Oh God. Here it comes again.
After several days where it seemed to have abated, it is pushing up through the cracks like filthy ground water. I can feel it wetting me, and turning me back into the monster who peers out of her cave at the world but never joins it, and feeds on its own misery.
I have been fighting my depression for most of my life. Even as a kid I remember being somber and morose. I was disappointed a lot. I always anticipated the worst. And as an adult that sort of “realism” won me the nickname “little black cloud” because I was always there to point out how quickly things could go wrong.
I have tried to find joy in the little things. I have managed on a few occasions to claw myself out of this vacuum and to actually breathe the air of normalcy. I gathered enough energy to make a go of moving across the country once; of going to college another time. I even tried my hand being a mother. But those times where I was doing more than just barely functioning were always suddenly drowned in a surge of mud that seemed to pour in out of nowhere and solidify itself before I had a chance to fight through it.
Every so often, as happened last week, I have a break. I have a few days where the going is not quite so tough. I can get out of bed without having to convince myself that there’s something worthwhile outside my dark room. I manage to get dressed and go to work and even play with my daughter without tripping all over myself and making everyone miserable in the process. I am a good mother then, and we read together and I hold her and stroke her hair. She doesn’t worry that I am going to start yelling over little misdeeds and she sometimes seems surprised when I laugh as she drops her (yet another) glass of milk. I love being that woman.
Unfortunately, that is not the person I usually am. Medication only seems to work for a little while. Therapy helps me to have longer stretches of sanity but then I seem to always fall further back than where I started – more sad, more angry, less Me. And I have to wonder, every time: “What did I do now to make this come back? Because I was okay yesterday, but today I am not. “
What’s worse is that it isn’t just all about me anymore. I am no longer the only one suffering, which makes my prognosis that much more unbearable. You see, I lived through my mother’s grueling struggle with this same demon. I watched her shrivel and atrophy so that she could barely move. I saw how she could transform into someone I hated at the drop of a hat. And I swore that I would never do that to my own. Not just because it is cruel and debilitating, but because I never want my baby to have to face this creature in her own world. And aren’t I simply passing all my failures to her?
Instead I hide. My mother kept her sadness out in the open and exposed us all to the constant derangement of drinking and rage and compulsive cleaning. I like to run; to put myself back into bed where I can’t hurt anyone with the things I do to them. Instead I only hurt them with the things I fail to do.
My mother never taught me to swim. She never made me take lessons from anyone else, either. And my whole life I have never felt like I can handle water that is deeper than a bath. This is not only indicative of her inability to give me the basic life skill that could save me, but also a fitting metaphor for the fact that I feel helpless and defenseless against the rising waters that threaten to overwhelm me and I know that I can learn how but I can’t get out of the deep end long enough to catch my breath. I don’t want to be rescued. I just want to be able to swim.
I want my girl to know how to swim.
I want to be able to teach her.