being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
The Bottom. Beyond the Basement.
January 10, 2011Posted by on
This thought, this story has been on my mind for weeks. I feel compelled to write this, though it’s excruciating to write and probably equally excruciating to read. And I know that as soon as I hit publish, I’m going to have to fight every temptation to delete this post.
But it’s a story that must be told, that must be shared. Someone needs it. Maybe I’m the person who needs to write it, read it, remember it and thank God that he delivered me. It’s a story told from the secret places of my heart. It’s the kind of story that is talked about behind closed doors and in hushed tones.
It’s a story that’s uncomfortable to write and share. If you’re hoping for a happy, feel good post, this is not it. If you want to be comfortable, you need to stop reading right now. The story is two years old, but the memory of it serves to remind me that I survived. I almost didn’t. It’s the story of my depression, and the deepest, darkest, scariest rabbit hole I remember traveling. It’s the story that makes me thank God every single day that I’m still alive, that His story for my life isn’t finished yet.
It’s late. The baby’s been nursed. The girls are sleeping soundly. It’s dark and it’s cold. We’re slowly on our way to spring here in Alaska, but we have a long way to go. Hubs finished his book and is snoring softly in our bedroom. The circumstances of this difficult evening started me down this path of irrational logic and the leaps and bounds I’m taking are drunk with despair. But, really, I’ve been feeling this way for months now.
And now I’m here, alone with my thoughts. My sick, twisted, irrational, if-people-could-look-inside-my-head-they’d-see-what-kind-of-freak-I-really-am thoughts. It’s not the first time I’ve had these thoughts, but maybe it can be the last time. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed with anxiety. My heart aches more than usual tonight. The way I feel has brought me to this place, sitting in the kids’ bathtub just thinking. Small shards of glass, breaking through the wall of my emotional heart, wondering if maybe, just maybe, they’d all be better off without me.
Because Hubs deserves a better wife than he has. Someone who can lose the baby weight. Someone who can keep the house in better shape. Someone who gets up and fixes his coffee and his breakfast before a long day of work. Someone who is the perfect Army wife. The kids need a mom who isn’t a shell of a woman, always depressed, just barely treading to keep her head above the water, physically here but emotionally absent. They need a mom who plans crafts, and takes them to parks, and plans fun activities for them. They need someone who is cheerful and fun and able to plan their days for them. I can see their mother in my head and I don’t think I’m supposed to be that woman. And really, they’re too young to understand or know what’s going on anyway. He’ll marry again and they’ll have a new mother. I won’t even be a faint memory.
Thinking about sharp things. I’ve never cut before, but maybe it would help. Razor. Scissors. Knife. I imagine the steel piercing my skin, the blood flowing. Would it make my heart stop pounding with silent screams of pain that only I can hear in my head? Would it at least numb me to it? A little release, that’s all I want. Or more. A lot of release. From this world. Because I’m sure this world is better off without me.
I wring my wrists in my hands, rubbing the purple veins with my thumbs over and over. My blood travels through them. My life travels through them.
Minutes pass. Tick, tick, tick. Aching, drowning, fearing. An hour. And still the pain persists. My bones ache with emotional fatigue. My head pounds, and the pounding travels down my neck, making my ears ring. I hear nothing but the dark thoughts racing in my mind. Planning. Plotting. How to end this insatiable pain burning through my veins, but still giving the people I love the best possible chance after I’m gone. Time continues to race by, but I am immobilized by the tiny spears, thoughts of death, tearing through my heart. Where are the sharp things? Something’s got to give here.
I feel my hands grip the side of the tub. I slowly lift myself up. My legs, two moving pieces of lead carry me out the door, down the stairs, around the corner. The kitchen. I find the wooden step stool and sit in the corner. Pain. Pain. Pain. It rings in my ears and travels to my toes. With each heartbeat pain pulses through my veins. I survey the room, looking for something, anything to get release. The house is quiet but everything inside me is screaming.
I JUST WANT OUT!
I NEED TO GET OUT!
IT HURTS TOO MUCH!
Minutes pass by slowly again. Minutes into hours. And the same thoughts, once only in my head reverberate through my entire body as a rhythm made only for this moment. “Do it. Cut. Bleed. Do it. Cut. Bleed. Do it. Cut. Bleed. Do it. Cut. Bleed.” It marches on in my mind, in my heart. Though I can picture myself getting up from the stool, walking to the drawer, pulling out the knife, and . . . something keeps me glued to the stool, unable to move.
A noise. I look up. It’s Hubs.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
“I . . . I can’t . . . sleep.” I reply.
He looks me up and down. I see it in his eyes. He’s always been able to see right through me. He knows it’s worse than it’s ever been. He knows that whatever it was that woke him up wasn’t a mistake. I look down and focus on a fake “knot of wood” in the laminate flooring. My eyes are frozen to the spot. I feel my eyes filling and the salty tears blur the “knot” into a brownish-yellowish mess.
Like a small obedient child, I feel my body rising. I find myself standing in front of him, afraid to look in his eyes. If I look in his eyes, he’ll see. He’ll be able to see all that I’ve been thinking, all that I’ve been hearing in my head for the last three hours.
He puts his index finger on my chin and lifts my face so that our eyes meet. And he sees it. The dark passenger called depression. It’s been on board for awhile and it’s taken the train, his wife, hostage.
He wraps his arms around me and I collapse into an ocean of tears that I can’t explain. My breath catches over and over in a deep sob and I can’t speak. I don’t have to. While all of it isn’t right there for him to view and see, he knows that something bad almost happened.
He asks me several questions to confirm his fears. I answer honestly because I have no strength to keep this hidden anymore.
His arm around my waist, he aids me up the stairs and into our bed. He wraps his arms around me and pulls me close. Neither of us sleep well. Him, afraid of what I’ll do if he slumbers. Me, haunted by all that just happened.
He leaves for work the next morning and begs me to make the phone call.
And I do.
I do it because I can’t stay where I am. And if I stay where I am, I won’t be here much longer. The appointment’s set. I’ll see the counselor.
It’s not the end of my story. I have more life to live. More life to give to others.
I wasn’t the only one in the bathroom, in the kitchen that night. Torn between two worlds, one bursting with life and grace, the other fraught with lies, despair and death. Two worlds, warring over one soul. The thing about light is that it only takes a small ray to break up the darkness. Somewhere in the midst of the heavy, oppressing darkness, a small ray of grace and hope and love broke through. It was all I needed to see that there was more.
By God’s grace, I would find a way to take each step that led me up out of the basement. Over the next fourteen months I’ll climb and climb and climb. I’ll go to counseling. I’ll learn that these aren’t normal thoughts. I’ll spend some time on ant-depressants. I’ll wean myself off the anti-depressants, experiencing every withdrawal symptom associated with the drug I’ve been taking. I’ll learn about myself. I’ll see how depression takes my circumstances and and distorts them in a way that steals my joy. I’ll pray, a lot. I’ll realize that while my depression is part of who I am, it’s not the definition of who I am.
And here I am. I live with my depression. It’s not gone forever and I don’t know that it will ever be on this side of heaven. On those days when I feel myself starting to spiraling out of control, I remember this night. And I find away to stay away from the basement door. I pray. I read the Bible or remember one of the Lord’s promises. I start to name things I am thankful for. I sit down to read a book with my kids. I call those who know me best and love me despite my faults. I write. I don’t let myself turn that door knob. If I do, I’ll find myself tumbling down those stairs and at the bottom bruised, hurt, and looking for a way to escape.
I am a depression sufferer and survivor.
If you suffer from depression, please visit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) for a list of organizations that can help. If you are a military member, spouse, or family member, call or email Military One Source for information on FREE COUNSELING. Getting help is the first step to getting better.