My daughter, Emily, was sick with mononucleosis during her freshman year in high school. Aside from accidents and injuries, this was the sickest I had ever seen any of my kids. What started out as something that appeared to be a common cold, quickly escalated into a major illness. She was covered with an angry red rash, her joints were visibly swollen, and her throat swelled to the point where she could not speak or eat solid food. Being a “wait and see” mom didn’t work out very well in this instance. As much reluctance as I had to take my kids to the doctor, I knew it couldn’t be avoided this time. Unfortunately, beyond a definitive diagnosis, there wasn’t much that could be done medically for Emily other than to treat her symptoms. Mono is a virus, and we just had to wait for it to run its course. Em missed about three weeks of school, and it took her months to recover anything resembling the normal energy level of a 15-year-old girl. The doctor told Emily that she would need to be careful. The virus could remain with her in a dormant state, but could suddenly flare up if she allowed herself to become run down.
I’ve thought about that doctor’s words a lot recently. “It could remain in a dormant state and then suddenly flare up.” No, I don’t have mono. I have something else, a different “virus.” In 2009, I had a full-blown case of depression. While I appeared normal at that time, I was not. Although none of my symptoms were visible to others, I ached from head to toe. I wanted to die. Truly, I wanted to die. Thankfully, I sought medical help and was given medication to alleviate my symptoms. It was a temporary fix. The meds calmed and numbed me enough to give my mind and body a chance to rest and recover. Once I had a respite from the constant pain and inability to sleep, I decided to discontinue the medication. I missed feeling like me. The drugs made me feel like a portion of me was missing or suppressed.
Dealing with the flare-ups of my depression these past few years has not been easy. Several times, I have had to go back on meds for a short time. Thankfully, I have been able to keep making positive progress this past year without the need for drugs. What has helped me most has been learning to understand my own depression. What are the triggers? What helps me mentally “switch gears?”
I could feel it again tonight. The dark cloud of depression was hovering nearby. My first thought was, “Dammit! NO! I don’t want to go through this again.” I sat on the edge of the tub trying to identify the trigger. That part was easy. What isn’t so easy is trying to figure out how to move past the trigger.
I’ve been cooped up in the house all weekend. I’ve had too much time on my hands, too much time to think. It sometimes seems impossible to just RELAX. If I’m not busy, doing, moving, working, cooking, organizing, or cleaning the depression rears it’s ugly, black head. I sat there on the edge of the tub thinking about this past weekend. There have been moments where I could breathe, moments that felt like they fit, moments of pleasure, pleasant conversation, and relaxation. So what is making me feel stuck? Why do I feel the cloud descending again?
Forgiveness. I am bitter and angry inside, because I am unable to forgive. Resentment and anger seethe through my veins like acidic, black bile. I hate the anger. I hate not being able to forgive, and that makes me even angrier. The anger makes the thought of forgiveness seem like a nasty joke.
It seems impossible to forgive the unforgivable. If forgiveness is undeserved (VERY!), why should I forgive? Yet, by not forgiving, I am only hurting myself. Ah…. Once I had that thought, I was able to take a deep, deep breath. My anger is only hurting me. It is also hurting those good and kind people in my life. T and the kids deserve so much more than I am able to give them. They should be angry with me for my preoccupation and depression, but they are not. I’m an incredible actor. I know all the right things to say and do to cover up the anger that lives inside me.
I am ashamed. It is horrible to write about, or to even to admit, that I harbor such anger and resentment. I am embarrassed. The fact that my life has been hell for over four years because I am angry and unable to forgive is embarrassing. Yet, I feel a sense of hopefulness. This is the first time I have even though about forgiveness as the key to healing from the hell of this depression. I may have a long way to go, but I think I am beginning to figure out the path that I must take.
“Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgetting…A wounded person cannot–indeed, should not–think that a faded memory can provide an expiation of the past. To forgive, one must remember the past, put it into perspective, and move beyond it. Without remembrance, no wound can be transcended.” – Beverly Flanigan