Have you ever been in a life-rut? It’s a time when everything around you feels too big and too small all at the same time. You know you need to move forward. You want to move forward. And yet, somehow, you remain in the same spot. It’s frustrating. And maddening. It makes you want to throw your arms open to the universe and scream at the top of your lungs. Not that this would change anything at all, but the scream would be something different. And, at the point where you hit that great wall of frustration, anything different is a good thing. Even if it’s only a scream that hurtles out into the uncaring universe, never to be heard by anyone else.
I’m there. It’s time to admit this to myself. I am in a life-rut, and I don’t like it one bit. It sounds silly to say this, but I’m not sure just how I ended up here. The life-rut feels familiar to me. I’ve been here before, but I thought I was over and done with this. It seems that is not the case. It seems the life-rut has, once again, snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting this at all, which, I suppose, is the purpose of sneaking. Well played, life-rut. Well played.
A little over a year ago, I was in a good place. I was eating healthy. I was working out every day and loving it. I had worked through a lot of my childhood issues, putting me in a good mental place. I had lost quite a bit of weight. It had taken an effort on my part, I’m not going to lie. I’m not a person who can just cut back on eating and drop 20 pounds like it’s nothing. I’m not a person who can mentally walk away from my past, my own self-hatred, and my perceived failures. Oh, how I wish I was one of those people. I would be living the dream. But I had put in the effort, and I was finally seeing some rewards. I was (dare I type it out loud?) happy. Things weren’t perfect. I still wasn’t writing. But, overall, I felt good about myself.
I’m not in that place today. Today, as I think back, that time seems tinged in golden light. Because, today, I am stuck. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m just … stuck. It doesn’t feel dangerous or even terrible or anything. I guess that’s the thing: it doesn’t much feel like anything. And yet, I hate it. I feel smothered and suffocated by my own mind, life, and fears. I don’t feel good about myself. I don’t feel happy. I don’t feel much of anything at all. A general feeling of malaise has settled over my life, leaving me wondering most mornings whether it’s even worth it to get out of bed for the day.
Is this Depression, once again rearing its ugly head in my life? Yes. If I’m being honest and rational with myself, I would have to say this is exactly how Depression feels. I mean, I have been here before. This is a well-traveled road for me and my mind. It feels so … awful. That word doesn’t seem to come close to describing things, and yet, it is the only word for it. It feels awful, all the way down into the very pit of my soul. Maybe it feels even worse this time than the last time things got this bad. Because this time, it feels like I have lost all the progress I made before. It feels like Life and Depression have ganged up together to shove me hundreds and thousands of steps backward.
What happened to all that progress? What happened to all that happiness and certainty and positivity? I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about it this week, and the simple answer is that my husband had a heart attack. This is a simple answer and a not-so-simple one, all rolled together. My husband had a heart attack last January (2017). I thought he was going to die. I really thought he was going to die. And yet, I couldn’t let myself dwell on that at the time. There was too much to do. There were too many other things that had to happen, so I stuffed those emotions away.
If he gets better, I thought, everything will be okay. If he gets better, everything will go back to the way it was. This is what I told myself so that I could get through having to tell my daughter that her father’s heart wasn’t working. So I could get through having to wait for days until they could do the surgery. So I could get through a day of waiting while they did the surgery. So I could get through medication interactions and my husband not being able to hold down food and puking and pain. So I could get through two ER visits and being readmitted to the cardiac wing. So I could cheer him on as he worked up to walking and bathing himself. So I could guard against infection until his surgical wounds healed.
And, somewhere along the way, I guess I forgot about my feelings. Because there was just too much to do. Because I had to be strong and just get on with things. Because that’s just what you do.
My husband recovered. Thanks be to God, he made a full recovery, even surpassing his doctors’ expectations. A year and, almost, a month out from his surgery, he is healed and healthy and doing fantastic. Everything is back to normal.
Except, it isn’t. Nothing is normal. Nothing can be normal again, not like it was before. This doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means that what we had before is gone. It’s just … gone. And now we have to figure out a new normal. Somehow. In some way.
But I find myself grieving the loss of our “normal” life from before the heart attack. Or, maybe I am grieving the loss of the life I expected to have. I’m not sure. It is as if I have been shoved into a stranger’s life, and I find myself standing here, holding all of these feelings — the fear, the anger, the sadness, the uncertainty — clutched in my arms. And I’m not sure exactly how I ended up in this unexpected place. It’s all over. The surgery went well; the recovery was bumpy, but, overall, went well. People keep on telling me it’s all over and done. They tell me I should be happy about that. I should be happy about how lucky we were. And you know what? I am happy. I am. Really. But I still have all these other feelings, too. I don’t know what to do with them.
My husband has recovered. And my heart is full. And we were lucky. But, in many ways, I have yet to recover. My emotions are full, too. My fear is full. My anxiety is full. My sadness is full. My anger is full. And I have to figure out how to move forward. A step at a time.