It’s that time of year.
And it’s not for everyone! In fact, I’m writing this for people who don’t love Christmas.
I kinda do. And I kinda don’t.
And this year it’s more like – don’t.
I recently wrote about depression and anxiety. Then, I buttoned it up, information-wise.
I’ve been avoiding the topic, secretly wondering if my depression and anxiety have managed to return like magic with jazz hands. I haven’t felt like admitting that. Nor have I felt like writing a word, because depression saps me of creative energy while simultaneously and confoundingly energizing the negative voice that spurns every word I write, every move I make. And I know the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and those were adverbs, right? And I know I could do without it being dark by 5 p.m., Eastern Standard Time! Just like I know depression and anxiety, above all else, make no fucking sense.
I quit journalism and moved to the Washington, DC ahead of my family, who was still back in Oklahoma City until just a few days ago, wrapping our lives up. Well, they’re all on the way to the DC area now, to start, yet again, anew. And it’s exciting. And my job is so cool, and I get to be a professional activist and my co-workers are just incredibly capable and kind.
So why t.f. am I sad?
And am I sad? Or am I depressed? I can’t tell the difference this time of year.
There’s so much change afoot. When I’m not working, when my mind is unoccupied, often on my lonesome commute, waves of sadness knock me over. Is this a natural reaction to stress?
Is it normal to always stand against a pillar and exercise situational awareness because you think you’re going to be pushed onto the metro tracks? Is it normal to wonder each day which white dude is gonna bust out an AK out of his trench on and mow us all down? Ummmm……
To make myself feel better I’ve been listening to a new podcast called the Hilarious World of Depression. There, depression is called Clinny D, a phrase I will immediately adopt, with credit to the podcast.
The podcast entails comedians and other artists talking about depression. All of these funny, successful people are suuuuuper fucking sad.
I don’t remember the part in my life where I picked up Clinny D in Oklahoma City and told it to come along in my luggage to Washington, DC. I thought I left that all behind.
Not to live in the past, but I’ve totally been living in the past. Because without my children here to keep me busy, my mind is unoccupied and wild, and it wanders, sometimes traveling to its dark little nooks. If ruminating were an Olympic sport I’d have eclipsed Michael Phelps long, long ago!
After Eli was born, we were in the NICU for 30 days, including on Christmas.
My mind has wandered back there in these last few days, revisiting extreme isolation and sadness. And I still remember taking breaks from the hospital to run errands, affronted by mother after mother with healthy baby after healthy baby after healthy baby ensconced in car seats perched on shopping carts.
I’d think of those healthy babies and lucky mothers while looking at my empty bassonet.
Would my son make it there, to the bassonet?
Or would he die an infant?
I didn’t know.
This time of year is when the phone rang and we learned Eli had a deadly illness.
This time of year I was in the NICU sitting next to my son in the incubator when the dumb fuck nurse loud-talked with the dumber-fuck lab tech and I overheard them say my baby had CF and his sweat test results were off the charts.
The lab tech sounded excited about how obvious my son’s CF was, and I still remember the sound of his scientifically satisfied chortle.
This time of year that nurse left the room and told me that, yep, Eli had CF, and then she didn’t call in a doctor.
A candy striper walked in and asked if she could take my son’s picture and I burst into tears, and I will never forget what she said next.
“Being here is traumatic, and they forget that.”
Yes they sure AF do.
She sprinted out the door and got a doctor to explain to me what the hell was going on.
God bless hospital volunteers.
Then m mind wandered to the present. I thought about other families in the NICU this time of year, how they must feel forgotten and sad and robbed of the life they thought they’d have, how their babies may never make it out of there.
I called my sister and informed her of my NICU flashbacks and empathy binges and she instantly diagnosed me with PTSD. She has no clinical background, but I fully accept this diagnosis.
This time of year I’d love to talk to my own mother about this. This time of year I feel her absence more than other times of year. This time of year I think of that time we had Christmas in August, because we all knew she was about to die.
What kept me afloat this week, because I’ve been too doomy gloomy to shop or partake in Christmas cheer / commercialism was to plot a little plot to stop my head from returning to the past.
My extended family donated the money we would have spent on each other to give seven foster children a Christmas morning. And, with what’s left over, I’m going to send hot meals to Ronald McDonald family rooms – the living room-style break rooms for families within children’s hospitals – in Oklahoma City and Washington, DC.
Not in December, but starting in February, when those in the hospital become even more invisible to the rest of us, who will have moved on to weight loss schemes and spring break plans.
This time of year I think back to my breaks in that hospital family room, to the little gifts and meals that made our hospital stay better. I went to write in that family room. I could breathe in there.
The other silver lining of this time of year is that we decided when Eli was hospitalized on Christmas to make every Christmas day like the end of “A Christmas Story,” and go get Chinese food.
I think I’m gonna re-up the effort to find a professional to sort it all out. And another one to keep tabs on my medication. Because, oops, I did that thing again where I pretended I could just take a pill and then sadness-or-is-it-depression-and-anxiety would go away and leave me alone forever. It didn’t
GUH. This time of year.