I am depressed.
I always hesitate to use that word, like it is a really awful racial slur. What if someone with depression hears me? Will they be offended? What if a normal person hears me? Will they hide all the sharp things?
Depression is a serious mental illness and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m making light of it. Understand that being depressed is one thing and having Depression is a whole other country. Probably Russia.
My uncle died last week. I wasn’t especially close to him. The last time we spoke was four or five years ago. He never accepted my friend request on Facebook. Though he was invited, he did not attend my wedding. I have never met his wife. His widow.
We found out about two and a half weeks ago that he had Cancer of the Everything and that he had a month to live. Bit of a shock. My husband came to tell me at work because he didn’t think I should hear about it in a text. I was going to finish my shift. Then I thought about my Mom and I almost lost it. He’s her little brother, says my treacherous mind. So I went home and called my Mom. This wasn’t about my loss, it was about hers.
I have told you all before that I’m a narcissist. I’m not kidding or exaggerating or fishing for assurances that I must care about other people. The only reason I started feeling grief was by finding a way to make it about me. What if it was my brother? My husband? And once I got that focus, I felt grief and could sympathize with my Mom.
As a narcissist, I do have to remind myself that the pain of others is not done to punish me. I don’t need this reminder all the time, but sometimes at the worst moments Narcissist Me gets really insistent.
I told my Mom that I would come home immediately if she wanted me to. She said, no there’s nothing I can do. She was going on a business trip to Orlando the next week and then heading up to see him and get his financials figured out.
And when she was entering the Marriot in Orlando for the conference, she mistook the exit of the revolving door and when the back door slammed into her, she was knocked to the ground with a broken hip. So along with her artificial hip (the 3rd, actually, but who’s counting when you’re born short a joint) she now has a metal appliance that runs from her knee up to her hip.
This happened Monday (15 Aug). The plan was for my Dad and sister to drive down to Orlando to pick her up Saturday. It’s a two day drive from where they live and they had to get off work and everything. Meanwhile, my Mom has an operation and the whole week to sit in a hospital alone and I am only 11 hours away, 13 with traffic and rest/gas stops. So on a whim, I got off work the rest of the week and drove down to be with my Mom. This is a blend of altruism and narcissism at its best. I don’t like her being alone and I get to be the Hero.
On the way, the plastic cover under my car came lose and dragged itself to pieces. When I got to Florida, I used a Gerber to remove the last three bolts holding it up and shoved it in the back of my car because FAMILY CRISIS I HAVE NO TIME FOR YOU.
I arrived Wednesday evening. Mom was very happy to see me. I was very happy to see her.
Thursday, I was sick most of the morning. It’s called travel tummy and is what happens when you drive almost non-stop for 13 hours and eat gas station sandwiches and hotel Cup-O-Noodles. But then I spent the afternoon leisurely crocheting while Mom and I talked and watched Animal Planet. I was worried about how much help she needed getting in and out of bed, how slowly she walked to the bathroom (with a walker), how the HELL she was going to navigate her home with its split-level layout (3 staircases and the bedroom and only bathroom on the third floor).
Just as I got up to head out for dinner, she gets a call from my Dad. We have been getting updates from him and my sister since they started their drive that morning.
The car stalled in Kentucky. They have to get it towed and get a hotel for the night. It might not be done until Monday or Tuesday. But the repair shop is lining up a rental car.
Mom, in her despair (it has been a rather rough week for her), gives up. They’re gonna just go home. The hospital wants to discharge me tomorrow and they’ll just go home. Which is stupid and I told her so. According to my sister, Dad is super scary when he is driving desperately to reach his wife.
(I have a pet theory that my Mom underestimates how much we care about her because she doesn’t value herself as important enough to love. This insight comes from my own sinister distrust for the regard my husband has for me. What is wrong with him that he loves me? When is he going to realize the MONSTER mistake he made? Then the thought passes, but this is the kind of evil low self-esteem can insinuate if you let it.)
However, desperation can lead to fast thinking. I’m in Florida, I don’t have to be back to work until Sunday. I can drive Mom to them in Kentucky. Or we can meet them midway between here and there. And then my sister suggests that we meet at my house.
Remember Narcissist Me? Its the one who, instead of leaping at the chance of having my family home for a few days, thinks only of the imposition of having guests with almost no warning? They would be getting there before me. Would my husband feel put upon to play host to MY family when I’m not even there? (The answer is no. When I told him, he just said, “Okay, I’ll get the house ready.” I really don’t deserve him.)
So I hedged. You guys head to my place, I’ll get Mom out of the hospital, and we’ll finalize plans when we find out what’s wrong with the car. If it’s a quick fix, we meet, exchange hostages, and go on our merry ways. If not, then I suppose my house is big enough for everybody and has no stairs.
And I know I was short and snappish with my sister on the phone. Because the hospital was taking so long to get everything settled (considering they were the ones insisting on kicking her out) and a part of me was angry that my family had failed to do this in such a way that it didn’t inconvenience me. Now I had to drive Mom alone and there was so very much to worry about and what if I couldn’t handle it? Or what if I had to do things I didn’t want to do? What if something else awful happened and I had to deal all by myself?!?Instead of confronting these ridiculous fears, I lashed out at a natural target (my sister). Whether or not she noticed doesn’t really matter. Narcissist Me is still an asshole.
The hospital took forever to check Mom out, as I said, so we didn’t leave the hospital until after 2. Then we had to go buy her a wheelchair, which took more time. Then there was traffic. We got from Orlando to Savannah that day. It was stressful. Traffic, construction, and Mom in the backseat (because sliding doors made for easier entry). Sleeping a lot (good). Not eating or drinking water (bad). We learned that the wheelchair was a must for rest stops unless we wanted to face muscle failure on the toilet. We learned to back down ramps so we wouldn’t slam her bad leg into the ground. We learned that grocery delis never have fried chicken when you need it most. We learned that hotels can and will put handicapped rooms on the third floor and put the bed as far from the bathroom as possible (but thank gawd for bathtubs with built-in seats). I remembered that I’m not squeamish about things like nudity. (Remember Basic Training? Showering with a bunch of naked women is only sexy in the movies. In reality it’s all stretch marks and C-Section scars.)
I learned that it is okay to be stressed by the enormity of the situation, but it is not okay to bring that stress to the bedside of your broken, grieving mother. Deep breathes. It is going to be okay. Or if not okay, it’s going to keep going. She doesn’t need your negative energy.
Narcissist Me had to be reminded that she didn’t break her hip just to vex me.
Saturday, Mom rode in the front seat so we didn’t need the walker to get her into the chair. It was nice because it was easier to chat and I didn’t have to worry that she wasn’t getting air from the A/C and could hear the audiobook (I let her pick the new one). We got home safe, though later than I wanted because stupid Fayetteville. How can there ALWAYS be traffic, Fayetteville? And where are your Panera signs? I know there were two right off of 95, but not a single freaking sign!?! Rude.
I hugged my husband. I hugged my Dad. I lost it a bit with my sister because we kind of bear the burden of responsible older siblings. It isn’t an evil burden and not one I regret. One day, it will be up to us to take care of the most important people in our lives, which is only right since they are the reason we grew to be responsible adults. It’s still not something one likes to be reminded of too early in the game, though.
Mom said, “You shouldn’t have to see me this way.” By which she meant, so helpless.
I said, “I’m your daughter.” If not me, then who?
The family left Sunday (21st). They arrived home Tuesday. Uncle Ted passed Wednesday night.
And we found out Thursday. I was at work on my break, finally able to check my phone, though I had heard it go off earlier.
I have an Android, by the way. My family mostly have iPhones. When they send a group text, their texts stay in the group. I get individual texts. And even better, I actually just get the message “You have multimedia ready to download.” Every freaking time. So I get fifty individual texts from all my family that I have to go though and “download message” for all of them, most of which are responses to the original text, which may or may not have downloaded yet. It is fracking frustrating. Especially since I can’t seem to leave the group, so continue to get any and all messages sent between members of the group to each other. Also, I don’t know if when I’m sending a message whether it is to the individual I intend or to the entirety of the group. Dozens of messages all at once, none of which I can read. It could be anything or nothing. Hey, Mom broke her hip. Just random banter between my brothers.
Anyway, when my phone went off, I looked at the screen. This is not something I normally do because it’s against policy. But I had been expecting news of some sort. My screen said it was my Mom and the message was (MMS), which meant it was another G-D group text I’d have to download just to read. This was actually a good thing, since that meant I could read it in the privacy of the break room and get all emotional.
I was very sad. And then I was horrified. Here’s how we found out that my mom’s brother had died:
A coworker of her other brother, Joe, had seen a post on Ted’s college Facebook page (he was a percussion instructor) announcing his death. Joe called my Mom. Mom texted us. My youngest brother posted on our sibling Facebook group just to make sure that everyone heard.
This is not how anyone should learn of the death of their brother, however estranged.
His widow, who I imagine is not in a good place right now, has not returned my Mom’s calls, so we don’t know when the funeral is.
I shouldn’t be this bitter and angry. As I said, we weren’t close. Still, it hurts to realize just how “not close” we were.
I told my siblings to swear that this wouldn’t happen to us. However far away we are from each other, that is not how I want us to lose each other. Not through the Social Media Rumor Mill.
So I am depressed. Sad was that awful half an hour of me crying in the break room. Because he was family and I missed my chance to be closer to him. Because I read touching tributes to all the lives he touched, all his grateful students and fellow professors, and I had barely given him a thought until this all happened.
And since then, I have had a weight of grief on my chest. It is harder to smile and be chipper. It is a challenge to care about other people and their problems. I don’t want to hustle anywhere or do anything. And when people ask me how I’m doing, I have to lie when I say I’m fine. I’m not, obviously. But no one wants an honest answer when they’re in line to buy fabric or whatever. Some of them don’t even respond when I ask them how they are. (Which hurts, by the way. Please have the common courtesy to at least look at the person at the register.) Even with coworkers and friends, I don’t just come out and say it. I want to say I’m fine so I don’t ruin their day (I think?), but I hesitate because I’m a naturally forthright person.
How am I? My uncle died. How are you?
I’m feeling complex emotions. Grief and remorse and regret and anger and shame. And I’m taking notes on all of this because I’m a writer and this is good material.
How am I? I’m depressed. That is absolutely the perfect word for the stage I am in. Sad is an adjective with strict boundaries of place and time (in my head, anyway). And sad is also insufficient and two dimensional. Depressed, well that can be a verb and so very complex. It is a heavy cloak I wear that sometimes shrouds me from all light, and sometimes billows out in a breeze of humor, only to settle again moments later. Hilarious tickle fight followed by an insidious whisper in my head. Don’t forget your uncle died. Oh. Right.
It’s a cloak I want everyone to see without me pointing it out. I don’t want to tell people that my uncle died and it’s complicated. I want them to know, obviously, so they don’t worry if I’m not acting like myself. But I don’t want to have to see their looks of horror or pity or whatever because I’m not sure how I feel about all of this, just that I’m depressed and it will pass.
This is not the kind of attention I crave as a narcissist. I only want praise. I don’t know how to handle pity but to shrug it off and lie that it’s fine, not that bad, that’s life, we weren’t that close, I’m not hurt by this loss at all.
I was so depressed when I found out about his cancer that I couldn’t bake. I bake convulsively when I’m stressed. Ask anyone who knows me and most of them will blame me for their weight gain. But the idea of entering my kitchen to do anything was exhausting. I could crochet, but only because it kept me off my phone.
When he died, after that awful week and the stressful drive (and seeing my Mom in such rough shape from it all), I didn’t think I could even write about this. Too personal, too close. I’d have to write things I don’t want people to know about my family, or write things I don’t want my family to know about me. (For some reason, I can’t sensor autobiographical works.) I would have to be honest in a way I’m not sure I want people to see. But my husband, whom I’ve already mentioned as being far too amazing to be stuck with me, assured me that none of this would ever stop me from writing. Apparently, he knows me pretty well.
He has been very sweet and supportive, reminding me that my family is his family, too. When it came down to it, my family needed help and he had no reservations in giving it. That’s how I want to be, and I am after I shut out Narcissist Me. Bottom line, that’s the lesson of this story. You don’t have to like your family. You just need to be there if you can.
Friday, he took me on an “Eff This Week” day. We went down to the beach and had an expensive lunch and then Cold Stone, because Ice Cream, that’s why.
We got more bad news, but from Buddy’s family. His Uncle Danny passed last night. It wasn’t as sudden, since he had been in bad health for a while, but it was still a blow. He also had a sister who is falling apart right now and family in pain. And my husband is hurting, though he’s not so obvious about it as I can be. He will probably be depressed, just like me. But we will find ways to laugh and move on and remember sweeter times, and eventually hang up the cloak until the next time.
Depressed is not an evil or shameful word. It is not an admission of weakness. It is not employed for shock value or because I’m being overly dramatic or seeking attention. I don’t want attention for this feeling. I want attention for being awesome. I don’t use it to illicit pity. I use it because it is the truest description for my emotional state. And I’m only using it because I need to explain for some reason. There’s nothing wrong. Life happened. I’m depressed. It will pass.
And now I can just refer people here instead of revisiting all the awfulness of the last few weeks every time someone wants to know what’s the matter. Go read my blog. I’m moving forward. I think. I hope.