When I opened my eyes this morning and saw the blue spring sky welcoming me to another day, I thanked the Lord that the gray and rainy weather that seemed to have been the default of late had moved on. I lay there for a moment, an unsettledness growing in me, as I remembered the dream about my father. In the dream he talked to me and I could hear and understand his voice–a rare occurrence since his passing eight years ago. It is not his voice that unsettles me but the topic we discussed. I had a terminal illness, perhaps it is cancer, like he had. An anxiety that I might actually have cancer begins to take root. I try to explain it away, remembering all the young patients Erin has told me about recently who have come into the hospital filled with cancer.
As I begin to go about my day, the anxiety and darkness grow stronger. My back is hurting, something that it has not done in a long time. Cancer, I am sure. I disregard the fact that my back has bothered me since I was nineteen and that I’ve been exercising less. I begin to go back and forth about going for a run, while berating myself for slacking on my core workouts because I know those help my back not hurt. This goes on so long that I miss my opportunity to run before it is time to wake the boys for school. Another failure to add to the list and berate myself over.
Now I’m feeling as if there is so much to do I don’t know where to begin. It’s all too much, I think, I have no time for all of this. I just want to sit and do nothing. I’ve only been up for an hour and already I feel worn and defeated, as if it is the end of a physically grueling and mentally taxing day. With the boys now up the anxiety has clicked up another notch. They seem extra loud and it is as if they are not listening to anything I am saying. This is all in my head of course, the darkness has begun to take the lead. My patience is short, I don’t know what to do with myself. Though I know the morning routine, I feel completely scattered and unfocused.
Luke, feeding off of me, is now berating himself for losing the pocket knife he got for his birthday the day before. When he gets frustrated or when he feels he is doing something wrong, he yells at us. This makes us upset, but I realize with some horror that he is doing exactly the same thing that I do–beating himself up inside and then turning that frustration outward, because you can only beat on yourself so much. Lord, I pray, help us help Luke not to become like me. We find his knife and I tell him that I do the same thing, beat myself up, and now I am depressed, on medication and seeing a therapist. Some might say that this is not something to say to an eight-year-old, but we gain nothing and help no one if we hide who we really are. I tell him that I know he puts himself down out loud and my guess is that he does it more often and far worse in his head as well. I do the same thing, I tell him, so that is how I know. He nods with fear in his eyes.
By the time we leave for school, the darkness is in complete control and my anxiety is so high I want to jump out of my skin. As I drive I try to reconcile it all. How do I release the pressure? I think about cutting myself, a long gash up my forearm–that would do it. The other day I thought about stabbing myself in the leg. At forty-one these are new thoughts. God, I am one fucked–up person. The berating begins anew.
By the time I get home, I resolve to sit on the porch and write. I’m determined to tell the world of my struggle. It is early June and there is still a chill in the air, so I put on my winter jacket and stick the radio out of the window–tropical music turned up loud. I sit at the table on the screened porch, my favorite part of our house. Erin and I, with the help of her dad, screened the porch in last year and I always have a feeling of great accomplishment when I sit out here.
A cup of coffee, a view of sunlit trees and blue sky, the scratch of my fountain pen across the page, my hand trying desperately to keep up with the thoughts pouring from my mind–this is exactly what I need. With each pass across the page the grip of the anxiety and darkness lessens until once again I am in control of this dance. I know that despite all of the turmoil I am incredibly blessed and I hold fast to that. I make every effort to slow my self down so that I can unshackle the joy that I know is in me. It is the only way to survive.