“We’ll do that next weekend.”
If I had a quarter for every time I said that I wouldn’t be rich because it’d only equal like five or six dollars, but still, the spirit of what I’m trying to say echoes through. I put off a lot. I head into the weekend, thinking of projects I want to tackle, interesting events that sprung up on my Facebook feed that I’d like to attend, but in actuality, I clean my house, watch the same three shows on Netflix and slip into a depression caused by the “Sunday Scaries,” despite how much I like my full-time job.
Anxiety comes off as rude. When I was in high school, my mother always used to joke around that my “dance card was full.” Despite the problematic undertone of such a reference, she was right. I hung out with my friends every night and if we weren’t together, I was on the phone with them talking bullshit until midnight. Even in my early twenties, my schedule was packed. I worked a full-time job, part-time job, went to school and still made time for my friends and dating.
When my now-husband and I met five years ago, we maintained a healthy social life. We went out to dinner with friends, took spontaneous trips across the country, saw his parents and my parents on a pretty regular basis, all the while maintaining full-time jobs, internships and college to better ourselves. And, then my mother died and it altered everything.
The months following her death, I was pretty manic. I traveled a lot. I picked up new hobbies, started to paint, despite not being very good at it. I would vendor at craft shows. I remember purposely making myself busy because subconsciously I had an obligation to. My thoughts were too upsetting for me to concentrate on anything other than my denial that my life was still normal.
Once the manic phase passed, reality set in and it was dark. It was so dark, so encompassing that I only saw anger in every situation. I closed myself off from the denial, which meant closing myself off to the person I was before the anger: exuberant and full of joy – and someone who enjoyed being around people. When our friends invited us to their daughter’s birthday party, I couldn’t go because at that time last year, it was the last party I’d gone to before my mother died. I couldn’t attend my in-laws’ Thanksgiving dinner because I was angry that I had spent the last one my mother was alive for, at their house instead of hers. I couldn’t see certain people without the anger bubbling up. It was just easier for me – and my anxiety – to dismantle those relationships. From an outsider’s perspective looking in, it was hard to understand. So, I want to explain.
I genuinely didn’t find happiness in being around other people. I found comfort in being home because behind closed doors, I didn’t have to force a smile or listen to someone else’s advice when I didn’t want any. While you may have thought that words like, “It’ll all be okay,” and “your mom would want you to be happy,” were meant to make me happier, they made me feel worse for having feelings. Platitudes made me feel like somehow I wasn’t handling my grief in someone else’s timeline. Six months after she died, your life went back to normal. My life was strewn apart.
I didn’t want to run the risk of having to listen to you try to help me to get better, because, at that moment, I didn’t see any possibility of it ever getting better. Sometimes, your words hurt. When I heard off-the-cuff comments like, “The second year is harder,” only four months after my mother died, any hope I had been holding onto was shattered. If I knew that I was going to run into another possibility of a mean comment like that, I avoided social interaction. It wasn’t personal; it was what I needed to do to be healthy.
My anxiety and my depression caused you to find me selfish and combative but underneath my “tough” exterior was someone who was angry and defiant at her own tragic situation, not yours. You saw a mirror image of myself that I was unable to see because I was in the thick of depression; I didn’t care about how I saw myself, let alone how you did.
My anxiety makes me want to apologize to you for how emotional I was, but I don’t believe in saying sorry for being human. I believe in saying sorry for wrongful actions and owning up to what you did, to words you uttered that have hurt someone else, for not understanding as well as I should have, now as an insider looking out.
My anxiety and depression are still highly present in my life. As is the anger and sadness for a situation that was out of my control. Grief, I’d always thought was something that passed with time. When my grandmother died, I felt like I was over it in a week. I didn’t miss her at holiday dinners or birthday celebrations. When I got engaged, I didn’t wish she was alive to meet the man I’d marry. Grandparents die; that was my logic. It was the natural order of things so despite being close to her, I never felt like she was cheated out of time.
I didn’t feel that way with my mom. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at 55-years old and died at 61. I was 26-years old at the time of her burial. I wasn’t married yet. I didn’t have any kids. I hadn’t graduated from college yet or obtained a job in my field. I didn’t know how to buy a house or qualify for a mortgage. I was cheated out of time with her. And, when you get cheated out of time when a death is unexpected, it’s not easy to get closure. The only closure I have is the knowledge that my mother loved me, but that’s not easy. That notion only makes the pain worse to grapple with. It only makes me miss her more.
I head into the holiday season, like we are now, with a pile of coal lumped on top of my shoulders. I still live with the guilt that I spent my mom’s last Thanksgiving with my in-laws, even though I knew her health was deteriorating. Lyrics like, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…” make me weep because they’ve developed new meaning. Once the holiday “cheer” comes to a close, I head into the new year and the anniversary of my mother’s death. For three whole months, the holiday season is attached to bitter memories and pain; it’s why I love the summer season.
My anxiety and depression have turned me into someone I don’t like. I struggle with being happy all the time. I struggle with maintaining my house and a healthy diet. I struggle with maintaining relationships, regardless of our history. Sometimes, texts will go unanswered or be delayed. Sometimes, I’ll mentally like your Facebook comment, but don’t have enough energy to physically click the button. Sometimes, I will go months without seeing my dad because keeping up that relationship feels like too much at times. Sometimes, I will spend hours looking at flights to book because I need to be anywhere but here. Sometimes, my anxiety and depression make me look at events and social gatherings and say, “we’ll do that next week.” But, I fully know that next week will be more of the same until these emotions pass. And, they always do for a little while before they circle back to grab me.
All I need you to know is that I’m trying. And, I ask that for you, an outsider looking in, that it’s enough.