Friendships come and go through life, some of them constant, and some of them fade in and out. Some survive severe ups and downs, while others are pretty steady. One of my best friends from high school contacted me a couple nights ago. It was great to hear from her again. We reconnected and started talking again. Hearing from her brought back a flood of memories from high school. Something that stands out now more than ever is that the testimonial I wrote and read for peer counseling class was not really an open acknowledgement of anything. I did not keep it, but I see now everything that I could have shared, but lacked the courage to testify to back then. Tonight, I got a phone call from my dad that my mom is in the hospital. She is not injured and it is not medically related, and to be perfectly honest, I kind of saw it coming. My mom has been surviving with clinical depression since I can remember, and recently she has not been acting like her usual self. In her struggles with depression, she has been pretty steady for the most part, but there are times when she lapses into severe episodes.
As a child, I vaguely remember being very young and going to visit her in the hospital during one of the more severe episodes. I remember being scared and uncomfortable. I have a very vivid memory of my mom coming home for a visit from the hospital. She stood up while my Nanni and Grandpa and dad were talking to her, walked into the bathroom and started screaming. She cried a lot and I do recall times when she talked about taking her life. Much like Fight Club, we never talked about it, and as kids, I guess we all dealt with it in our own way. We were pretty young when this all happened. The doctors eventually helped balance her emotions with medication. My response to this time in my life was to hide any sadness I felt. I used to believe that crying was a sign of weakness. I used to bury my hurt and my sorrow, not talk about the things that made me feel down. I worked hard not to share my feelings with others. I turned a lot of that hurt and sorrow into anger. I had a temper that could tame a wild lion when I was a child. I clearly remember that when my great aunt died, whom I was very close with, I chose to go to school that day. I ran off and cried into my pillow, but then I told my Grandpa that I wanted to go to school. That is how I was dealing with my hurt and sorrow. I pretended they didn’t exist or I bottled them and turned them into anger.
My mom had been pretty well balanced from the time I was about 5 until about 4 years ago. Though no one is quite sure, I believe my oldest brother was suffering from severe depression and never sought help. He may have been messing with drugs again, and was drinking heavily. Many reached out and tried to help, but he eventually pushed us all away. He overdosed 4 years ago, and my mom has not recovered yet. Mental illness is a very real thing, and it affects not only the person suffering from the disease, but everyone around him or her. People with depression have to wake up and find the strength to say, “Today is worth it,” every day. They have to put all of their energy into finding the sun in an ominous sky filled with dark clouds. Those surrounding people suffering from depression have to put great effort into staying positive rather than traveling into the negative vacuum that it is so easy to get caught in.
The first part of my life was a focus on the negative, never the positives of the accomplishments, but the negatives of what was not attained. This is part of the reason my husband challenged me with the 3 positives a day. I try my best, but every now and then, I do slip back into a negative spiral. This is where having him with me in person really helps balance me out. He is great at pointing out the positive when I am being negative and making me laugh no matter how hard I try to be a sourpuss. Writing the 3 positives a day has definitely helped me start to focus on the positive in life. Not only that, but it has helped me interact more positively with my kids and the world around me.
I definitely do not have the answers about mental illness and depression, but I do know that if you are interacting with someone who has depression, it is very important to try your best to be a positive light. It is definitely not easy, but my hope is that eventually, if I keep shining a positive light, my mom might begin to see a single ray of sunshine in that ominous sky. Mental illness can be baffling, frustrating and something not a single one of us will ever understand, but empathy and positive perspective can go a very long way.
My perspective has changed dramatically since high school. I was quite naive. The world is not full of flowers and butterflies and unicorns that fart rainbows, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find a cluster of flowers along a barren path, or a butterfly landing on our nose in the middle of a rainstorm, or even a unicorn high above us, painted in the untouchable clouds. It means that we have the power to conduct the soundtrack of our lives while our movie is playing. We have the choice to play the creepy horror music, the doom music, or Vivaldi’s Spring. That is the power of perspective and positive thinking. We can overcome any obstacle that the universe may put in our path. It may take time and a great deal of courage, but we have the power to play “Eye of the Tiger” and make it to the top of the steps.
I got in my run today, which is my first run this week, but I did it. It’s been a rough week getting back into routine since our weekend adventure. I am getting there slowly, though.
My littlest wanted to go to the park when we got home, so I packed a lunch, grabbed a picnic blanket and an extra water, and was totally ready to go. She decided she just wanted to have a picnic in the backyard instead. I was totally alright with that, so I switched gears and we had a picnic in the backyard, followed by more outside reading. This whole scenario was definitely relaxing for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the time with her outside.
I had some down time today, too, which was great because I was able to look up a few campgrounds for our spring break and I think I found one that will work out perfectly for us. I am very excited because I know the kids have all been itching to go camping, so I was happy to see that it is very doable in an area that we all want to explore.
May you always be a ray of sunshine in a cloudy sky. Good night!