Sunday, April 26, 2015 is good... is good. 

It’s been a rough week, but life is still good.  We have had sickness making the rounds of our family.  Little guy started the festivities with strep throat, daughter brewed a lovely sinus infection, and oldest son got the stomach bug rolling (literally).  The little guy then celebrated his recovery from strep throat by topping it off with a case of what he (far too gleefully) refers to as the “puke-ups.” 

When I took my daughter to the doctor for her sinus infection, I decided to get checked too; since, along with a cold, I had been increasingly short of breath for a few days and could hardly speak without coughing.  The doctor listened to my lungs and informed me that I didn’t have much wheezing because my lungs were not moving air extremely well...I didn’t think to ask if it was bronchitis or the beginning of pneumonia, or what...but whatever it is, I have medicine now and have to say it is awesome to be able to do steps without getting short of breath.  Boys are slowly recovering, daughter is feeling better.  Hubby is hoping to get out of this without any of our germs, but I am guessing he may be in for at least one of our sicknesses before it is all said and done. 

Hubby had a recheck of his eyes from six months ago when he suffered a stroke in the right eye.  The report from the eye doctor was good.  He has not regained any of the lost vision, but the eye itself looks good for what it has been through.  The swelling is down and nothing has gotten worse.  There is still a risk of the same thing happening in the other eye, but he is controlling the factors within his control.

I began writing about depression for two reasons--the first was that it was therapeutic to get it on paper in black and white, and articulate some of the turmoil I was unable to find words for.  There is still pain that no words will ever be adequate for.  The second reason was to give hope to others who may identify with some of my experiences--there is hope, even in what seems to be utter darkness; and time and modern medicine can help a lot.  If I could offer hope to someone else, I wanted to do so.

Now I have reached a point where I am ready to bring these journalings to a close, at least for the time being.  I still struggle, and I probably always will...although I am in a much better place than I have been in the past. 

I do not want this journey to define me, or to become my life work.  Life is so much more than battling through depression.  I have my struggles, but so do we all.  It colors my life and becomes the prism through which I see all aspects of life.  But the colors of life, to me, have been made more beautiful by this prism of pain.  As I have said before, can we ever fully appreciate the sunlight when we have not known the depths of darkness?  While anxiety and depression can make the normal things of life take great effort, it also gives an appreciation for each new day and each accomplishment that I have striven for. 

“Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.” 
    --Cary Elwes, as Westley in the Princess Bride

Life is pain, but it is also full of joy.  Life for me is being a wife, a mom, a productive member of organizations in my community, and a host of other things.  Depression has changed my life, but ultimately has made of me a stronger person.  I strive to do the best I can, and to suffer trials with the “valorous patience” as described in Amy Carmichael’s book.  That is the best I can do; and He who knows my mind and heart knows my strengths and my weaknesses too.  He “remembers that I am dust,” and when I need Him, He is always there.  He has never failed me yet.

I am very grateful to all the people who have encouraged me along the way.  I would love to recognize all of you who have offered kind words and encouragement, but I will not do that publicly on this forum.  Some of you who have followed this blog have shared your struggles with me in confidence, and I want to respect that.  Please know I am honored that you trusted me with your pain.  Some of you have not known the pain I described here, but still assured me of your love and support.  That too meant so very much.  I am blessed with wonderful family and friends and I am so thankful.

-princess brier rose

 I love music and throughout my blog I have added links to songs that spoke to my heart through the pain and brought me joy.  Below is one last link, to the song "Wonderful Story of Love."  Simple and acapella, one of my favorite forms of music.  My story is most of all, not my story, but part of the wonderful story of His love for me.  If you take nothing else away from this story, I hope you heard that part.  

...God be with you till we meet again...


Wonderful Story of Love 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

...some thoughts on autism...

I have been reading various resources on autism/Aspergers Syndrome to educate myself on the diagnosis, learn effective techniques in handling my little guy’s problem behaviors, and to find out what groundwork I can lay now that will help him out later as he moves into his teenage and adult years.  One of the most helpful authors I have found so far has been Dr. Temple Grandin.  (See link to her website at the end of this post.)

Dr. Grandin has autism but has been able to learn to function in the neurotypical world.  She has excelled in her chosen field as an animal behavior specialist.  She also has devoted much time and energy to educating herself and the rest of the world about autism.  In her books, she shares her experiences with autism from childhood on.  Because she has an inside perspective, she can offer very helpful information--both to understand autism and also the techniques used that made her the successful adult she is today even with tremendous challenges in her life.  She is in her 60's (born in 1947) so her books are the accumulation of years of hard work to become a functional person in society.  For those with children or other family and friends with autism, I am guessing you have heard of her--but if not, I would highly, highly recommend her books.

As I read her books and she describes the way the autistic mind works (it is a spectrum, so there are many differences in people who may each fall on the spectrum) I have noted that, while I am not positive I would fall on the spectrum were I to be tested (and if so I would most definitely be an "Aspie" --the higher functioning person with what used to be diagnosed as Aspergers rather than classic autism) I see many similarities to the way my mind works and her description of the workings of an autistic mind, particularly those who are visual thinkers.  (Interestingly enough, she also notes that visual thinkers on the spectrum tend to be very good at drawing--my absolute favorite pastime as a child, sometimes almost to the point of an obsession--and visual thinkers also tend to be prone to crippling anxiety and depression.)

The most recent book I read was Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships by Dr. Grandin and Sean Barron.  Sean Barron has autism but has overcome many difficulties of his autism to function successfully as an adult in society, working as a journalist.  This book has information for neurotypicals who have interactions and/or caregiving responsibility as a window into how those with autism see social situations, and also could be helpful as a guideline to help those with autism or Aspergers sort out social interactions.  Neurotypical people tend to learn these things quickly and somewhat by instinct--the autistic brain has varying degrees of "short-circuitry" when it comes to the wiring that allows one to easily and instinctively act and interact socially.  It is an (often difficult and painful) learned process for those with autism, and even when it is learned, takes far more effort than for neurotypicals because it never becomes "second nature."

In Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, both authors describe the process they each use to decode and act appropriately in social situations, and what it took to get them to the functional point that they are at now.  And, reading over how these two autistic people view social interactions, I saw that again, the way my mind worked had much in common with what the authors were describing as the autistic way of processing social situations; and also that the process I used to become more fluent in handling these social interactions was similar to techniques the authors described as being helpful to them to interact and fit in socially (techniques such as observing how others acted and copying that, or viewing social interactions as a play in which I have a part, etc.).  I was labeled "quiet and shy" as a child, and while i have overcome that to a degree, social situations often cause me a great deal of anxiety, even if I have been in the situation many times before and seem to be enjoying myself.

Autism can be a disability, but it can also be a gift.  Dr. Grandin describes herself as very clumsy and uncoordinated, but has a wonderful gift for visualization and drawing which has given her the ability to visualize projects (such as cattle facilities that she designs).  She shares in her books that she has had brain scans that show that the part of her brain responsible for physical coordination is about 20% smaller than that of most people, but the visual pathways are far more connected than in the typical brain.  Were she to have a "normal" brain, there likely would not be the "wiring" that allows her to have the gifts that she has.  I watched an interview with Dr. Grandin in which the interviewer asked her if, in light of the new research being done in the field, and the work toward a "cure" for autism, if she would like to be "cured."  I loved her answer--the gist of which was that, for those with severe disabilities who are not able to live independently, of course it would be wonderful if they could be helped to be able to become independent and productive members of society.  But she "likes the way she thinks," and that she would not want her brain to be made up differently.  She also made the comment that if we were all neurotypicals, the world would be boring.  (One of my extended family members, in seeking treatment for depression, was told by the doctor that in his dealings with people in his practice, he often found people who were prone to depression much more bright and interesting than those who were not.)

I would have to say I agree with Dr. Grandin‘s answer.  If I am an Aspie, or with many of those tendencies, it would be nice for some things in life to come easier.  We are social beings, and cannot get along in our lives without interacting with others.  So to have anxiety in social situations, and to be at times misunderstood because you are slower on the uptake at things others do automatically and easily, certainly makes life difficult at times.  But I like a lot of things about the way my brain works.  (I still love to draw, though it seems a bit of a frivolous pastime at this point in my life, since nobody pays me to do it.)  :)  I know I have other gifts too--who knows what I would lose if I were to be "cured."  I wouldn't want a different brain either.

And for my little guy, I can already see the beginnings of some serious talent in various areas.  For example, he drew a very detailed Olaf snowman in art class, from memory, with no picture to guide him.  It was a very recognizable Olaf.  (Olaf is from the movie Frozen, which i am convinced is way over-hyped, but his Olaf drawing was awesome.)  I have never beat him at a memory game (the game where you take turns flipping cards over, two by two, to find the matching pairs).  I know kids tend to be better at this game than adults, but his ability goes beyond any kid I have ever played memory with.  I don't know how to test if someone has a photographic memory, but sometimes I would like to know if he does.  He remembers amazing visual details.  I sometimes ache for him when I see him struggling, and ultimately I want him to have the ability to be independent and to be able to add his contributions as a productive member of society; but if a "cure" came with the price of taking away the gifts he has, I wouldn't do it.  God made him this way for a reason.  We are all so unique, and fearfully and wonderfully made.

Dr. Temple Grandin's website


Thursday, December 18, 2014

...not about my comfort...

It is a tired kind of morning.  It will soon be Christmas vacation; the kids feel that at such a time, getting up for school is rather a cruel and unusual punishment.  Hubby and I were busy the last several days, processing deer meat for the freezer.  It was well worth it--we got a lot of meat in the freezer; and we had some help from friends who were dividing the meat with us.  But it was also a lot of work--what a relief when it was done.  So, all that to say that we tired folks all rolled out of our warm cozy beds somewhat begrudgingly.  It was cold and windy out; to stay under the covers and go back to sleep was definitely more inviting.

But life goes on, on cold, windy, tired mornings too.  So we sleepily went about getting ready to face the day.

Sometimes anxiety is so much a part of life that I am hardly aware of it.  It feels normal; although I have been told by professionals, family, and close friends, that this level of it is not normal.  Sometimes it fades into the background for a length of time and I realize, out of the blue one day, that I have had a restful day or week, with little bothersome agitation.  That my brain has been calm for days, and that life is so much more pleasant like this.  But other times, I realize that I am wound very tightly, and have been for so long that I can’t pinpoint when it started.  Lately, I am unable to pinpoint when the long-standing jitters have taken up residence.  But they are there.

My brain has been like a google search engine with a default setting of “frightening scenarios.”  Sometimes, for a while, I will use my brain for something; then the search engine might find “recipe for yummy cake,” or “cleaning the bathroom,” or “what shall we have for supper tonight?”  But once the search of the subject at hand has been done, the search engine defaults back to “frightening scenarios of a myriad of things that could happen (but haven‘t, yet).”  It is not fun; it is pretty wearying to continually haul my brain back out of the terror zone; but at least it is not a deep depression that renders one unable to function.  With the meds and therapy that have become part of life, it is something I can live with.

The other day, while doing that mindless motherly chore of washing dishes, I had a problem on my mind that could be a scary scenario...but isn’t yet.  And may never be.  As I thought and prayed over it, and tried to keep my mind out of that worst-case-scenario pit that it wanted to leap into, a thought came into my mind.

“This is not about your comfort.”

What?  Is that you, God?  Well, since it was just He and I in my kitchen that morning, I guess it had to be Him...

Again...”This is not about your comfort.  It is about My glory.”

I knew this, deep down, but I think I needed to be reminded again.  We were not put here to be comfortable.  We are pilgrims and strangers here on this earth.  Our home is not here, we are “looking for a city built above.”  But how often I forget.

I am of a generation of American kids who were raised with adequate food, clothing and shelter.  Yes, we had our problems, but by and large we were provided for, and raised with the notion that if we were uncomfortable, that something was wrong and needed to be fixed.

But the reality is that, no matter how hard we try, there will be times we will not be comfortable.  We live in a world where there is pain, illness, accident, hardship, and ultimately, death.  Our comfort is, at best, fleeting.  For some reason, God allowed sin, pain, and death to enter our world...and through it His glory will be shown.  In our weakness, his strength is made known.

I looked down at the dish I was washing.  There was some stubborn dirt that I couldn’t wipe off.  I heartily dislike washing dishes, and I was annoyed that this one had the nerve to make my job more difficult.  But...this is not about me being comfortable.  This is about me glorifying God.  I scrubbed at the dish in annoyance, but without really seeing it.  My mind was still on frightening scenarios and possibilities that could come to pass.

“But not this, too, God!”  my mind said of the perplexing problem that was weighing me down.  Didn’t I have enough anxiety in what was my normal state of mind, without adding another problem? 

Again, a thought popping into my mind that seemed not to be my own...  ”This is not about you being comfortable.  This is about My glory.”

So how do I glorify God in this, an annoyingly dirty dish and a bigger perplexing problem?  I am standing in front of a sink of dishes, with hair falling in my eyes and soap on my hands.  Where is the glory in that?

“As unto Christ, not unto men.”

Even the stubborn dirt on the dishes.  Maybe especially the stubborn dirt on the dishes.  A few months ago, He sent me a tiny beautiful flower--extravagant beauty in tiny petals that were only admired and enjoyed by myself, my little boy who brought me the flower, and He who made it.  He sees the smallest things.  Even how clean my dishes are.  I scrubbed the stubborn dirt until the dish was shiny.  Nobody in my house would admire it.  But He who put the tiny details into each flower petal would surely see and know that that dish was clean.  For His glory, even if nobody else notices.

He who made my mind and heart will see and know when I sweep the dirt out of the corners, even if no one else looks.  He will know when I work at memorizing scripture to take my mind off the worst-case-scenarios that will pop up in my head.  No matter what anyone else thinks of my kitchen, He will understand that graph paper taped to my kitchen cupboards with John 14 written on it does not make me a crazy lady, it gives me a useful direction to take my mind when it goes to dark places.  He will know and understand all these things, even if other people do not.  He will glorify Himself in all things, and meet all my needs.  Not always make me comfortable, mind you, but He will meet my needs.
When I cannot understand all the circumstances, all the whys...I can still do my very best in the tasks before me.  I can still honor Him in the little things that only He sees.  It is not about my comfort.  But each job He gives me to do, no matter how small or unseen, is for His glory.

Monday, November 3, 2014 extravagant beauty...

...a few weeks ago...

The screen door banged open, and little footsteps came thumping in to the kitchen where I was working on supper.  I looked up, and the first thing I saw was a little flower.  It was clutched in a grimy little-boy hand; there was a grin on the little-boy face as this offering was presented to me.  Duly charmed, I thanked him and admired the flower.  It was one of the last blooms of the year, from the hostas that line the edge of the walk.  They are far past their prime (as is much of my garden and flower bed); but this bloom was exquisite.  White flower, the petals shot through with purple down the centers and tipped with darker purple.  Tiny curved stamens with purple ends--so intricate.  All this beauty, extravagant beauty in hidden places.  Why?  I have no idea.  But the reality of God’s extravagant abundance has been a nagging realization in the back of my mind for some weeks now--one of those ideas that didn’t quite lend itself to words until that tiny flower showed up in my son’s grubby little fist.  Why put such extravagant beauty in a tiny flower that would not have been seen or examined if he had  not picked it?  Why pour such beauty into one tiny thing that would be appreciated and enjoyed by only two people--me and my little boy?  Why pour such detail and beauty into all the myriad of flowers, trees, snowflakes, animals, and all the other things that no knowing and appreciative eye may ever see and marvel at?

The wind is blowing, endlessly, it seems.  It has been so windy, for so many days that I really don’t remember when it started.  It is a brilliant fall day--sun shining on the corn in the field across the road that is waiting for a combine.  My little guy hopes he will be home from school to watch when they take that corn off...he loves combines.  Heaven forbid they chop it for silage--silage choppers are okay; but even the biggest and best silage chopper is not a combine in its bright green John Deere or red International splendor.  Some children get excited about Christmas, or summer vacation...this boy loves harvest time.

The weather has turned cold; there is a bite in the air.  The wind drives the chill through to one’s bones.  The skin on the backs of my hands has started to dry and crack almost overnight--the day the wind started, I think.  The sound of the wind seems to have brought with it a melancholy and weariness of soul.  Winter is coming.  What has happened to the green fragrance of growing things; where have our beautiful days of Indian summer gone?

“ is autumn and beautiful as everything is it is the beauty of decay--the sorrowful beauty of the end.”        --L. M. Montgomery

Life here at home, with all the beauty of autumn around us, has been full of weariness and a great fear in my heart.  How much of this fear is born of a long-standing anxiety disorder and how much is simply an intuition of something being wrong?  I have been on close terms with both possibilities.  Two years ago, when I sank into a deep depression, I was terrified of so many things.  One fear was a nameless terror for the well-being of my youngest child and my husband.  Not that I was unconcerned for my two other children, but there seemed to be something different about my youngest that I had not yet put my finger on.  About a year later, I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  His autism diagnosis explained many of my fears for his safety.  Knowing does not change the facts, but instead of a nameless fear I now have a valid reason for caution and vigilance with him.  His “safety and survival” mechanism seems to be broken.  All six year olds have a tendency to do things that aren’t necessarily safe, but my little guy has a burning need to be on the edges of things, particularly high things such as the tops of bleachers and other places from which he could fall and hurt himself badly.  Anyway, it was a bit of a relief to know I was not being paranoid...well, I was being paranoid, but it felt better to know that i had a good reason to be vigilant.

My nameless fear for my husband was different.  I could not put my finger on it other than that, for years, he has had genetically high cholesterol, asthma, and sleep apnea.  Putting the three of them together is not a healthful combination.  But he takes his meds, uses a breathing machine at night, and on the whole is in pretty decent shape for the shape he is in.  If something seems off, and I ask him about it, he often reassures me (in a rather annoyed tone of voice) that he is fine.  But about two weeks ago, when about a quarter of the vision in his right eye was suddenly gone, something obviously was not fine.  We spent about a week making the rounds of various eye doctors, specialists, and tests, to see why.  And I was more frightened than I had been for two years.  Did not want to eat, did not want to talk, just wanted everything to be okay. 

He had had a stroke in the eye, caused by a bleed.  Nothing definitive showed on the tests to say exactly why it had happened.  No blockages showed up; no major diseases such as lyme’s or multiple sclerosis, which we were told he needed to be checked for as they can sometimes cause such an event.  The final word from the neuro ophthamologist was that he sees this particular scenario in patients with sleep apnea at times--there is an incident where one stops breathing during sleep which causes blood loss to the eye, and what happened to my hubby is not unheard of.  He may or may not get some of the vision back.  It takes a few months for the eye to heal, and till then he will not know.  The other eye was unaffected; which is good.  However, it could happen in the other eye as well, which could leave him with more disabling vision loss.

So we were left with a level of uncertainty.  There is only so much a person can control.  He was sent home with instructions to manage his cholesterol and blood pressure; to be more careful what he ate and to begin a regular exercise program (although he is far from inactive); and to be careful to wear his breathing machine while sleeping.  But beyond that, it is really beyond our control.  I have to be okay with that. 

But oh, that frightening window of time, between the time when we first knew that something was wrong, until we ruled out the most serious possibilities of what could be.  My mind ran in circles that week, wondering if this was the beginning of the end of our life together.  All my faults that have driven him crazy over the years, all the times I had not been the most awesome wife ran through my head.  But I had to pull my racing mind up short...I couldn’t allow it to do that...I would drive myself mad.  I had to think of the good times, for we have had far more good times than bad times.  But that too was heart-breaking when the uncertainty loomed in the back of my mind.  Somehow, over those days, I came to some sort of peace.  By the time we went for the last tests, I was afraid but not terrified.  If something were seriously wrong, if this was truly the beginning of the end, we had a good run.  We had laughed and loved, fought and made up, had three beautiful children in whom we take much pride and delight.  Oh, that everyone should be so blessed. 

I had to let go, had to peel my grasping little fingers off my husband‘s arm.  My greatest fear, of course, was of something life-threatening.  But I also had to let go of my expectation of him being able-bodied--what if he had lost more of his vision, been unable to drive or work?  I have to face the fact that it could happen.  I have to learn to be okay with the possibility.  How often do I hang on too tightly to people or things that I love?  One afternoon as I was fighting to keep my mind from going to dark places, God and I had a serious fight over saying, “please don’t take him away from me;” and God saying, “Do you love Me more?  Enough to give him to Me?” 

None of us knows how much time we have, or what a day will bring forth.  The thought of giving up those I love still breaks my heart if i think about I often don’t, unless the possibility stares me in the face.  But I know that, as much as I love each of them, He loves them more.  He clothes the lilies of the field and the hostas in my flower bed with such beauty.  Not a sparrow falls to the ground that He does not see.  I can trust Him, my God Who puts exquisite beauty in hidden places.  How much more will He make our lives, our pain and heartache, and the hidden sacrifices that only He sees, beautiful in His time?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

...brighten the corner...

It is just a little thing--a white sugar bowl with little red flowers and gilt edging.  It is amazing how such a little thing can be so cheerful.  When I come downstairs at O-dark-thirty to start putting breakfast bowls on the table and packing lunches, the lamplight gleams off the gilt.  The flowers nearly jump out of their pattern onto the table, and some mornings that little sugar bowl makes me so happy it isn’t right. 

I love the color red.  It is so cheerful.  Even a tiny bit of it brightens up a whole outfit, or a whole room.  My little sugar bowl sat with its matching creamer on a very slightly chipped matching meat platter on a metal shelving unit at a flea market housed in the old shirt factory building here in town.  It was only $4, the whole set of them--and I didn’t need a sugar bowl.  Or a creamer.  Or a slightly chipped matching meat platter.  But as I was walking by, minding my own business, on my way to pick up some forgotten necessity from the grocery section, it fairly jumped out at me--tiny red flowers and slightly rubbed gilt edges gleaming cheerfully in the florescent lighting, little red flower fairies (nearly jumping off the china) crying in their little voices (sort of like the dolls in the children‘s story of the Little Engine that Could), “Please, please, little mama, take us home with you!  We will be worth every penny of that $4; we will make your table so bright!”

How could I resist?  So I have a sugar bowl, creamer, and slightly chipped meat platter that I do not, strictly speaking, need.  But how much brighter my table is--and my heart, too, come to think of it--because of those happy little red flowers and gilt edging.  It doesn’t matter to them whether the lighting is harsh florescence or soft lamplight.  It doesn’t matter to them that the sugar is a little damp and sticky from children helping themselves to it, or if the table is a bit sticky because we forgot to wipe it.  They will gleam in the light and hold the sticky sugar until the china breaks.

And our little corner is brighter for them...

The song "Brighten the Corner (Where You Are)" has brightened many of my dark days...I find that sometimes even when I am low I can still brighten the corner of the world where He has placed me, right now.  Below are links to two youtube videos taken from old 45 recordings of this song.

The Browns--"Brighten the Corner Where you Are"

The Statesmen--"Brighten the Corner"

Friday, September 19, 2014

...a constant change...

My words are back; I can write again.  The washer is running, the last of the coffee in the bottom of my cup is cooling rapidly.  My house is so quiet.  The most constant thing in the world seems to be change.

I did not think I would be sad to send them all to school.  And I can see it is a good thing.  A few bumps in the road, especially for my baby who is struggling with some issues common to autistic kiddos.  But nothing out of the ordinary or that i did not expect.  Now I am left with quiet days.

I have found plenty to do.  In fact, I am probably just as busy as I was while I had them here at home--or even more so.  I still feel like I am being lazy if I am not working at something nearly all the time.  I know that is not the case--I get up an hour before the rest of them to get lunches packed, breakfast on the table, and to get everybody organized so that they can all get out the door in time.  My house is cleaner than it has been in a long time--maybe cleaner than it’s ever been for weeks at a time.  Because I am the one at home, if there are errands to be run, it mostly falls on me to do them.  This thing of being a stay-at-home mother with all my children in school has not, so far, turned out to be one long vacation.  But in spite of the fact that I have had no trouble staying busy, I hear the quietness echoing in my ears. 

“Well, Lord, I guess it’s just You and me now.“  It was the first day that I had sent everyone off to school and work, and I was on the road driving on one of the numerous errands that had to be done that day.  It was quiet, and He and I had a lot of catching up to do.  I realized how much noise had been around me daily, and how my conversations with Him were usually pretty brief and to the point.  That was how it had to be at that stage of life...but now a new stage is here, whether I am ready for it or not.

And I am left alone with my thoughts.  And prayers.  I am not lonely...but here we are with quietness. 

    “...and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”  Matthew 28:20  

I know He will not leave me.  Sometimes I wonder if all moms feel this way...such mixed emotions.  There is this sense of accomplishment for having raised my children thus far--I am proud of the good reports that I get from school, and proud of my children for making right decisions and also just for being their sweet delightful selves.  They are a blessing.  But I also miss them quite a bit.  I am enjoying having my hubby to myself on the days when he has off work during the week when the kids are in school.  He said to me once that, while he loves his children, he misses his wife.  Maybe after a while, the newness of days together with kids in school will wear off.  But for now, we are enjoying our times together.  Nothing earth-shattering--mostly just working at things around home that need done.  Part of me feels like I barely know him anymore...but maybe it is more that i hardly know me anymore.  I am sure I will find me, somewhere...I feel sort of adrift, although I often seem to come to rest on the laundry, gardening, cleaning, and similar chores no matter how much I want to drift away from them.

And I am enjoying the quietness although it echoes.  I feel a bit like a clock that has been wound too tightly for too long--it seems to be taking a while for my springs to reset themselves.  I know this, too, is a good stage of life.  Or will be, once I adjust.  I am grieving a bit for the babies that are forever grown out of their sweet baby stages...but how I love these children that my babies have grown into. 

As with every other part of life, I am glad I am not walking this alone.  He is here; He is faithful.  Some days I find myself in dark places in spite of the bright fall sunshine--changes, no matter how good they are in the long run, have a way of putting me in darkness for a time.  Nothing that I would not expect, given the ups and downs of the past few years.  And He leads me through this too. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

...if i could turn back the clock...

It was like any other night here at our house when I opened the computer and pulled up the news headlines.  But it was not an ordinary news night...Robin Williams’ face was the top story, dead at age 63 of an apparent suicide.  I was so sad--i loved his work.  He was an awesome actor and wonderful comic.  He had such a presence, such a gift.  But under his gift of laughter was also a well of sadness that had been his undoing. 

Over the next few days, I read a lot of articles about Robin Williams, about depression, about suicide.  I learned a little bit about a lot of things, but maybe I learned the most about myself.  After having experienced depression episodically throughout my adult life, sometimes debilitating in its severity, I no longer see life, or the people in it, in the same way.  Some of the opinions that were expressed about Mr. Williams were kind; others were not.  Some were well-meaning but unhelpful.  I read and re-read, mulling things over.  Some of the things I read were helpful; some were hurtful.  Some brought back memories I would rather forget. 

When I had finished all the information and opinions that my brain could hold, I began to write something that I wish someone could have said to him.  Of course, it cannot bring him back.  Maybe my motive was selfish; I found, as I wrote, that it was healing for me to write this stuff out.  Maybe it won’t really help anyone who is in the same dark place either.  But if it will help someone understand how the dark places look, from someone who has been there, then I am glad I shared it.

Dear Mr. Williams,

If i could turn back the clock, turn it back to a few minutes before you did that fateful and fatal deed from which there is no coming back...if i could talk to you...

I know that if you are bent on destroying yourself, nothing I could say or do can stop you.  If I took one method from you, you would find another.  It is your decision, your choice.  But may I sit with you, for a while, before you make your decision?  I’m sorry the details of this whole sorry affair are so public...I feel like i am trespassing on private territory which should be personal.  But would you hand me the rope?  I know, it is yours...I am not stealing it.  I will just hold it for now.

I am so, so very sorry for your pain.  Probably, nothing I can say or do can stop the pain you face, or break through the shame and feelings of utter worthlessness.  I wish I could say something magically encouraging that would lift you out of this pit.  But it doesn’t work like that.  I would tell you that you are loved, by your family, your friends, your fans.  I would tell you how much joy you brought to my home and my family with your delightful movie performances, how one of your stand-up comedy performances made me laugh so hard I could not breathe. 

I wish that telling you how we have loved and admired you, both as a person and through your wonderful art--contradictory though it sounds to say “we love you for who you are  because of your acting ability,” I believe it is true because you gave us such a glimpse of the real man inside, through your acting--I wish telling you that you are loved and appreciated would chase the demons far away and bring you some feeling of self-worth again. 

But I know it can’t.  I have been there--not exactly where you are, as you sit here on such friendly terms with this rope, but I have known depths of pain.  i have known the feeling of being trapped by love, torn between the knowledge that the world would be better without me in it, but knowing that I could not leave it willingly because of those who were still in it.  i have known sadly, terribly, desperately that my family loves me.  I have known that my friends loved me (at least, the ones i had not pushed away as I sank lower and lower).  I have known that there was still something left in me that could not leave them, known how it would devastate them if i did...but it still did not change this feeling of worthlessness and utter self-loathing.  I would try to put on the best face I could, but then hide when I could no longer hold it together. 

I know what it is to feel, as Abraham Lincoln said, that one must die, or be better.  The feeling that there is no going on like this.  But deep down, I did not truly want to die yet.  I have been in the depths, but could not quite get on friendly terms with the rope or any other instrument of death.  The pain was terrifyingly strong; but for me, survival was still stronger. 

It made me angry, that, when I finally asked for help, the doctor treated me as if I were playing a mind game.  As if I were a risk to myself.  If I wanted to die, I would not have asked for help.  I wanted to
live.  I wanted to find out how to get better, not to be treated with distrust and warned to rid my home of anything potentially lethal.  If I had wanted to destroy myself, I would have done it.  If one method had been taken from me, I would have found another.  But I was not playing a game, and it was a slap in the face to have every word that I spoke carefully weighed, distrust thinly veiled.  How I hated the shame and humiliation of that distrust.

I still wanted to fight, still wanted to live.  I felt like the world would be a better place without me in it, but I could not handle the thought of what devastation my children would endure.  I knew that my husband would be crushed if I were gone.  I could not bear the thought of willfully leaving him to face life alone.  We have been a team for so long.  So, I still kept my will to fight, for their sakes if not my own.   

My close friend endures terrible physical pain from a genetic illness; pain for which there is often little relief.  We have an understanding for each other, not because our pain is the same, but because we both know pain and live with it on intimate terms.  But one dark day, the deep pain in her body getting the best of her, she also had a taste of the pit of depression and the terror that lies therein.  She does not usually cry, but she was almost in tears when she said, “I can’t imagine how it feels to face this over and over again, Rose.”

I know how bad her physical pain can be, how much metal she has in her body from her bones being put back into place and supported with pins, rods, screws.  I can’t imagine facing
her pain over and over...for her to say that mine is worse than she had imagined blew me away.  It was not a question of either of us trying to one-up the other--it was just her honest take on it having experienced both sides of it.   I had listened to the common jokes about mental illness and the derision that is sometimes carelessly thrown about by those who do not know whereof they speak.  It fed my own self-loathing and added to my conviction that I was worth less than nothing.  I had always felt weak, for battling these demons.  I had never before been the recipient of admiration for being strong enough to live with them. 

Oh, how I wish i could tell you that there is still beauty in life.  I wish you could believe it.  One of the most painful parts of depression is the total inability to see with any clarity, how things will ever be better.  They do get better.  I think that somewhere, deep down, you may know that, having experienced it before.  But when you are deep in the abyss, you can’t see it.  There are still clear, cool summer mornings, fresh and laden with dew; there are still hugs from children, and love from and for and with spouses.  There is still the haunting beauty, that, something, somewhere, is greater, bigger, and grander than us; and that we have a tiny part of it in our lives, our loves, our laughter, and our tears.

I wish I could tell you this.  I wish I could
make you believe me.  But I can’t.  Ultimately, it is your choice, your decision.

It is so hard to keep fighting.  It is a painful, uphill battle.  It is frightening to live with the knowledge that, even after you have climbed out of the abyss, it is still an open pit, waiting around some corner that you have not yet turned...sometimes that knowledge is almost as frightening as the pit itself.

Anyone who looks down on you for fighting the battle, who looks down on you for sitting here on friendly terms with this rope, has never fought the battle themselves.  Does not understand, even if they think they do.  If they understood, they would not blame you or shame you.  They would sit with you and tell you how sorry they are for your pain--desperately wishing to make it better, but knowing that they cannot. 

Well, I can’t hold your rope anymore.  It is not mine.  But please, please don’t use it for that purpose you are thinking of.  Please stay with us.  We love you and will miss you so, when you go.  It is appointed to all men to die, but please don’t do it by your own hand.  There will never be another you.  Whether you are a great actor, a comic genius, or simply a man who lives a quiet life among family and friends who love him dearly and would miss him sadly. 

If you are bent on doing it, I can’t stop you.  I know that to live with this is a long, hard, painful fight.  One that you have fought for many years, so bravely.  I don’t blame you for being tired, aching, and battle-weary.  I want you to stay, but no matter how you decide, I understand.  I understand, but still...please stay.  Please stay.  This pain, too, shall pass away; and the world is still beautiful.