It didn’t really occur to me that I was depressed. I was certain I was failing at life.
I watched other people – family, friends, random shoppers at the grocery store, the couple on the next towel at the beach. I watched and I studied. Sometimes we made eye contact. Wait a minute, I thought I was invisible? Kids could get away with this behavior. It was simply how I lived in the world. Observing, not participating.
All these people had figured shit out and I was going to figure shit out too.
If I could only be like that woman I saw at Charlie’s school play. I need to find a pair of pants like hers. Those kind of pants were flattering on my short legs. And they always made my belly look flat. I wonder what store she shops at? I bet I could look online. If I get up about 20 minutes earlier, that gets me more time to straighten my hair. And I really need to get in the habit of wearing makeup every day. This is something I can do.
Just one thing after another. Find another thing I could try that could make me feel better. Make me better. There was a real commitment here. But it was like pedaling a bicycle uphill. I couldn’t hear the noise the chain was making even though it had already fallen off. I was pedaling but getting nowhere. Exhausted.
Then there was the anxiety. The anxiety has always been a part of me. I held it together during the week. I couldn’t get out of bed on the weekend. When I surrendered to the bed, that’s when the anxious thoughts took over. The structure of the work week kept me busy. Busy was always good. Busy is anxiety’s arch nemesis. But my busy-ness was fueling my anxiety. When there was nothing left to do, my mind took over.
On the worst days, I’d see the fear in my husband’s eyes too. He deserved a better wife. He would take the kids somewhere to “give me a break.” But I knew the real reason. Because of me. Then I would surrender to the bed again, in a painfully quiet house. Alone.
It wasn’t saying words. It was a voice that didn’t need to say words. Because I knew I was a failure. Shame.
Lying in bed, I could see my husband’s tailgate facing the sky. The sun was hitting the chrome. The sun was also hitting the ice on the pavement. It was one of those bright winter days when the sun hitting the snow makes you squint. I was squinting and looking and still couldn’t see the hood because the hood was in the snow in the ditch along the side of Route 2. And then someone knocked on my door and told me they were all gone and my legs went limp and I fell to the floor.
And then an hour later they came home. My mind was killing me.
Unconditional love is when someone loves you all the time, no matter what.
The unconditional love of three people healed me.
And so did the writing.
It wasn’t easy when I learned I was the architect of all of my suffering. I blamed my husband because his job was too demanding. I blamed my parents. I fucking blamed my kid for his so-called faults that made him difficult to parent. The resentment was so much easier than accepting that I had put myself here.
It took years of letting go of most everything I had ever learned about living on this earth. I wished it could be easy every day. There was no article, no person, no book, no doctor, no therapist, nothing that told me what exactly I could do to feel better. I know this because I tried it all. It was simple and it was complicated. But it was possible. Begin again.
My work as an accountant was draining me. What was I meant to do? Teacher, no. Anthropologist, no. Something creative, yes. Painter? Maybe. Making things for peoples homes? I could have a store. All the time, reading, writing and journaling. And all the time, coming up with reasons not to do these things. Am I ever going to figure this out? Give yourself a million breaks.
Then something shifted. I was up at 3 a.m. writing again. What was on the screen had changed. My words were kind and gentle and although I’m pretty sure everyone would agree this was technically shitty writing, I somehow knew this was me. I knew I had something to say that was worthy of being said. In this moment I believed I deserved a seat at this table, and I was pulling up my chair. If there was anything magical I had experienced in life, this was it. You have it all, already.
When I committed to showing up to write every day, every other part my life surrendered. Here it was. Here you are, Pam. There was so much I wanted to learn. I was curious and energized. I was hooked.
Am I a writer? Am I? I’m someone who writes. I write because every day it keeps me on the sane side of crazy. I have no idea what’s down this particular tunnel I’m traveling today but its interesting and fascinating to me, the possibilities, the learning. The learning about people and beauty and life and love. There is alive-ness in there. There is a place I couldn’t fathom existed when I was depressed. Still, I knew this place.
All that time I spent looking and watching, the writing was there all along. Once I stopped looking at everyone else, I found the writing was patiently waiting for me to look back at myself and see what was already there. To make the connection. And then there’s the magic. And the magic, most of all, is what made me a writer.