I keep waiting for a normal day.
I saw a meme once that said “normal” is just a setting on a washing machine. I hear that.
But after trauma, after divorce, after millions of hours of counseling, after … after … after … Aren’t we supposed to get past the dreaded SURVIVAL MODE?
If you’ve been through these things, you know.
If you’ve been through anything really hard, you know.
Survival mode. You wake up, but just can’t bring yourself to open your eyes yet. Because you know what it means. The battle begins in T-minus however-many seconds.
It doesn’t matter whether you are alone or not, that first hurtle is always putting both feet on the floor and wrenching yourself from your safe place under the covers and the blissful grogginess of sleep.
If you’re anything like me, you fought hard to get there (to sleep) so pulling yourself from it just seems cruel anyway.
Remember a few weeks ago, how I said everyone has their own definition of hard things? And sometimes a seemingly small accomplishment might be very big to someone else?
Sometimes getting out of bed might as well be climbing a mountain. Every morning, another mountain.
Sometimes just going through the motions of the day requires more energy than a vigorous workout.
I found this paragraph I wrote three years ago, and it explains the phenomenon perfectly:
The dim light burns my eyes, and I cringe in anticipation of the morning alarm. My head pounds as I sink deeper into the fluffy white comforter. I even went to bed early. How can I still feel so exhausted? Time passes, and I’ve hit the snooze for the third time. I know if I don’t drag my aching body out of bed, my little boy will miss the bus. Again. Time for breakfast. Feed the children. I’m in a haze. Did everyone finish their homework? No. Scramble to pack the lunches and backpacks. My heart bleeds. I smile and kiss little heads and tell them I love them and “Have a wonderful day!” on the way out the door. The bus comes and goes. The two-year-old wants to sit on the porch in the cold. I want to crawl on hands and knees back to my warm bed. “Mommy, will you play with me?” I do. We play on the floor. I adore him. The only ray of sunshine I’ve felt this morning is when his little arms wrapped around my neck. I hold back the tears. I try to check my email, but my laptop has gremlins–my toddler spilled milk on my keyboard last week. My skin crawls and tingles like spider legs creeping. My heart races. I can’t breathe. Sleep. I wish I could sleep.
I keep waiting for that normal day.
The day when I’ve graduated from survival mode. The moment when I turn that big corner and suddenly I don’t have to feel this way anymore.
Does it ever really happen?
I know there will always be peaks and valleys. That’s normal. But when do the valleys stop bottoming out in such a dark place?
I look around and I wonder: How can I still feel this way? I’m remarried. I have an amazing husband and precious children. I live in a free country. I have a beautiful home, plenty of food to eat, and am blessed beyond measure.
I observe the blessings in my life through this flog of chronic depression and I sink even lower, feeling guilty and ungrateful. Others would be jumping for joy given the privileged existence I enjoy!
I know I’m not alone. Many of us suffer in silence.
But we go through the motions, don’t we? It’s not that we’re faking exactly. We’re genuine. But the effort is so exhausting.
On Sunday a friend pulled me aside. She greeted me in the customary fashion: “How are you?”
“Great!” I beamed. (I’m not lying when I say this. My life IS AMAZING! Remember?)
But this friend? She actually meant it. She squinted at me, put her hand on my shoulder and asked again,”How are you?”
That’s when I lost it.
I burst into tears and then vented for a few seconds about losing our air conditioner, trying to entertain two hyperactive boys in the heat while I’ve been on crutches this past week, and how we’re all not sleeping and just being rotten and mean to each other because we’re all so grumpy! I told her I was there, at church, going through the motions. But I had to pop a few crazy pills to get there.
HA! Honesty at its finest.
And guess what? My friend didn’t judge me. She put her arm around me, let me know she heard me … and actually said she remembered feeling a lot of the same emotions when she and her five (!) kids lost a/c last summer.
She made me laugh. It felt good.
Now … my normal tendency would be to wrap up with a happy la-la note about venting to our friends or finding a coping mechanism and how that is a great way to deal with depression. But I’m not going to do that today.
I’m not writing about my woes because I want sympathy or help or pity. I’m writing about depression today because it is real. And because I don’t have the answers.
Some of us live this way. Each day is a struggle.
We smile in spite of the pain.
We go through the motions with our skin crawling.
We breathe with a ten-ton weight on our chest.
I don’t know when the end will come. But I have to believe there is an end. Someday I will move past survival mode. I have to believe that.
Until then … one day at a time.
One mountain at a time.