Tiny Spark Series: The Dark Couch

I’ve known my mom was a brilliant thing for round-about 25 1/2 years. The blogging world is quickly catching on since she began her very own blog, On [ This ] just a few months ago. It’s been a treat to get to know my mom as a writer, hear a story our family lived through her eyes. It is a shock to realize that your parents are people- real people!- with first names and eyes and ears, with memories even. In today’s Tiny Spark my mother shares a struggle my pig-tailed little self never understood. She explores the notion that knowing sometimes is just as helpful as fixing.

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On [ Depression ]

I can do everything, and I do.  Sew all the dresses, hang the wallpaper, miter the chair-rail, cook the excellent meals.  Looking in, you see perfect.  I keep all the balls in the air.  They are never, ever dropped.

clayabby2

The first grade girl and the kindergarten boy are delivered to school, toting projects finished the night before, healthy lunches packed.  Clothes ironed, they walk into the building in their spotless socks.  Not only perfectly turned out, they are cherished, read to, played with, loved.

babytori

Inside the walls of my home, shining with the clean, I come with my little baby girl.  I nurse her on our couch, kiss her face, hold her close, breathe her.  Shutting the blinds, I let the house go dark, even in the light of day.  I lie there with my sleeping baby on my chest, I sink into that dark, that silence, sleep.

I can only stay on the couch so long.  I get up, pick up the children, make meals, play with them, bathe them.  No one is mistreated or neglected, everything is handled.  This is a functional depression.

Months pass.  Everything is fine, but the color inside me is black.  The texture is dull and watery.  I am drowning.

shrink

Every day then and every day now, I talk to my mother by phone.  She tells me then that she can hear the dark in my voice, the dead.  Worried, she tells me this every day, until I stop taking her calls.  She is annoying, persistent, wanting me to see a doctor, trying to help.  Likely, she saves my life.  My mother goes with me to that doctor.  In the telling, I can barely speak words through the angst, the silent tears, the pain.  And if I am being truthful, the embarrassment….that I am bad, wrong, flawed, crazy.

I get a green pill, and my outlook changes promptly.  I don’t want to depend on meds, but this gives me a leg up, a chance.  I see a little light, like opening the blinds a tiny bit.  Off the couch, I go for walks with my baby in her stroller.  I remember that I love running, I remember that life is good.  I remember that besides doing all the things, I can enjoy what I’m doing, I can love it.

Many years later, I recognize when the dark sneaks in, and it still does, sometimes.  But I see it.  That’s the good, that I’ve lived this, I live it.  I know that seeking help is fine, it’s good.  There is no shame here now.  The good is that I see it in myself.  I can see it, sometimes, in others who are on that dark couch.

My daughter comes to my house with her infant son and I see the black behind her eyes.  She has no words, only silent tears.  Although she is a grown-up, I am able to be the mother that my mother was to me back then.  She becomes a child again before me, she tells me “yes” and “ok”.   She does what I tell her to do. I take the cranky boy from her, put her in my bed to sleep because she is so tired. I call my doctor and make her an appointment for the morning.

depression

Today, I am not bad, wrong, flawed, or crazy.  I can be brave in the telling of this story, and I tell it if I need to, unashamed.  There is hope for those of us tempted to lie on that dark couch, there is help, light.

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Do you hide your struggles from those around you?

Why?

 

 

Upcoming Tiny Spark:

Andra Watkins

Monday, December 17th

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41 thoughts on “Tiny Spark Series: The Dark Couch

  1. Gosh, I loved it. It’s such a difficult admission to make. We all know about the standard mothers are meant to keep, and I’m pretty sure we all try to hide our inability to keep all the balls in the air. Thanks for such an honest and meaningful post.

    • I appreciate reading these words from my mom now that I’m a mother myself. There is an incredibly amount of pressure to get everything right, even if it means hiding an inner struggle. I think she’s pretty brave talking so candidly about hers! Thanks for reading :)

  2. Okay, so I’m crying. I’ve suffered from depression since childhood and your mom explains it so well here. The stigma attached to mental diseases doesn’t help any of us when it comes to taking that first step toward help. Thanks so much for sharing this. The more stories that are out there, the more we all share, the better it can be for those of us who still struggle taking that first step toward help, toward the light and out of the dark. She’s brave to share her story. You’re awesome to give her the arena to do so. Hugs to both of you wonderful women.

  3. I have spent many a day on the dark couch, arm flung over my eyes…only to rise up and tend to others’ needs with a brave (if somber) face. The difference between surviving and thriving is sometimes just a little ray of sunshine, sometimes a little green (or yellow – whatever) pill. The chemistry of depression fascinates me – how changes in what happens in the synapses changes what happens in the thoughts/moods/expressions. Having been in both the darkness and the brilliant sunshine – knowing there is help and hope is a precious tiny spark. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I love that you mentioned surviving vs. thriving. It’s easy to mistake the two. I think that was a huge factor in my mom’s situation. She survived so impressively, with all her kids clean and everything in neat rows, that one could easily have thought she was thriving. It was easy to miss that she was hurting.

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  5. This has me in tears. I to have lived with depression most of my life. There was a time when I decided asking for help was the only choice besides death and believe me I had contemplated that as well. Today the darkness still lingers around Tue edges I find myself scared of it untilled I remember “I am bigger than my illness, I have beaten it once and I will not go back into that hole!” Depression is like a vacuum for me I have to make sure all my blessings are closely wrapped around me so that I’m two big to be sucked up. Thanks for sharing this story depression often feels like a lonely place its nice to know others understand the struggle.

  6. Really well done. I think it’s especially hard with that functional depression because it takes someone who knows us as well as Mom to even recognize the darkness. Thank you for a truly moving post.

    • It’s easy to assume that unless we look like something’s wrong, everything is fine. You would never have seen my mom, sewing dance costumes, baking cookies, braiding hair, doing all things, and thought “Now there is a woman in suffering”.

  7. This is beautifully written and so, so powerful! I have never dealt with depression in my own life, but many of my loved ones have, including my husband. Outwardly, he was sunny and friendly, but deep down he was haunted. I could never understand the darkness in his world, and I had a very difficult time accepting that he wasn’t able to just buck up and deal with what life handed him. Thank you for such a poignant portrayal of living in the darkness, despite the outward appearance. It shines light on things that people need to talk about but often cannot. Tori, you’ve got one brave and talented momma!

    • She’s pretty wonderful, isn’t she? I love what you said about “bucking up” because, as a person who’s not struggled with depression, I’ve thought that, too. My mind tends to look at the outside life. My mom, for instance, baked and sewed and played and did the Dance Mom thing and the Baseball Man thing and the PTA thing. Her life looked so good, so put together and polished that I had a hard time understanding why she was so darn unhappy. I think a lot of people have thought like I did, that if a person doesn’t seem like they have anything to be sad about then they should cheer up! The more I learn about it I’m starting to understand that it’s not a willful disorder. My mom, despite all the good things around her, could not make herself feel ok, happy, peaceful.

  8. Strength of character is not measured by how we deal with the light times, but how we deal with the shadows that visit all of us. To keep on smiling for those that need the smile even though we would rather be howling in agony is the epitome of strength in my eyes. And then to be able to express it so eloquently …. an amazing mom … and woman. No wonder Tori is Tori :D

    • She’s got mad poeming skills, Mark. <—- That was not poetic. I am what a lot of people call shameless. I think they mean this as an insult, but I appreciate the idea. I've been lucky to never feel worried or concerned with keeping secrets. I see, for people like my mom, how much hurt they've endured because they felt they'd be judged or criticized for saying out loud "Something's wrong and I need help". I think if everyone just said "Here are the parts of me I hate or fret over" we'd see that every single person has some funk, some dirt, some kind of struggle.

  9. A lot of time, I wish I could suffer in the black hole of anonymity. Unfortunately, my depression too often manifests itself as yelling, and my poor wife is far too often the target. I am on too many other meds to take anything to “even me out”. So I try to fire off my volleys into empty air, to curse and mutter to myself. And it works – most of the time.
    My mother and I had grown apart, a few years before her death. I envy you, Tori, for the close relationship to your mother. You are both fantastic, beautiful ladies. You are both far stronger than you think you can be, but you don’t have to do so alone. Enjoy the mutual support. And the very obvious very wonderful love.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your mom, John. That’s the kind of hurt that tugs at you. I am incredibly lucky to have the mom I have, the weird, crazy, chaotic family I have, and thanks to blogland, you’re a part of that wild bunch, too!

    • I’m glad we’re having this discussion. I think a big problem is that we tend to be too harsh and judgemental towards others. If you think about it, everyday are criticized or ridiculed for how they raise their kids, who they love, what they do for a living, what politician they vote for, what meds they take. It’s silly but serious. I know a lot of people who feel the same shame and fear my mom felt because admitting to or seeking help for depression is viewed as a major malfunction.

  10. This was such a touching and honest post. I have several family members that have battled depression (some more functional than others.) I’m able to keep the lights on most days, so I’m thankful for that.

    I’m enjoying your Tiny Spark series :)

    • Thanks for reading, Janna. I think so often we assume depression looks a certain way. I even had this idea of a sad, teary person unable to get out of bed. I guess that is the shocking part that my mom, for instance, struggled so much with depression despite her pulled together “look”. She had the pretty house and the tidy kids. She baked in the kitchen and sewed and shuffled to sports games and checked homework. She didn’t look like she’d been hurting.

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