A Thousand Miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

You know that quote, right? Yeah, of course you do. We all know that quote. We’ve seen it a hundred-thousand-million times in our lives, tacked up on all kinds of posters and placards, almost always backed with some sort of inspirational picture of mossy rocks or the ocean or, maybe, a towering mountain range. I get it. It’s a good quote. Right up there with the hanging kitten poster with the words, “HANG IN THERE!!!” shouting at you from the bottom, in all capital letters and with several exclamation points bringing up the rear — you know, just to drive the point home.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

It is inspirational, isn’t it? I mean, it really makes you stop and think — about life, about where you’ve been, about where you might want to go, about how it might be possible to achieve all those dreams you’ve kept hidden, deep down inside, for far too long. Maybe, it’s even enough to push a person forward, to encourage someone to begin anew or tackle that life-altering “thing” that’s been put off for way too long. It’s heavy stuff, that quote. Good stuff.

raindrops2

I think I hate that saying. It makes everything feel so simple and so easy. You want to go on some huge, life-altering journey? Great! Just take a step and, before you know it, *boom*,  you’re there! But life is seldom that simple. Maybe it is for other people, but not for me.

The thing is … It’s not the second step or the tenth step or the thirty-second step or even the hundred-and-fifty-first that’s hard. The hard part is that first step. There’s a huge leap of faith involved in taking that first step. Because you have to believe there will be a second step or a tenth or a thirty-second … and so on. You have to believe you will, first, find a path and, second, manage to stay on that path. You have to believe life can change. You have to believe you can change. You have to believe in yourself. And that’s hard. Like, bone-shaking, shiver-inducing, panic-stricken HARD. Sometimes, it feels beyond impossible. The doubts and uncertainty are chaotic and painful. They pile up and up and up, until you feel you might choke on them. You might hate these feelings, but they are so familiar that, no matter how obscene it feels, you cling to them.

Stacks of Cars

I’ve been on my own journey of a thousand miles. It has proven to be a meandering jaunt, with unexpected side trips, detours, and set-backs along the way. Each time, taking that first step has been hard. And painful. And, probably, not something I would have chosen to do, had I been left with any other choice. And yet, in each instance, I was left with no other choices. It was move forward or sit down beside the road of my misery and die. It sounds so dramatic when I write it out in black and white. I feel a little bit silly about it, honestly, because I am not a dramatic sort of person. But, dramatic or not, it was the truth.

Is the journey over? No. I don’t think I’ve finished walking my own thousand miles. The older I get and the more life experience I gather, the more I realize I may never reach that coveted mile marker. It’s a good journey. It’s also a bad journey. It’s a journey full of missteps and stupid mistakes. But also packed with laughter and joy and memories. Sometimes, I wonder where I might wind up at the end of it all. And other times, I find the ending point doesn’t really matter much. Because it truly is the journey that counts, as cliche as that sounds. But I do know this: I am glad I found the courage and strength to take the first step.

There’s another saying I love, from another great philosopher of our time. And this one speaks to me much more than Lao Tzu’s words, wise though they may be. This gentleman said, “I’m a thousand miles from nowhere. Time don’t matter to me. ‘Cause I’m a thousand miles from nowhere. And there’s no place I wanna be.”

Oh yeah. Sing it, Dwight Yoakum. Sing it again, just for me. And I’ll hum along as I trudge my thousand miles.

Sometimes

Sometimes, you have a good day. And then a second good day. And, if you’re really, really lucky, you have a third or a fourth good day. And you think to yourself, “Yes. This is good. This is right. This is life. I can do this.” But, just when you think you’re home free, another bad day comes, howling at you out of the night when you can’t sleep and you lie awake in your bed sweating and feeling full of fear and doubts. And it’s followed by another bad day and another and another, until the good days feel like a distant memory. Like a faded photograph tinged sepia around the edges and golden with nostalgia.

And that’s Depression.

Sometimes, when you’re very quiet, the people around you want to know what you’re thinking. And, at first, you believe you aren’t thinking about anything at all. But then, you realize this isn’t true. You are thinking ALL the things, all of the time. And your thoughts whirl around your brain, flapping and squawking like angry birds. You can’t control them. They just make a lot of noise and poop all over the floor before they flitter away, leaving you with a mess to clear away before you can get on with your life. But how do you explain this kind of chaos to someone who is outside of it? You realize you can’t ever explain it. You don’t even understand it yourself, so how can you even begin to put it into words? And so, when someone asks you what you’re thinking, you shrug and say, “Nothing.”

And that’s Depression.

Sometimes, after you say, “Nothing,” the person who asked keeps on asking. They push and push and push for information, as if they could crawl right into your mind and tame the chaos that lives there. But they can’t and you know they can’t. Even if they could, you don’t want them to, because, then, your chaos would be all about them and not about you. But you can’t explain this, either. And so, you frustrate the people who care about you. And you feel like a failure because you can see the hurt in their eyes, and you know they feel disconnected from you. You feel alone and small and horrible. But you can’t figure out how to change any of it.

And that’s Depression.

Sometimes, after people ask what you’re thinking and you say, “Nothing,” they accept your answer and turn away, back to their own lives. And this hurts just as much. Maybe it hurts even more, because now you’re isolated and invisible — small in a giant, whirling universe.

And that’s Depression.

nyc-chelseamkt16-sm

Sometimes, you want to write about your feelings. You think that, if you could just get them out there … If you could just set them loose in the world, it would be better, because you wouldn’t have to carry them around inside of you any more. But the words won’t come. Or, really, it’s that there are too many words. And they come at you from every direction, as chaotic and uncontrollable as your thoughts and feelings. They hulk up out of the fog of your brain like beasts, rocking the ground with each step, until you think you will go mad with the noise and the urgency and the meaning of it all. Until you think that you will have to scream them out into the empty air around you because you can’t contain them. There is just too much of “them” and not enough of “you”. Then, at the last minute, the words skitter away, refusing to be tamed. And you feel frustrated and inadequate and trapped.

And that’s Depression.

Sometimes, life feels like too much. It’s overwhelming and full and huge, but not in a good way. It feels like your life has become this giant snake, and it has swallowed you whole, so that, now, you have disappeared and become nothing. There is no room for what you want, but only room for what the rest of the world wants from you. And you feel empty and sad and “not real”.

And that’s Depression.

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Sometimes, the people you love will say you shouldn’t be depressed. They will point out all the wonderful things in your life and remind you how very blessed you are and say, quite rationally, that there isn’t any reason for you to be depressed. And this makes you feel like the biggest, most ungrateful loser in the world because you don’t want to be sad or depressed or anything other than happy. But you can’t control the way you feel, even though you have tried to do this your whole life. And you want to tell them this, these people who love you. You want to scream it at them and scratch their eyes and spit it at them so they will see your feelings for the truth that you know they are. But you know they won’t hear you, so you keep it all inside. Pushed way down deep inside. You love these people … But, maybe, you hate them a little bit, too.

And that’s Depression.

Sometimes, when the bad days are very bad … and you think they might never end … and you can’t bring yourself to do the things you need to do or the things you want to do … You remind yourself there will be another good day, if you just hang on hard enough and long enough. You remind yourself that Depression might never go away, but it doesn’t have to win.

And that’s Hope.

Tidal Basin

Endings

rose encased in ice

 

Walking on your street today
As they carried you away
Tucked up inside a white, white sheet
Like a present — small and neat

Were there signs or did you know
That soon, so soon, you would go
Did you say your lengthy good-bye
Before you lay down to die

Did it happen in the night
In a dream, your soul’s last flight
No time to tell the ones you love
As Death descends from above

Yesterday, you were still here
You danced and laughed in good cheer
Today, your spirit has moved on
What made you “you” is now gone

I wonder if you are glad
Or perhaps you just feel sad
To be without those you have known
As you leave this life you’ve grown

I stood in the chilly rain
Feeling my own phantom pain
Watching, somber, as you passed by
I don’t  know you … Nor you, I

But this universe feels large
And I wonder who’s in charge
Right now I am mortal and small
I don’t  understand at all

How can we be here, then gone
In the space of angels’ song
For now, just let me laugh and play
Before I am called away

One day, that will be me, too
Taken away, just like you
Tucked up inside a white, white sheet
Like a present — small and neat

The Running Away Day

So, I was thankful on Thursday. And for most of Friday. And a little bit of Saturday. But it’s now Sunday evening, and all those warm-fuzzy feelings have deserted me. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m still thankful. But that feeling is buried way down deep under anxiety and annoyance, instead of bubbling up to the surface in a wave of holiday-fueled, misty-eyed joyfulness.

You see, I have spent Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all in the very close company of my family. I’m not even talking about my extended family. I’m talking about my husband and daughter, here. I love my husband and daughter. I love them more than I can even begin to express in the small confines of my blog. I love them so much that I would do anything for them. I would fight my way through any obstacle — even spiders and clowns. I would stand steadfastly by them and support them, even when I know they are wrong or when I don’t agree with them. I am grateful and blessed to have them in my life.

But, apparently, we can’t spend five days in a row together without getting on each other’s nerves. Husband has his agenda. Daughter has her agenda. I have my own agenda, too, although pretty much no one cares about it. Husband and daughter, both strong-willed and extremely intelligent people with the mad reasoning skills of a manic lawyer hopped up on caffeine, can’t agree on anything and love to argue. And I end up stuck in the middle, while doing piles of laundry and learning to give the cat antibiotics and B12 injections. And, although it’s not part of this post, I have to add (just as an aside) that giving a cat any type of medication is not fun. They seem to grow extra legs and sprout claws everywhere. And the shedding! It’s like being engulfed in a blizzard, except it’s all cat hair. Not pretty.

sister kitty, who looks extremely cute but is actually evil

I read about moms and wives who are content and happy in their family life. I have to admit I feel the sting of envy. It’s as if their lives are tinged in the most beautiful tones of sepia perfection. They have beautiful houses filled with cherished memories, and plenty of time to feed their artistic and creative selves. My house is cluttered and a bit squidgy around the edges and has cat and dog hair lurking in the corners and under the beds. And, if my life were a photograph, it wouldn’t have beautiful and artistic sepia toning. It would probably be a polaroid, but one that’s been dropped and stepped on so that it’s all scratched up and grungy. Far from having the time to feed my artistic and creative self, I have to lock the bathroom door just so I can pee in peace. Let’s just say there’s no such thing as “me” time in my house.

And so, I have come to the only conclusion I can reach: my family is defective. This is unfortunate, because I have grown used to them. I’m quite fond of them, you see, so a return is out of the question at this point. I guess I’ll have to continue muddling through as best I can. Hopefully, Husband feels the same way. I would hate to think he is contemplating returning me to sender. Yikes!

Which brings me back to here: thankful on Thursday … wanting to run away by Sunday. Yep. Sounds about right. Luckily, tomorrow is Monday. Husband heads back to work. Daughter heads back to school. Normal activities and their ensuing zaniness resume. This is reason enough to be thankful, indeed.

Sadly, I’m still stuck with the whole medicating a reluctant cat thing. But hey, nothing is perfect, right?

 

The Post of Thankfulness

And so, here we are … another Thanksgiving. Funny how it rolls around each year about this time, huh? I guess years and holidays and such have a way of doing that. The whole “cycle” thing. Sometimes, I feel like it all just rolls right over me with big, knobbly wheels — like the ones on those monster trucks that crush all the smaller cars.

Honestly, this hasn’t been the easiest year for me so far. And it’s not even over yet. It’s been emotionally draining and hectic and annoying and … I dunno. A whole lot of other adjectives that I really don’t have the energy to think of at this moment. The thing is, I’m not sure I feel all that thankful. Lately, I mostly feel pissed off — at myself, at my parents, at my body, at the universe, at God. This is bad because I am not one of those people who handles this level of “pissed off” well. There are some people who, when faced with a giant mess of crap-fest in their lives, suck it up … dig deep … tow the line … etc. Cliched sports sayings aside, the point is that these folks use their anger to find something better or more worthy within themselves. They use this energy to make a difference for themselves or for the world around them. They don’t let life get them down, but, instead, end up sending a big, fat “screw you!” into the face of the universe, coming out on the other side victorious — with high-fives all around. I admire these people. I mean, we all admire them, right?

But, I kind of hate them, too. Just a little.

Because I’m not one of those happy-go-lucky, plucky-courage types of people. When faced with a huge level of pissed off-ness, I tend to wallow. Wallow in my anger. Wallow in my despair. Wallow in my uncertainty. Wallow, wallow, wallow. It’s not pretty. Or fun.

prickly purple sea urchin

And so today, I have decided that I should be thankful. It is “Thanksgiving”, after all. A whole day that should be dedicated to the warm-fuzzy feeling of thankfulness. I think this is particularly important for me this year, because of the whole anger at the universe thing. So, when I got up this morning, I told myself I wasn’t going to be mad any more. I was going to be thankful, instead. I was going to find something — anything — about which I could feel happy and satisfied and blessed.

I thought it would be hard. I’m very out of practice with this, after all. But, you know what? It turned out that it really wasn’t difficult. Because I feel thankful for the little things. Today I spent time with good friends. I laughed. I watched my daughter ride a scooter. I heard her laughter carry on the chilly wind. I smelled the crisp, cold bite in the air — the promise of snow to come. I snuggled with a big, fluffy dog. And then came home to snuggle with my own (less fluffy, much more muddy) dogs. I made green bean casserole. I sat on the sofa next to my husband and felt loved. I ate pie. I saw a funny movie. I told jokes and stories. I shared old memories. I made new ones. I hugged my daughter. I watched her paint a nutcracker. I listened to squirrels scurry through the dry leaves. I took a walk.

open gate: hillsboro va

Sometimes, when you pile all the little things around you, you realize they’re not so little, after all. Those little things really are the big things. They are the things that give us the strength to get up in the morning — even if we feel we can’t face one more day. They are the things we carry with us, to light our way through the dark times in our hearts. They are the things that will linger after we are gone. They are the very fabric of our lives: love and hope and joy and laughter.

Yes, Universe, I am still mad at you. I don’t understand the way you work, or why things seem to come so easily to some people and not to others. I don’t think you are fair. I know you’re not fair. Yes, I am pissed off.

But I am also blessed. And thankful — so very, very thankful — for the big pile of little things in my life.

Quicksand

Sometimes, I feel like I’m stuck, unable to move forward … unwilling to move backward … and trying my best to shimmy-shimmy-shimmy my way sideways, just enough to get a little bit of breathing room in my life. I’ve never been stuck in quicksand, but this is what I imagine it would be like. Well, minus the whole “you’re going to die momentarily” aspect of the ordeal. Sometimes, I almost wish I would die momentarily. Just so the cycle of torment and self recrimination would end.

Okay … so, no, I don’t really want to die. Except, well, sometimes, yes, it does feel like this could be a good idea. Figuratively, anyhow. And then I tell myself I’m being overly dramatic. I roll my eyes at my reflection in the bathroom mirror while reminding myself that no one gives a shit about me or my problems. And why should they? And then I go along my merry way. Except … that feeling is still there. That feeling of slogging forward — painfully, slowly, one foot in front of the other. Not because I want to or even because I think it’s a particularly good idea. But because it’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s what’s expected.

deserted road in fall

I suppose I’ve always had an over-developed sense of “duty”. I was one of those kids who did homework as soon as I arrived home — and started with my most-hated subject first. I was a person who stuck it out through three soul-sucking years of graduate school, obtaining a degree that tossed me into one miserable job after another. If it had been up to me, I would have walked away. Right up to the very moment I walked across the stage and received that damn diploma, I would have walked. Run, more like it. And yet, I stayed. Because it was expected. Because it meant so much to other people. I’m the person who does all the shit work in my house. Not because I like it. Or even because anyone ever says thank you. But because it has to be done.

Writing used to be my escape. When I needed a break from the expectations and the obligations and the weight of all the hopes and dreams of the people around me, I would pretend to be someone else. I could be free and do anything I wanted — whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was liberating and terrifying and beautiful and awful and just … everything. All at once.

But now, even writing has become quicksand. There isn’t any freedom in it. There is only the fight to carve out time from the merry-go-round of errands and wants and needs and requirements and just … crap … that is a busy life in a large metropolitan area in the US. And there is the drudgery of slogging ahead, trying to make progress, trying to prove something to myself and to everyone around me. I am worth this. I can do this. I have a voice. I can use it. Except, apparently, I can’t.

The Thing About Love

I had a post all figured out in my head. I even started writing down a first draft of it on paper. I like to go “old school” like that, sometimes. There is something oddly liberating about it, even though I secretly miss the click-clacking of my keyboard even as I revel in the scratching of a pen bumbling across a pristine sheet of paper. I had planned that post as a kind of happy-go-lucky, hopeful feeling, uplifting thing. You know … a “post of loveliness”, as it were.

Sadly, I am in an extremely bad mood today. My day started off on the wrong foot with a late, mad dash to school and hasn’t improved much along the way. Neither has my mood. I am feeling dark and down and gray and hopeless. Good thing it’s pouring rain outside, too, as that seems to fit my mood perfectly. All in all, it’s a grumble-bum, bah-humbug of a day. If this day was on fire, I don’t think I would walk across the street to spit on it.

And so, naturally, my thoughts today turned toward “Love”. Because, really, where else would they turn when I’m in such a dark mood?

brown flowers, shenandoah national park

My dear husband suffered a bit of a work set-back today. It’s been a few days in coming, and he was expecting it. But that doesn’t make it any easier or less painful. It hurts when you put a ton of work into something and, then, it doesn’t pan out. It especially hurts when this thing doesn’t pan out because of the scheming of people around you. It hurts when people on whom you relied for support toss you under the bus that’s suddenly careening around the corner toward you at high speed.

As I was talking to my husband about everything that’s happened, and as I was listening to his feelings and trying my best to figure out how to be the best support I could be for him, I felt … ANGRY. “Angry” doesn’t even come close to expressing what I felt, although it is the word that springs to mind. This was an emotion so dark and cruel and hateful and mean-spirited that it frightened me. It’s an emotion I could never, ever feel on my own behalf. But something about the idea of my husband getting screwed over really brings out the Mama Bear in me. The same thing happens when someone is mean to my kid. There is no escalation or build-up. We go right from zero to gloves-off-screaming-in-anger-scratching-out-eyeballs PISSED OFF. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Flapping Goose. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

I used to think love was something soft and pretty. Or, maybe, it was nice and fluffy, surrounded by hearts and singing bluebirds carrying ribbons in their beaks. I thought it was the white dress and the perfect wedding and a nice house and a beautiful kid and two dogs. You know … some kind of fairy-tale version of the American Dream, whatever that is. I guess I was sheltered in my youth. Or, perhaps, I was naive and a little bit stupid.

But here’s the thing about love: It’s not that. I think we all want it to be that. The beauty and romance of it all paints a gloriously gorgeous picture.

Today, I realized “love” is the Mama Bear inside of me. Love is the thing that lives somewhere, deep down in my soul, that gives me the ability to go to the mat when one of my own is wronged. It’s the urge to rage all-out war on anyone who dares to step over the line with those I hold nearest to my heart. It’s scrabbling in the mud, cursing and screaming, gouging out eyes and pulling out hair nastiness. It’s being willing to stick it through to the bitter end of any situation, even if you sense everyone involved will go down in flames. If given the chance tomorrow, I would tear down each and every person who wronged my husband. I would do everything in my power to see they were utterly and completely destroyed. I don’t say this lightly, and I’m not proud of it. Nevertheless, it is real. I feel it, deep down in my soul, and it scares me to think I could become a personification of anger and revenge.

crazy, fuzzy green plant. meadowlark botanical gardens

Love isn’t soft or fluffy or romantic. It’s brutal and primitive. It’s instinct at the most pure. It’s a force that can make us more than who we are because it pushes us to step outside our own little concerns and limitations. And it has a stark, pure beauty that, really, is terrifying. How do I know I love my husband? How do I know I love my child? Because I would fight for them with everything in me. I would take on anyone and anything on their behalf, no matter the cost. And that, my friends, is scary, indeed.

A Walk in the Rain

Last week, I walked in the rain. I didn’t set out intending to do this. When I first got up and realized the weather was less than ideal, I thought to myself, “Blech. I can’t do this. It’s raining.” And I know you can’t hear it over the clacking of my keyboard, but the word “raining” was accented with just a slight bit of whine around the edges. It wasn’t my proudest moment. Or even second proudest.

And so, I grumped away from the front door, intending to wallow on the sofa for the rest of the day so that I could stew in my irritation and the overall unfairness of my existence. I wanted to walk! I needed to walk! How could it be raining?!? On the scale of massive universal unfairness, this surely had to rank right up there with salt in the sugar bowl. I felt annoyed at missing my walk. Even more than that, I felt angry.

And so I decided I was not going to let Mother Nature win. I was going to walk, anyhow. I grabbed my rain gear, stuffed my feet into my waterproof hiking boots, waved good-bye to my dogs (who both thought I was insane, by the way), and headed out into a wet and dripping world. As I drove to my walking destination, I debated with myself. Was this a good idea? Was it even going to be fun? And so what if it wasn’t fun? Who ever said life was all fun and games, anyhow? I mean, really … there are lots of things in life that aren’t fun. Cleaning the cat box immediately springs to mind, for starters. By the time I arrived at my destination, I had almost talked myself out of the whole thing.

But, I had already put on rain gear. And driven all the way over here. And there were hiking boots involved. It seemed I had no choice. Pulling my resolve around me like the most waterproof rain slicker in the multi-verse, I took a deep breath and exited my vehicle.

 

A walk in the rain!! What a wonderful way to spend an hour or so! Why, oh why, hadn’t I thought of this sooner? It was quiet, with only the sound of my boots shuffling through wet leaves and the drip-drip-drop of raindrops falling from the trees overhead. There were no other people around, and the whole world seemed to be coated in this wonderful, muzzy sort of grayness that wasn’t really gray at all, but only seemed to make all the colors brighter and more alive. It was as if I were seeing the world around me — really SEEING it — for the first time ever.

And I was invincible! No longer one of those sad couch-potato people, I was now someone who walked in the rain. Someone who didn’t let paltry things like bad weather stand in the way of their goals. With every footfall and every striding step, I conquered my doubts and my surroundings. I was going to own every inch of that sidewalk, let me tell you. I was strong and sturdy. I am certain my pioneer sisters felt just this same way as they walked forth into the great unknown, following their wagons across the tall grasses of the prairies. My heart sang and, for a few precious moments, I felt I could do anything at all, if I only just wanted it badly enough. It was exhilarating and a little bit frightening.

Just as I was about to give a resounding YAWP, screaming my smug superiority out to the world around me, the hood of my rain jacket dipped down — just enough to spill water over the edge and into my face. My glasses were covered in little droplets, and I couldn’t see where I was going. And I realized I had forgotten my cleaning cloth.

I sighed and shook them out as best as I could. Conquering the universe is pretty much impossible when one’s glasses are full of spotty raindrops. How can you be sturdy and pioneer-like when you keep tripping over the cracks in the sidewalk? I looked up and found myself back at the car, which meant it was time to go about the rest of my day. And so I drove away, happy that I had braved the rain and content to let the universe continue to run free — for now.

 

Unexpected

My husband was out of town on business a couple of days ago, and he called for a quick chat in between meetings. Our “quick chat” ended up lasting almost an hour. Which is really funny (in an odd way, not in a ha-ha sort of way) because I don’t think we ever manage to sit down and talk to each other for an hour at a time when he’s home. We are too busy running in different directions to snatch more than twenty minutes or so together on most weeknights. He often works late, and my evening schedule is booked full with kiddo’s homework, dinner preparation, clean-up, bath time, and other various household chores. I quite miss talking to my husband. Before we moved to our current city and state and before our daughter was born, it seemed like we talked a lot. We talked so much about so many things that you would think we would have run out of words. But I guess that’s the way it is with the person you love most in the world: there is always more to say.

Anyhow, in our recent conversation, my husband mentioned that people had asked about my writing, and I told him how much I hate it when people ask me this. I’ve been struggling with depression for about three years or so at this point. And now, I’m struggling with PCOS, too. I feel overwhelmed and sad and stuck and hopeless a lot of the time. And any writing is sporadic, at best. Sometimes, I can only just manage to eke out a blog entry, provided I can find something positive and non-ranty about which to write. Lately, even blog entries have been few and far between. So, when people ask me about my writing, I feel like a failure. Worse than that, I feel like a fraud and a liar. Because it’s impossible to explain the “why” of all of it to them. And, even if I could explain it, should I? No one wants to hear it — not really.

red truck with rain

My husband said he has been talking to different people since my depression diagnosis. And he has been reading different articles about depression and, now, about PCOS. And he told me he realizes these things are not easy things to overcome. He reminded me that therapy has helped a lot, and he told me he’s here for me … that we can talk about what I might need in the future or, maybe, about different ways to help. I had no idea he had done any of these things.

And that’s when it hit me — unexpectedly, out of the blue — this feeling of LOVE. It was like a flash-bomb went off in my brain that said: This man loves me. He took the time to read articles, even with his busy work and travel schedule. He took the time to talk to people and to find out what depression means. He took the time to think about what I might be going through, to try and understand the emotional struggles that I, largely, try very hard to keep buried deep down inside of me.

This man LOVES me.

He has shown me this in hundreds of different ways over the years. He is a generous giver of gifts. He showers me with affection and, sometimes, flowers. He makes me laugh. He shows me the good in the worst situations. He gives me hope. He tells me I am beautiful, especially when I feel that I am not. He is a wonderful father. But, somehow, it was this unexpected, quiet, unspoken thing that really hit home for me. That made me feel the depth and hugeness and solidness of his love to the very core of my being. For a few moments, I couldn’t answer him; I was too busy choking back my tears.

cherry blossoms

I have depression. I have PCOS. These things are true, and I can’t change them.

I am loved. I am blessed. These things are also true. And I wouldn’t want to change them.

 

The Nightmare

I had a nightmare last night. I dreamed I was trying to hold some nameless, faceless woman back. I don’t know who it was, and I don’t know why I had to hold her back. But there was a sense of urgency about it — this feeling gnawing at the pit of my stomach that something really terrible would happen if I wasn’t strong enough to keep her there with me. So I pushed her onto the ground and felt the soft earth shift and slide beneath me as she and I struggled with each other. Her long hair flowed around her, whipping and snapping in some unseen wind. I felt the ends of it strike the skin on my face and arms with stinging blows, and she fought me with a strength that was surprising and terrifying. Her nails grew long and needle-sharp, and she clawed at me, leaving gouges on my hands and arms. She growled in anger and frustration as I fought to hold her there, and I glanced up, seeking her face, trying to meet her eyes. Maybe I wanted to make some sort of connection with her, human to human. Maybe I wanted to find a way to tell her that everything would be all right, that I wouldn’t hurt her. But, as her face came into view, I realized she wasn’t human. It was just a skull, with little, pin-point eyes glaring at me with a mad-eyed expression that chilled me to the bone, and a set of fangs that clicked and clacked together as she bucked and pitched against my weight, seeking to sink her teeth into me and finish me, once and for all.

That’s when I woke up, covered in sweat and shaking with fear. It’s not a rational feeling, this kind of fear. It’s an innate, animalistic instinct that triggers the inner caveman we all have lurking deep down inside of us. It’s a slipping and sliding kind of terror that tells us, with a dreadful certainty, that some huge predator lurks just outside the ring of firelight. And so, we draw ourselves closer to the fire, shivering and praying for the dawn to come. Except, somewhere deep down, past the limits of conscious thought, we suspect the dawn will never happen.

This was at around 3 AM this morning. I got up, got a drink of water, and chided myself for being so silly. It was just a dream, I whispered. It wasn’t real. Go back to sleep. And yet, somehow, sleep never returned. I ended up tossing and turning the rest of the night, hearing the echo of those unearthly growls ringing through my ears and seeing the light glint off of the fangs. I felt alone and cold in the small, still hours of the night.

rose with snow

I have PCOS. For anyone who doesn’t know (because I’ve gotten a lot of “what’s that?” reactions since receiving my diagnosis), PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I have, undoubtedly, had this my whole life, but it wasn’t diagnosed until about a month ago. I have been struggling with worsening health problems for quite some time — really, since the birth of my daughter. I come from “tough-it-out” people, and, so, I did my best to do just that. I managed to tough it out for many years. (My daughter just turned 11 this week.) But, eventually, I couldn’t handle things any more. It was too hard, and there was too much pain. And so, I began the rounds, going from doctor to doctor until I was able to put a name to what ails me. Suddenly, things that I never understood about my life fell into place and made sense. Now I know why it took me four years to get pregnant. Now I know why, in the 10+ years after my daughter’s birth, I never got pregnant again. Now I know why I had such a struggle with my pregnancy … why my blood pressure shot up toward the end … why I couldn’t go into labor … why I had to have a c-section. Now I know why my hair keeps falling out. And why I struggle so much (and always have) with keeping weight off. And many other things.

I thought I would feel better once I could put a name onto all of it. I thought getting a diagnosis would let me face down my enemy, that I could say, “All right, PCOS. I know who you are, and I know where you live. And it’s time for you to get the hell outta Dodge.” I thought I would feel relieved.

rose in snow

But you know what? I don’t feel any of those things. I feel sad and angry for the chances I lost, for the things I wanted in my life that, now, I know were never meant to be. I feel cheated. I want to find a mountain, stand on the top of it, and scream at the universe, “Fuck you! Why can’t my body work? Why can’t I be normal?” And, the more I learn about PCOS … the more I feel like there’s a veritable roulette wheel of things lining up to kill me down the line: increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of uterine cancer, increased risk of breast cancer, increased risk of ovarian cancer … And those are just the top contenders. At first, I thought, “Well, that’s all right. It could be worse. At least it’ll go away when I hit menopause, right? Maybe being in my second twenties can work in my favor, for a change.” But no. It never goes away. Ever. And so, on top of all of this, I feel afraid. Afraid, afraid, afraid. And small. And very mortal.

I am struggling with this diagnosis. I think it’s a bit of an understatement to say this, but it’s the only way I know how to put it. I am struggling with what this means for my life. I am struggling with how to put all of this information into place so that I can make the changes I need to make for myself and my family. I am struggling to figure out what this means for my daughter, too. I feel like I’ve failed her, in some way, because the chances she will also have this are very high. I guess, right now, I am grieving and fighting with fate all at the same time. There are so many emotions and feelings whirling around in my brain right now that even sorting out a few is difficult. I feel all of these things and nothing, all at the same time. How can that be possible? I don’t know. But I know it is true. Lately, I’ve just wanted to dig a big hole in the ground, crawl into it, and pull the grass up over my head.

beach and waves

This brings me back to my dream from last night. With the clarity that comes as the shadows fade into daylight, I realized the growling, fanged woman was PCOS. This sounded much less silly in my mind, but bear with me. She was the sum of all my fears and all my frantic feelings and all my uncertainty with this diagnosis. Because I can’t help feeling that PCOS is sucking the life out of me and out of my hopes for the future. Fitting she would be a vampire, then, isn’t it? But here’s the thing: she didn’t win. In my dream, the raging, spitting, clawing woman on the ground didn’t win. I might have felt I was losing strength in the face of her rage, but I still held her there. I still held my own.

This morning, the sun came up. The birds started singing. And my heart felt happy and full. I have a beautiful daughter. I have a husband who loves me and supports me. I have many blessings in my life. I may struggle, but I can find the strength to continue moving forward, no matter where that might take me. I am not alone. And so, I turn my face toward the sun and smile. It’s going to be a beautiful day.