During the long (long!) year-and-a-half (winter 2009 to summer 2010) when Carter was dangerously unstable, I ran.
I ran to appointments with therapists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and assorted other healthcare professionals. I ran to put out fires (metaphorical, except that one time). I ran to meetings at the school. I ran to pull Carter off of children/dogs/furniture he was trying to hurt. I ran to prevent Carter from hurting himself. I ran to keep up with the basic necessities of ordinary life in the in-between-crises times.
There wasn't much opportunity, with all that running, to think about how I was feeling. Not to say that I was OK; I most decidedly was not, and I knew it. I just didn't have the space to get all introspective about it.
In fall, 2010, when Carter began to stabilize (and that stability proved not to be of the short-lived, false-alarm sort), I was nearly overwhelmed with feelings that were jockeying to be acknowledged, understood, and felt.
Chief among those feelings? Fear.
Huge, hulking fear. Monolithic, oppressive, and relentless.
During my many sleepless nights in October, November, and into December, my thoughts ran on a loop, from fears about Carter's stability collapsing, to our financial future, to our ability to continue accessing appropriate health care and education, to whether or not the relationship and personal damage our family has sustained in the past few years will ever be healed.
Around and around I went, in a kind of a thought-rut, until I felt like I would never get a rest from my own thoughts.
Almost worse was the guilt I felt. How could I get lost in myself like that, when there was so much to be done? There were two years of neglected issues - the other kids, my marriage, the house, my medical needs - to face and wrestle to the ground. How could I collapse inward in the face of the one thing I had been working toward and dreaming of for so long: Carter's stability. How could I?
And you know what? I just did.
I just fell apart.
The harder I abused myself over falling apart, the worse it got, until the depression seemed impenetrable.
I think that, sometimes, I try to put on a brave front. Not because I'm noble or strong, and not even because I'm a private person (I am definitely not that), but because I am working so hard to avoid other people's pity. I say it's fine, we're fine, I'm fine, because I don't want people to make that face.
Somewhere in there, I started to pretend, not just for other people, but for myself. I forgot to acknowledge that this is seriously, massively difficult.
Because it is.
When I gave myself permission to stop trying to pretend I was OK, I started to be more OK. Sometime around Christmas, I got my feet under me again, and I've been slowly recovering ever since.
Sometimes I worry that I'll frustrate people with my frequent writing about this notion that we can't be OK until we acknowledge our decidedly not-OK feelings. After all, aren't we admonished, and often, to have a positive attitude? To look on the bright side? To keep our chins up?
Over and over again, I find myself stuck, and over and over again, I realize that I'm stuck because I'm trying not to feel what I'm feeling. Why? I don't know; maybe it's my nature, or my upbringing, or our culture. Probably a combination of all of those things. Whatever the cause, I have to acknowledge the dark and ugly feelings or I get stuck in them.
It was a long depression and I have aways to go before I am recovered, but I'm getting better. This afternoon, Carter interrupted me while I was reading to him. "Mommy? I think you're happier now. Your voice sounds happier when you read." I couldn't force that to happen. I had to breathe deep and wait for the waves of fear to crash over me.
And like magic, the tide went out and left me, shaken but whole, still myself, but wiser.