In the last year my life has changed drastically. I went from an older adult looking forward to retirement, enjoying my downtime and living life the way I wanted to live it to raising a child–a five year old child with issues.
I went through the normal menagerie of emotions– guilt that I didn’t really want to give up my life–to joy in seeing a child turn his life around and wake up smiling and singing because he finally had a home. A real home with people who cared not only about his physical welfare but about his emotional and mental welfare. We set up swimming classes, basketball and school activities to help him grow both socially and to develop self-esteem. We watched him grow from a child that couldn’t even write his name to a child that is now learning (albeit slowly) to read, write and do mathematics appropriate for his age.
We spend a lot of time arranging things for him and taking him to these extracurricular activities. We spend time in therapy, getting his medical and dental needs back up to par. For months we spent a lot of time dealing with the Cabinet and the judicial system. Our life was totally and unequivocally taken up with anything and everything but us. We had to totally rearrange our home to accommodate an active child. We now have a dog. Not that I don’t love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs, but having a child and a dog in a house that had never had a dog or a child in it permanently equated to constant cleaning. There was a time I could clean the house on Monday mornings and not really have to do anything other than make the bed and do a few dishes for the rest of the week. If we wanted to take off on Friday night and go away for the weekend nothing stopped us. If I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep in the mornings—I rolled over and went back to sleep. My life was now that I look back on it, perfect and a lot of fun.
At 3:00 a.m. this morning unable to sleep I realized I was angry. But I realized even more than that when I realized I’ve been angry for months. Sick, tired, unhappy and miserably making my way through each day as I struggled to keep up with the housework, my own work, and perhaps if time permitted, which it hasn’t, write a few words. I realized how little I smiled, and I realized what was wrong with my image in the mirror. Not only did I look 20 years older, but it was the eyes. My eyes had a deadness I couldn’t remember seeing before. A lack of luster or life. When had that happened? And why?
I spent the morning cleaning house, organizing my office and thinking. Lots of thinking. I realize now I’m not just angry, I’m depressed. And I’ve been that way for months. Thus my lack of motivation, my feelings of loneliness even when I’m not alone, my insomnia, hopelessness and guilt.
The first step in curing a problem is realizing you have one. My doctor would probably tell me I’m clinically depressed and should seek medication as well as therapy. Well, having a therapy degree myself, I realize that isn’t going to work for me. I’ve spent the majority of my life studying meditation, hypnosis and helping others to overcome the very problems I now find myself faced with. I spent years as a motivational speaker helping others find and express themselves. I’ve worked with rehabilitation clinics helping drug addicted mothers and pregnant young women find healthy ways to uncover their emotions and express those emotions in healthy ways.
My toolbox is full of wonderful tools that should never have allowed me to reach this chasm of misery and disappointment. This pit of despair.
So now I have to decide– is it my anger making me depressed or is it my depression making me angry? Or does it even matter which is which as both are unhealthy in my state. Don’t get me wrong, anger in itself is not an unhealthy emotion. It helps us to stand up for ourselves, not become victims of unjust accusations or attacks on our integrity, our body or our loved ones. Feeling that type of anger is satisfying because it helps you define yourself and know that you’re standing up for both yourself and what you believe in.
Depressive anger is different. It truly has no source you can easily put your finger on. You wake up angry and you realize as you go through the day you don’t like people, or places or things, but most of all—you don’t like yourself. You don’t like the image you see in the mirror. You have no motivation to change or do any of things that previously brought you pleasure. What’s the use? Who cares? Life is never going to change. You’re stuck and there’s nothing you can do about it. And you find yourself asking why bother cleaning today, they’re just going to mess it up. Why bother taking a shower and cleaning up, nobody really cares anyway. And your body gets tired. Tired from lack of stimulation. Tired from lack of motivation. Tired from unhealthy thoughts and unhealthy eating, because you don’t feel like cooking or taking care of yourself. You’re tired mentally and physically and you may not realize it at the time but you’re tired emotionally. Tired from holding in or holding down that rage that’s burning inside. Rage against everything and everyone around you, but more importantly, a rage against yourself because you’re helpless to change your circumstances and that leaves you feeling hopeless.
Now I have defined my problem, so how do I change it? I would be lying if I didn’t say I do feel better just realizing that I have a problem and what the problem is. I would also be lying if I said that the problem was going to go away today. It isn’t. It’s going to take days, weeks and perhaps even months of self-study and work to overcome these issues. But today is a start. I’ve cleaned more, organized some and in a little while I’ll be pulling out some of those meditation tapes and self-hypnosis tapes that I used for others and using them on myself. I’ll take a good long look at my life, my days and how I spend them and see where I can make minor changes to add in some “me time” “writing time” “cuddling time” and just perhaps a few minutes of sitting outside and contemplating what a beautiful world God created. Spring is coming and before long the rose bushes will be sprouting. It will be time to plant flowers, gardens, herbs and let my fingers sift through the dirt.
When I wake up in the morning I’m still going to have a different life and a five year old child that I love dearly. Even through the anger and the depression seeing him wake up each morning smiling, singing and skipping off to school may have been the only thing that kept me from sinking even deeper and slipping over the edge. I do take some pride in the fact that even in my darkest hour I never blamed him. He was an innocent victim of circumstances beyond his control. My guilt was based on my feelings of selfishness from not wanting to change my life. But my life has changed, now that I realize where I am it’s time to make that change something positive. It’s time to stop looking at the negatives and what I lost to looking at the positives and what I can gain from this.
Wish me luck, and if you have any life changing experiences to share to help me in my journey, please share them. Sometimes it helps just to know we’re not alone.