The things I can talk about

Despite a small segment of my readers’ seeming beliefs to the contrary, I don’t actually write about EVERYTHING. I write about LOTS of things, and I write about some stuff that I’m sure some people wish I wouldn’t, but this is but a small, self-selected slice of my life, and there are a million and one reasons to be selective about what I put out here.

Figuring prominently in that laundry list of constraints are my readers who are known to me, such as my family and friends, and my desire not to vex them any more than is strictly necessary. Also on that list is the fact that my ex is reading here regularly despite assertions that he most certainly is not. And then of course we have the workings of my brain (such as it is) that insist that sharing things that make me look stupid are fine, whereas sharing things that make me look vulnerable are not. Stupid is funny. Weak is just pitiful.

And so as my thoughts and life rattle around in my brain I mentally bookmark the things I think would be blog-worthy (not to be confused with bra-worthy, which is another matter entirely) and come up with stuff like the following.

Water vs. electricity. We were adding water to our pool so regularly that we fully expected to have to sell one of the children when the water bill arrived. Well, it turns out that water is pretty cheap here (drought notwithstanding), so it really wasn’t bad at all. Not nearly as bad as we’d expected, anyway. Of course, somehow in worrying about THAT we completely forgot about what it might be costing us, electricity-wise, to run a pool filter for 10 hours a day. When the electricity bill came, Otto had a stroke. I was too busy trying to come up with cost-cutting alternatives to panic. Perhaps we could… run the filter for only 9 hours a day! That might be better! Or, maybe we could just throw all of our money directly into the pool instead of running the filter! It probably won’t keep the pool as clean, but it’d be cheaper.

Church, interrupted. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the church we’ve been attending since moving here, but I am for whatever reason not entirely feeling it. We decided to try a different church yesterday, one that’s downtown, and quickly discovered that it doesn’t have a parking lot. Have you ever tried parking downtown in a college town? It can be done, but you have to have a lot of free time. We had sensibly left ourselves about 10 extra minutes, which turned out to be about 15 minutes less than what we would’ve needed. It may have been quicker to leave the car at home and walk, is all I’m saying. Eventually it became clear that we just needed to bag it. And by that time, of course, it was too late to go back to the other church, either. So we went to Waffle House, instead, which seemed like forty different kinds of wrong, but we didn’t know what else to do.

Passing on important knowledge. My mother-in-law’s car came to us with a Jesus fish on the back. I’m all about Jesus (dude, I would totally wash your feet with my hair if you came back and my hair was longer, I swear) but I prefer him to be my invisible co-pilot rather than have his name written on my ride. After a brief discussion, Otto and I decided that what the car REALLY needs now is a flying spaghetti monster like this one. This opened an opportunity to have a long discussion about intelligent design and evolution and creation and science vs. dogma with the children, which was great, except the irony of having that talk with them on our way back from Waffle House instead of church was not lost on me.

Apocalyptic ants. I hired the Bug People to come and spray the house inside and out with delicious toxic chemicals so that—God willing—I will never see another gigantic palmetto bug in here as long as I live. It worked like a charm, except now we have ants. More to the point, we have a miniature infestation of teeny, tiny ants in one far corner of the kitchen, at the end of our table. These are the creatures that survived the chemicals, I presume, but I fear despite their hardiness they suffered some brain damage. You see, this tiny little swarm appears every morning and I have to kill them before breakfast (whereupon they’re gone for the rest of the day, until the next morning), but I can’t help noticing that they wander around completely disregarding not only the ant bait sitting in their midst, but also the fruit bowl loaded with actual food. They just go in circles on the end of the table, until I kill them. Darwin would not approve.

Out, out, damn form. I feel like the more forms and papers I send off, the more are required of me. The school STILL doesn’t have the kids’ files—necessitating a trip down there on Friday to sign papers and WATCH THEM BE FAXED to the old school—and I just yesterday completed the claim form on my move. I not only have to tell the movers how much it will cost to replace an item, I have to state how much of that value I’m claiming. What an exercise in making your brain hurt; well, you broke the drawer on my desk, and you can’t exactly just go shopping for a replacement drawer, so do I get to claim the entire replacement cost? How about my 300-pound giant dresser which you scratched all to shit? I could probably pay someone to refinish it, if I could get them to come do it HERE so that it doesn’t need to be MOVED. How much do you figure THAT would cost? And then there’s the matter of the black gummy stuff you got all over my mattress, because not only do we need to claim an amount for cleaning or, preferably, burning and replacing it, I am going to require extra therapy to get over obsessing about HOW THE HELL THAT HAPPENED.

* * * * *

What I don’t know how to talk about, what I’m not sure I WANT to talk about, is the state of fragility I find myself in. I am not given to immediate depression in the face of difficulty; I claw my way through things and then later—when I should be emerging into the sun at last—I crumple. I find myself agonizingly, all-consumingly FURIOUS, which is of course just a prelude to realizing that what I REALLY feel is like all my skin has been peeled off and the remaining me turned inside out… and everyone and everything around me is chugging along per normal and I’m left to figure out how to act normal when I feel eviscerated.

Once when Chickadee was about eight or nine months old, her dad and I had a terrible argument. I don’t remember what it was about. I just remember that raw fury, the feeling that I was, at that moment, capable of really hurting someone (which is, to be crystal clear here, horrible and disconcerting to say the least). I announced that I was going for a walk and stormed out the door of the house.

It was the middle of winter and my hair was quite long, and soaking wet (I’d just showered). I don’t know how long I walked (okay, stomped), but I know it was long enough that my hair froze. As I walked my brain actually felt like it was buzzing, so rapid-fire and jumbled were all my thoughts. As I walked I started to wonder what would happen if I just… never went back.

I did go back, obviously. And I told my then-husband that I thought perhaps I was having some post-partum depression we’d overlooked. I should’ve won an award for my skillful use of understatement.

And here’s the thing: I didn’t have many of the “classic” signs of depression. I was functioning. I was taking care of my baby, I was eating (some) and sleeping (some) and showering and laundering and doing okay. But I wasn’t.

On Saturday night I worked for a couple of hours on something I’d put off for too long, and with a single click of the mouse I lost all my work. And then I pretty much just lost it.

I went for a walk (stomp). At 10:30 at night. (Hey, at least my hair didn’t freeze this time.) Once the buzzing in my brain quieted enough for a bit of conscious thought, I remembered that walk I took so long ago, and remembered feeling the same rawness. I remembered contemplating running away from my life, and immediately turned around and went home.

There is depression that is all-consuming and debilitating, and there is depression that’s more like mildew. It’s there, it’s sort of sticky and unpleasant, and maybe you can sort of smell it and know it’s there before you see it, but it can be ignored. For a while, anyway. And when you come face to face with it, you feel sort of stupid for having let it get this bad, even while you feel stupid for being this affected by it.

I tend to rate my state of mind against what I DO and also what I’ve DONE. Am I taking care of the kids? Yes. Okay then, I’m okay. Did I consider not coming back the other night? Nope. Okay, I’m much better than that other time, then! Am I meeting my obligations? Sure, if we’re willing to overlook the work I screwed up on Saturday.

How I FEEL doesn’t often get plugged into the equation, particularly when the feelings I’m most likely to focus on are all perfectly pleasant ones. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I have a wonderful family, a nice home (um, two, actually), steady work, etc. To admit to feeling skinless, unsettled, agitated amidst what is a basically charmed life seems ungrateful. Maybe even self-indulgent, even though I’d much rather indulge myself in, say, a few thousand paper cuts and some lemon juice than this.

So I talk about the minutiae of life, the funny things my kids say, the events from my day that strike me as interesting. Because at a basic level, I’m fine. On another level, I’m struggling, but I hesitate to talk about it. I’ll work through this and my skin will grow back again. And when I hear “Why didn’t you tell me?” I answer “I didn’t know how,” which is the truth. I don’t know how.


Things I Might Once Have Said


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