That’s it. My 12 year old daughter looked at me last night and I saw the faintest almost quiver of her lips. I saw tears well up and then stop. I could hear that she was having trouble saying her words. Her tone was oddly quieter than usual.
And then I really looked in her eyes.
Right after that, I had to look away so she couldn’t see the fear in mine.
I know that look. I know the feeling behind it. My God – I prayed that this was something I’d never, ever see in my children.
The situation that caused it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that my daughter was on her way to a full blown panic or anxiety attack. I’d ask her a question and she couldn’t really answer. She was trying too hard not to fall apart when her friend was in the other room. In my heart, I knew that she needed that friend to leave – even after that friend had been told she could spend the night. My daughter couldn’t go through with it.
But she was afraid to say the words and couldn’t say them. Scared to hurt her friend. Scared of the reaction. Scared to voice what she felt. Probably even embarrassed.
The worst for her – as is for anyone in anxiety – is that she couldn’t pinpoint why or what was wrong or why she felt like she was standing on the edge of a cliff when moments ago she was fine.
I fixed it for her. I said the words she couldn’t. I gave her a way out. I would have walked on fire to erase that look in her eyes.
And later I don’t know if doing that was the right thing. I had to tell her later that she needs to put a voice to her feelings. That she needs to not be embarrassed of anything she feels. That she needs to not be afraid of the consequences of telling someone the truth. That real friends understand and don’t get mad. They want to help. That nothing she feels is right or wrong.
I hate the whole thing. I hate it all. I hate that I can even discuss this. I hate that I know what anxiety and depression are. I f*cking hate it. I hate that it’s chemical and I’ve always hated fearing that I’d pass this on to my girls - even knowing it's chemical.
It’s probably time that I stopped fearing it and admit that it’s a done deal. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the signs in her. The fact is and always has been that she is me…just younger.
Exactly. Sometimes so much it scares the hell out of me. Most times I know how and what she is feeling before she knows herself…just by looking at her.
Yet, I’m a person that is a best friend to denial. I remember when I went through my first life-crushing depression…the time when I had to be physically carried out of my workplace…the time when I saw a therapist weekly – yah, I remember that. I also remember that one day in a therapy session when the therapist said something about me having clinical diagnosed depression.
I had never heard those words before – in relation to me. Oh I’m sure in all the medical doctor visits it was said – but I couldn’t remember. In those appointments I had no idea who was even in the room. I was just focusing on trying to take my next breath and staying alive.
When the therapist said those words to me and I actually heard them – I remember saying, “What? I’m really diagnosed with that? Is it bad? I mean as far as depression goes, was what I was in considered a bad one?”
I will never ever forget her saying to me while she looked at me incredulously like she couldn’t believe I didn’t already know the answer, “Oh honey. This was a 10+. This was a MAJOR depression. You just went through hell and survived.”
Jesus. Even typing that makes me want to cry.
Who does that? Who goes through a major 10+ depression and has no idea it’s that bad? Who has the ability to pretend that much – for months and years?
My own mother had no idea that I cried myself to sleep every night…just one door down from her. She had no clue that every day was painful for me and living was exhausting.
I smiled through everything. Lived through the debilitating internal pain. I screamed at God each night for making me live another day. I never stopped wondering why. I was pissed that no one could see past my façade and at the same time – scared to death that someone would.
Years and years of pushing down feelings and denying pain worked for a while. Mentally I had tricked myself and everyone else that I was fine.
Until one day my body decided enough was enough. If I wasn’t going to heed the mental warnings my mind was giving me…it was going to throw out some physical clues.
Like passing out, weakness, rapid weight loss, exhaustion and vomiting….for no reason.
Pretty hard to pretend you’re okay when your co-workers are carrying you out to your mother’s car because you’re too weak to walk. Pretty hard to pretend life is peachy when you find yourself on a therapist’s couch once a week. Pretty hard to pretend you’re loving life when you have to take meds just to stay alive.
The whole damn thing is just pretty hard.
For me, the remembering is hard too. I don’t remember much during the time that I was bed-ridden and recovering and my family was pretending that I just had the flu. I have blocked it out without even knowing I did.
Sometimes people talk about those days and how I was and I have absolutely no recollection of them even being there and helping me. I remember a few conversations and events but whole days and weeks are genuinely lost to me. Apparently, my brain knows it’s just better to let it go and forget. I can’t handle remembering that kind of pain. I don’t even remotely want to.
People shouldn’t have to feel that they want to die. It’s against basic nature to want to end life. Everything in you is screaming that it’s wrong to want to die but everything else in you is screaming that the only way to end the pain is to die.
Which is why seeing my daughter even have a flicker of that kind of agony is jolting to me. I almost visibly gasp. I feel like I’ve been brought to my knees again in that instant. For just a second when I see what she is feeling – part of me remembers. Part of me also knows I can never, ever get too close to someone else who is feeling what I did just because of that. It causes me to remember and the fear I feel in my stomach just tells me to RUN and close my eyes and go back to pretending that I don’t know that feeling.
So I guess I don’t know what I fear more. That my daughters may face a depression OR that I will have to watch and stand by helplessly and possibly tell Rambo I have to walk away or I’ll fall back into the hole myself.
I can’t go back there. I know my reality now and I know I simply cannot go back there. It will kill me next time. That might make me weak...but it also will keep me alive.
I guess because of that I will try to head off any of this for my daughters way before it ever gets to that point. I’ll watch for signs and ask questions. I’ll get help or meds for them before it’s too late….before they can’t walk or get out of bed. Before they want to stop living.
It’s my only option.
Because I just can’t go back there.