Waiting For Someone to Flip a Switch

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I live in a small concrete room.  It has one narrow window with bars across it.  The soundproof glass is dusty and finger-printed but from the outside so there’s nothing I can do to clean it.

Inside the room there is a thermostat on the ceiling.  The temperature reads 50 degrees but I can’t reach it to control it.  Once in a while the temperature will readjust itself to 67, or 95, and back to 50.  I just angrily watch it shift without my permission.

Every once in a while someone enters the room.  They seem not to notice I am there.  I speak to them but when they finally speak back, its in a different language.  I repeat the same sentence over and over to them, getting more and more frustrated at their baffled expression.  It makes perfect sense to me.  As they conclude that we will never understand one another, they leave the room from where they came.  I wish I knew how to unlock the door.

Later, the same person returns but with a train of people following.  Each looks at me sympathetically but does nothing to help me and then exits the room as a group.  I’m confused about their purpose as I’m left standing in this room alone.

Outside the window there is a stage.  Throughout the day people enter the stage.  I can see people on the outside watching them happily, clapping occasionally, and then moving on.  I wish I could be on that stage.

Without warning, someone will appear and announce to me plainly, in my own language, that they need something from me.  My mind becomes clear and I feel a breeze coming through the window that is usually sealed shut.  I have a purpose.  I ask them what they need, and they lead me out of the room and to the stage.  While I’m on that stage I forget where I came from or who led me there.  People are watching me.  Really seeing me.  This is where I belong.

It ends as quickly as it began and I find myself looking out the barred window at someone who looks just like me, only she’s smiling and there are people surrounding her.  I think maybe that person is the real me, and the person in this room is only dreaming.  I wish she would look at me so I can give her some kind of sign that I need her help.

I watch the smiling girl and take note of her mannerisms, wondering if they’re real or if she came from a room just like mine.  I try not to judge and just enjoy watching “myself” be happy.  The thought comes to me that maybe one day I can be just like her all the time.  If that is the truth, can I handle this small concrete room with the dirty, barred window for a while longer knowing what I have to look forward to?

Yes, I think, I can.

But what happens when the sun goes down and I can’t see the stage, or the girl?

After what seems like an eternity of silence and darkness the door opens, letting in a flood of light, and someone comes in.  They look familiar.  They’re smiling and greet me warmly.  I should be as happy to see them as they are to see me.  I bury my face in my hands as they embrace me.  When I look up and scan my surroundings, the person is gone, but I’m standing outside.  I can hear birds and laughter.  I’m not alone, in fact I’m holding the hand of a young child who is gazing up at me.  She tells me that she loves me.  I take a deep breath.

Mother

Even if you know me well, you may still not know that I struggle with depression and anxiety.  The anxiety part is a little more obvious.  The depression part is much better concealed.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when it started, but what I do know is that until I had children I had many more things to distract me from how I really felt deep down.  I was rarely alone; I had great friends and a supportive family, lots of activities and goals that consumed every waking (and non-waking) thought.

For the first year Aaron and I were married, I worked as part-time faculty in the dance department of the college I graduated from, followed by a short stint as a secretary in the hospital ER.  Both jobs were somewhat fulfilling, but as I only worked part-time I spent a lot of time home alone while Aaron was at work.  I had no roommates, and now that we had moved to a new town I had no friends.

When my daughter was born, I decided not to go back to work.  And I have been not working ever since.  For 7 years, I have been in my house.  Alone.  I still have difficulty making friends as close as the ones I had in college.  The decision to go back to work is always there, but this is where the anxiety kicks in.  Where do I take my kids?  What qualifications do I have?  Is there actually a job I would enjoy enough to make up for the guilt I feel about not being a stay-at-home mom?

I wrote the above short-story last week — I was having a very bad day — to try to put into words how it feels to be depressed and anxious.  It was the over-analyzer in me trying to make sense of my brain.  It was therapeutic to write it, but I worried about how people I care about would take it.  So I had my sister and my husband read it for me.

I don’t think they got it.  At least not Aaron, bless his Mr. Rogers heart.  And as I tried to explain myself I felt less and less validated that my feelings were real and uncontrollable.

But it is real.  I have spent many years feeling trapped and alone.  My prayers (when I have the energy and courage to say them) consist of anything from begging for a miracle to admitting that I give up.  I feel forgotten and usually angry when I think that my prayers don’t change anything.

Today I saw this video.

When I got to the part in my story about what would happen when the sun goes down, I felt very hopeless and had no idea what to write from there.  Suddenly, as if someone was putting thoughts in my head, I started typing and what came out was that someone who cares about me, who knows me, entered into my lonely room and gave me peace when I least expected it.  I didn’t know what to think of that.  A part of me thought of Aaron and his support for me even during my most difficult times.

But as I watched this video today, the very strong realization came over me that no matter how lost I feel and that no one is listening or understanding, my Heavenly Father is watching over me and has his hand in my life.  But his timing is different from mine and he knows best when to interfere and when to let things play their course.  In the mean time, he needs me on his side.  Today.

I loved the end of this video: It is part of our condition as Mortals to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness.  But even though we may feel lost, God promises to illuminate the way before us…no matter how long it takes.

Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness, waiting for someone to flip a switch.  It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the light of Christ.

Twenty years later, I still don’t know everything, but I now know who I am.  And I know who God is.

I have a feeling that there will be no Mary Poppins that shows up on my door step to take care of my kids, clean my house, get me my dream job, all the while singing happy songs.  But there will be a day when a feeling of peace comes over me.  When I feel as if someone is hugging me.  When I feel as if I am home.

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Whitney’s Wistful Wednesdays

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I mentioned in one of my header pages that I’ve been a very diligent record keeper since I was a little girl.  Every few years I’ll get in decluttering mode and in the process will come across my box of journals, take one out, read several entries, and put the box back exactly where it was.

One year ago, almost exactly, I stopped writing in a journal.  It was at a point where I had a million things on my mind but absolutely no motivation and writing just became a burden.

Last week as I was setting up my home work space for my new class, I realized that last year’s journal was still sitting in a pile of books on my desk.  I picked it up, wiped the dust off, and opened it to see what the last entry date was.

—————-

Monday, January 14, 2013

I don’t know what to do.  I’m miserable and it feels like that’s my usual lately.  Subconsciously I think I write with the intention that if someone reads this after I’m gone they’ll finally realize why I was so crazy. 

All I know is I can’t go on this way.  I have basically no quality of life, its just survival.  And I’m barely doing that because now I’m getting sick and starting to have MS symptoms.  I don’t feel like I can talk to Aaron about it anymore.  I’ve exhausted all my excuses for my behavior and I feel like I’m just crying wolf.  Nothing I say carries any weight, its just a lot of whining that just makes my family unhappy and scared to be around me.

I’m scared to be around me.

I keep thinking about my grandpa’s first wife who ended up in a crazy hospital and he divorced her and she never saw her kids again.  I’m really terrified I’m heading in that direction and I have absolutely no control over it.  This is not my choice. 

If I could choose, I’d be a loving wife and mother who tries her best but doesn’t panic if the house isn’t clean or dinner isn’t ready because spending time with family is priority.  I can hardly even see the things my kids are doing right in front of me.  I’ve just got blinders on to my own destruction.  I pray with all my heart that tomorrow will be a better day and that I’ll feel stupid for even writing this.

————–

Well I do feel sort of stupid for writing that, but I don’t feel stupid for sharing it.  Obviously that is how I was feeling at the time and I’m not feeling that way anymore.  Which means something I’m doing is working, or my prayers were answered.  Or both.

I’ve decided to share entries from my journals regularly and I’m doing this for several reasons.  Most of all its because rereading these unabridged versions of my experiences gives me a sense of continuity in my life, rather than compartmentalizing life into “the good old days” and “survival mode.  Days like January 14th pushed me to make changes and shaped who I am becoming.  I also have many days (like May 6th, 2006) that were wonderful, perfect days and were reflected in the way I wrote that day.  Those, I want to remind myself of.

Let’s hope that I can learn something from the bad experiences and not repeat them, and remind myself of the great days to help me get through the not so great.

The Privilege of Motherhood

From the top of the stairs: “Mama!”

“Yes?” I call from the kitchen.

“Mamaaaa!”

“YES! What is it?”  I say louder.

“I need to change my diaper, I have poopies!”  My 3 year old says, immediately followed by, “I need to change my panties too because I went potty in them.”  This coming from my 6 year old.  This happened twice.  Today.

I’m not surprised.  She’s had the stomach flu off and on all week.  So in addition to my 1 year old’s teething-related bowel problems and my 3 year old twins who are still not potty trained, I have changed, cleaned up, flushed, scrubbed, laundered enough excrement in the last week to fill up every bath tub in my house (I have 3, one of which is a large soaking tub).

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Astonishingly, I have been okay with this.  Of course its not a pretty site (or smell), but I watched this video again, after having watched it several years ago before I was quite SO up to my knees in all of this.  It hit me harder this time as I imagined what would it would be like for my children to be going through what they’ve been through this week without a mother to care for them.

A few days ago my daughter had been throwing up all day, unable to keep anything down and barely able to sit up.  She said she wanted to sleep on the couch upstairs (in the same spot she hadn’t moved from in 12 hours).  I sat beside her rubbing her back and pushing her hair back out of her eyes as she breathed weakly.  Finally I equipped her with a big plastic bowl and a sippy cup of water before going downstairs to be with my husband.

We sat at the kitchen table playing a lovely game of skip bo (that I won) and trying to enjoy the much needed silence during the rare time when all 4 kids were sleeping, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed her to be closer to us.  I needed to hear her breathing.  So I made my husband go upstairs, pick her up and carry her, her blanket, cup, and bowl down to our bedroom to sleep on the floor.

It was the second night that we stayed up most of the night rinsing out the bowl, changing clothes and sheets, bathing, and rubbing backs (third night if you count doing the same for the baby).

My one child who hasn’t been sick this week (so far) is the one who laughs, cackles even, hysterically and uncontrollably in the middle of the night almost every night.  Usually I enter the room in a fit of anger, only to have him calm my rage by stroking my face and telling me “I like your eyes.  I like your cheeks.  I like your hair.  I like your fingers…”.  I can’t help but laugh as I say “I like you too”.

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I’ve said it more times than I can count, and every time I feel a little bit guilty, but MOTHERHOOD IS HARD!  If anyone wants to argue with me that it is not the most difficult job in the world, feel free.  I will win.

But in the same breath I can say that I am SO lucky to be the one to take care of these children.  Everyone once in a while I get a glimpse of how in the WORLD God would think I can handle this.  I’m so grateful for the perspective that sick kids give me of my purpose.  It may be a thankless job more often than not, but this week I have gotten more thank you’s, I love you’s, and cuddles (from the one who can’t talk) from these little ones than I think I deserve most of the time.

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“Its a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it” and I wouldn’t want it to be anyone else but me.

Emotionally flat-lined

Remember this from only yesterday?

“If when I go to the doctor tomorrow he can give me some direction on how to get my energy back, THEN I can be a good mother.  THEN I can be nice to my husband.  THEN I’ll be able to do DO IT ALL and not have to wait til my kids are grown.”

Well I think I may have gotten my answer.  And this may be one of the only instances where saying “if only” is acceptable.  The results of a hair analysis test showed that I have off-the-charts-high levels of Calcium, Magnesium, and Copper living in my tissues.  Not my cells, where perhaps they could be useful.  But just floating around causing problems.  The ratio of these substances is such that its causing me extreme copper toxicity, lowered cell permeability, decreased adrenal effect, Estrogen dominance, poor digestion, protein catabolism, and a number of other bothersome conditions.

In other words, I’m super tired and cranky and no amount of healthy food, rest, or exercise is going to fix it.

What WILL fix it, he says, is for starters to get on a copper detoxification program.  Until I rid my body of all the toxins, there’s nothing I can take IN to my body that will change the way I feel physically.  My body isn’t absorbing anything that I’m ingesting; its pretty much just passing through.

I told the doc, “So I’ve heard a lot that I just need to choose to be happy no matter what, and I’m not looking for excuses, but at this point can we assume that this isn’t something that I just decide to do?”  He answered, “You’re wondering if you can feel validated in feeling that its difficult for you to decide to be happy?  Yes, you can.  Its not all in your head.  You physiologically do not process things the same way as a healthy person.  You have emotionally ‘flat-lined’.  It’s not an excuse, its a reason.  But we CAN cure this.  You will feel better one day.”

{sigh} This is good news.  Because it means I’m not crazy, and that I won’t feel crazy forever.  I think I’ve got a long road but hopefully one that’s paved, with very few hills and valleys, and maybe with some rest stops along the way.

To be continued…

Magic Eye

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I believe it started in middle school, about the time my mom re-wallpapered our bathroom with this crazy repetitive design.  As I’d use the bathroom I’d stare at the wall across from me and as my eyes would start to cross, the pattern would become 3-dimensional, much like the Magic Eye pictures from the 90’s.  I did that for years every single time I sat there.

Now I have a strange habit.  Ability maybe.  For example, when I’m feeding my infant, I stare at the carpet on the floor.  Every time I do this, my eyes sort of cross the way they would when I stared at my bathroom wallpaper.  But now when this happen, an image appears.  These are completely random images usually–like the way your mind conjures up things you’ve never seen before in a dream–and I don’t realize what I’m seeing until I’ve been staring at it for several minutes.  But as soon as I become aware of whats happening and refocus my eyes, I lose the image and I can’t find it again or even imagine how in the world I could have found that picture in what I was looking at.  I only see an image once.

A few weeks ago, as I sat on the floor helping the baby hold his bottle, my mind wandered off to I-don’t-know-where, and then all of a sudden I realized I was seeing Tom Selleck.  This was a strange instance because usually what I’m imagining are supernatural-type images.  Lately I’ve thought that maybe it would be a good idea to carry around a small notepad in my pocket so when this happens I can draw the images and create some sort of portfolio of my craziness.   I’ve considered consulting an eye doctor (or a therapist maybe) about these occurrences, but on the off chance that there’s something that can be done to ‘cure’ me, I’m not sure I want to be cured.  It’s kind of fun not knowing what or who I’m going to see next.

Outside Looking In

It was my turn to try to console our teething infant, since my husband had already been on duty for the previous 2 hours.  I took over and an hour later he was still inconsolable and I believe I was too.  In a moment of desperation I stormed downstairs, baby in arms, slipped my shoes on and walked out the door.  It was almost midnight so it was dark and chilly.  He was instantly quiet.

There were a surprising number of people still awake at this time; almost every house on the street had lights on and I could see right into their homes.  I have met many of the families that occupy these homes and I know their circumstances: the angry alcoholic man with no children who listens to 80’s classic rock, the single mom who works full time with 2 almost-teen boys, the woman on her second marriage and raising her 9 year old son with her second husband while she tries to decide whether to return to the Mormon church, the wonderful mother of 2 very small girls who is the second wife to a man with 2 children of his own.  I looked through their windows in passing and I could almost feel that they were in the same boat emotionally as I was that night.  As I walked down our street I had an epiphany.  You can see others much clearer standing outside in the dark looking into their lit homes.

And also, If I could choose to go back into any of the houses I would choose mine.

A place for me

The inspiration for starting this blog, and for titling it as such, came from somewhere that can explain the blog’s purpose much better than I could attempt to.

I need a place where I can go

Where I can whisper what I know

Where I can whisper who I like

And where I go to see them

I need a place where I can hide

Where no one sees my life inside

Where I can make my plans, and write them down

So I can read them

A place where I can bid my heart be still

And it will mind me

A place where I can go when I am lost

And there I’ll find me

I need a place to spend the day

Where no one says to go or stay

Where I can take my pen and draw

The girl I mean to be