I am trying to hold onto the words but they are as weightless as I am. In this moment all of my physical mass has left me. My ability to stand firmly on the earth is gone and I am aware of the slippery tiles beneath me. I am not sure I will stay upright. I am in the shower with Steve, a practice we began when the boys were so little that the only way to get through the day was to literally double dip, grabbing a moment together before we were back out on the battlefield of parenting young children. I spent almost five years raising them while I was still in a pit. A combination of therapy and medication and sunshine have helped me
Today the boys are middle aged kids, just like I am a middle aged woman and I can hear the clear tone of my older son saying goodbye as he leaves for school. I call out to him through the foggy shower glass to have a great day “lovebug”. I have lost the word. It is gone. Do I call him that? Have I called him that before? I whisper it again to myself, this term of endearment that has suddenly lost all meaning and it feels squashed like the bug it is. Now I am flattened. It feels like I have an exoskeleton that can’t do its job because I have asked too much of it. The water slices down me through the cracks in my armor and finds its way in. I wonder if I can drown from the inside out.
Steve reaches out with the fancy soap that he bought for the holidays to celebrate a special memory. We first found it on a spontaneous holiday in Mexico, where amongst piles of dirt and unfinished landscaping we showered in opulence in our casita and were introduced to l’occitane. I remember that trip for so many reasons. Oliver learned to swim, Leo wore his winter hat with his flip flops, and Steve planned the whole thing in response to my mounting misery that January in Vermont. In this shower the soap brings back the feeling of the resort. How it was unfinished. How we lived in a lovely little space amongst construction in an almost empty resort. How we rattled around grand dining rooms and the boys collected tiles and screws and cigarette butts and lined them up as armies. How much that is like our life overall. We polish up the little bit that we can see and the rest is untended, unfinished, until it is just done.
These thoughts must have continued for a bit because Steve is using the soap to gently wash me and I stiffen and pull back. “Don’t do that” I tell him. He hands me the soap in silence and I let it slide in my fingers. Before I can do anything I notice the water cooling. First a tiny bit of the temperature is gone then more and it has fallen off a cliff into freezing. I don’t have time to wash. The reality that the hot water tank can’t meet our needs is horrifying. The cold water seeps in.
Steve hands me a towel. I know I could be appreciating my husband, his hand helping through the next step of showering but instead my attention is on the towel. It is part of a beach set that I spent too much money on, imagining that the perfect bold stripes would turn us into the kind of family who hit the pool in the summer with bathing suits that fit and healthy chilled snacks filling sturdy tote bags. The towels failed at their job and have ended up the towels in our modern monochrome bathroom. Like too much blush and lipstick they mar the picture of elegance I have tried to create. I realize I am cold and Steve is waiting so I take my towel and try to avoid the spot where it is coming undone. For the millionth time I am thinking about Wally Lamb’s “She’s come undone.” I find the phrase comforting in its finality. The undoing is over. She simply needs to be undone now. I think I could handle that.
I studied archaeology as an undergrad but these days I only excavate myself. Even though it has been almost three years since I had a prolonged depressive episode I continue to examine the shards of individual events, trying to determine whether I am passing through the era of stability back into a time of tumult. I know from study of myself and the earth that strata can have inversions. We do not proceed through the time periods in a strictly linear fashion. We can have previews of what is to come. And for me we can have reviews. I have been collecting evidence for a while now. I am rooting through the dirt of the past month. There was the time I didn’t let Steve touch my wet hair. There was the time I wanted to weep over the blog post because I thought I could no longer see what was OK to share about my friends. There was the time that I felt as thought there was nothing in life today or tomorrow. There was the time that I cut my walk short because I couldn’t lift my legs anymore. There was the time that I watched a mother dog reunite with her puppies and became convinced that one was missing. That she could never feel complete. That her wagging tail belied an emptiness that she would never feel. While the screen filled with happy emoticons as other viewers rejoiced in the reunion I became more anxious. I watched the video several times seeking signs of the fifth dog. Which never showed up. That time was this morning.
After the shower I got back into my Pajamas and back into bed. I should log that evidence.
Steve brought me tea and banana bread and looked into my eyes. “Are you crying?” He asked me. “No.” I was surprised to hear that. “It must be allergies to the cat.” As he walked out the door into a life that has a today and tomorrow, I felt my face with my finger.
There were so many tears.
Here is what I say to my evidence. I can still measure you and collect you, but I am not buried by you. Facebook tells me I am not alone with my raging response to the stroking of my wet hair. Facebook, for all of its shit, also tells me that I am not alone. My upset over the blog post is in the past. Clear eyes read it and reassured me. I was able to listen. My judgment was not on tilt. At least not any more so than a typical day in my stable era. There are things to do today. An architect to meet, medications to refill, yoga to practice. It is quite possible I will do all three. In ten days my family heads to Italy for the first time. There will be ruins but I will not be one of then. Even though my walk was short there was still a walk. And there will be another one. As for the puppy. Maybe four was the number. Maybe the family was complete right there and I took her joy for anxiety.
I have a husband who celebrates our family and loves the bold colors of the towels without seeing the dangling strings that could make them unravel, and he brings me tea.
Maybe the tears coming down my face are the water leaving, so I don’t drown from the inside out.
Apologies to my mother who reads this blog and will be so so upset to hear these words. Lets take that for what it is…a mother’s worry is never done but it comes from love and connection. And lets look at the real evidence. I am writing this instead of keeping it in. If there is any sign to hold up to the light it is that one. See you in Rome. I am so looking forward to the trip. Almost totally.
For one of the most readable and relatable books on depression I have ever seen please try this one.