say “good, really good,” and she believes me. I almost believe me. But then I think about the pumpkin patch four years ago, when I boarded the tractor with my kids for a hayride and couldn’t stop thinking about the hay … if pieced together it would be strong enough … like rope.
I’m not there, I argue with myself. I’m not that bad again.
It only feels like it, I tell myself. I have made considerable progress since those days.
Or have I?
God, it all feels the same. I don’t think I feel a god damn difference in this moment.
I almost start to cry, but I am able to hold it back. Concentrate on your kids. Just concentrate. All you have to do is this moment right before. Concentrate on this moment.
And so I do. I concentrate on the moment before me.
Until I can shut my eyes and stop trying so hard.