This post is really fucking long. But it will be worth it. Because anything that includes some Hyperbole and a Half is always worth it.
In the winter of 2000, an odd little, leprechaun-esque psychologist asked me a question that set off a chain of thoughts and feelings that led me to the darkest place I have ever been. The question and the answer haunted me for years, but initially, I found myself contemplating my own death, feeling angry that my one year-old son, husband, family, and friends loved and needed me.
Fuckers. Beautiful, brilliant, funny, goofy, warm, interesting, happy jerks, jerks, all of who had done nothing but make my life better for having been in it, were the targets of my rage. It was their fault I had to stay. I couldn’t leave them. I mean, how would I feel it they were the ones wanting to end their lives, to leave me?
Angry, that’s how I’d feel. But I was the one pacing the floor, shitting out my feelings, wasting away both physically and emotionally, not them. I should have been angry with myself, and I was. I was so angry.
But most of all, I was angry about the answer to the question the leprechaun psychologist had asked me, the observations he had made about my life, and the therapeutic challenges he set before me.
You see I sought out therapy because I had post-partum depression, but also because I was dealing with an interpersonal situation that had been plaguing me for years. The situation was getting worse, truly the only thing I felt helpless and hopeless with regard to changing in any way. I thought I was angry. Dr. Leprechaun helped me see the truth.
I was terrified.
The people closest to me knew I was struggling. Others complimented me on my weight loss. “Look at you! You are even thinner than before you had the baby and you were a little thing then!”
I’d tell them I was working out and eating right, that nursing was sucking out my fat. In reality, I couldn’t hardly eat, and when I did eat, my body churned and fought with the food that felt like fucking shrapnel in my gut, which was hell bent on ejecting it at warp speed.
Some would say, “You look tired. Isn’t the baby sleeping?”
He was sleeping fine. I wasn’t. I would wander around our blazing hot house, catching the ladybugs that had infested our house in a pickle jar, while thinking about ways to die and chain smoking cigarettes on the back porch.
Like Allie, in her Hyperbole and a Half story about Depression, I was in my own head, but with therapy and medication, the thoughts about death and dying lifted, but then I was wandered around in a fog thinking how futile it all was for me to keep faking it, because aside from the fact that I am genetically disposed to depression, the psychological component of my depression was at the root of this never fucking ending darkness, and that specific thing was still an unsolvable problem.
But unlike Allie, what brought me out of this depression was not a piece of corn, a symbol of sorts for (which by the way, makes total sense to me, and probably to some of you as well even though others are oblivious and will always be) how unpredictable and absurd depression can seem. The corn-like thing that finally brought me out of the darkness and into the light was death.
Not my own death. My father’s death.
I didn't want him to die; yet when he did, my unsolvable problem would, in part, be solved. Before he got too sick to think straight, my father could not stop telling me how much he loved me. He cried when he saw my son, devastated that he wouldn’t live to see him grow, to teach him to play the guitar, to take him to Disney World, to see me mother him. He called me when he was scared, angry, hurting, and confused.
He called me when he was happy too. As few as these moments were toward the end, they were enough to balance out the angst and despair. He called me when he wanted to share a laugh or when he needed a laugh. A story about some asshole at work, or something my kid did was enough to make him laugh. Such a small things were enough. It was a roller coaster of emotion, trying to work, take care of my own family, balance friendships, and be there with my parents and brother during what would certainly be the last of our time together here on earth.
Somehow everything balanced out during this time. Nobody complained or felt cheated. Each moment meant something. There wasn’t room for perfection or petty concerns. There wasn’t time to cry over piles of laundry, a bad day at work, or feelings of inferiority with regard to my anything. All of this stopped being important. There was no time to be terrified and focused on my unsolvable problem, which was this –
That I didn’t deserve to be loved, that I wasn’t loved enough, that I could never do or be enough to deserve the love I had, even though I had finally begun to understand the immeasurable and all encompassing love others had for me, because the love I felt for them was the same, and it gave me the strength to keep living.
My father has been dead for almost 11 years. Those concerns about perfection and petty things are still not important, but only an occasional blip on the radar of my life, that no longer hold the spark that used to ignite my underlying depression. My unsolvable problem was solved the day my father’s body became the shell that once housed his soul. There was nothing more to be afraid of. The worst had happened, yet I had never felt more worthy of the life I was living or more loved.
For me, Christmas is an especially difficult yet wonderful time of life. Christmas was the last holiday I spent with my entire family before losing my dad, and this makes me sad, yet my daughter’s insane and infectious enthusiasm for all things Christmas (you can read about that by clicking HERE) is so much like my father, it’s impossible to get caught up in the sadness of missing him when his spirit is with me ALL THE TIME.
Everything is enough. Every little thing is, always has been, and always will be enough. I am enough. I am worthy, important, good, bad, weird, wrong, different, similar, embraced, ignored, amazing, horrifying, mean, kind, successful, and pathetic. Every last fucking bit of it all, whether I am a shiny, hot, buttery picture of awesome or a shriveled, dry, chilly speck of emptiness, what ever I am at the time, is what I am is and is okay! It's all ok, goddammit!
I still struggle with the biological aspect of my depression, that chemical bullshit that is part of my genetic make up. Sometimes it makes me angry, but not angry enough to catapult me into the terrifying state of angry fear that used to periodically hijack my entire fucking life for long periods of time.
Maybe my father’s death is more similar to Allie’s shriveled corn kernel than I think? I mean, shit, that tiny little corn kernel was full of tender, yellow life for a while, probably slathered with delicious, cool butter after surviving the hell fire heat of cooking. The corn was important. That corn went through some shit in life, it was no more important than the other kernels that shared its cob, but it had a role to play, and an unexpected part of that role was to spur on a life, long after it’s life had ended. That corn's life mattered. That corn was enough just being it's corny self, no matter what shape it was in.
That corn put the spark back into Allie’s life. Allie puts the spark back into the life of so many others, inspiring them to keep going, to keep laughing, to keep seeing the absurdity in everything as we do that weird looking back and looking forward while we are also standing still, terrified and hopeful at the same time. I’m so glad I read her weird and completely wonderfully fucked up fucking book.
Really, I don’t know how to end this existential blog post, so I’ll just say this - life’s so unbelievably intense and mmmmmmmm CORN!
This is NOT a sponsored post. I just love this book and I want you to be happy. Carry on, motherfuckers. Carry on.
And of course my book - Moms Who Drink And Swear - True Tales of Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind
P.S. If you or someone you love is struggling with Post-partum depression, get help. It gets better.