Monday, May 14, 2012

That Awkward Moment

My kids are really into Tumblr ... and their favorite thing to do is to read those posters that start "...that awkward moment when..."  I hear peals of giggles coming from them as they identify with commonly shared embarrassing experiences.  I've seen them spend an hour reading nothing but the awkward moment posters. 

The last little while I've been struggling with (albeit a mild version of) depression.  As word gets around my work place, or in my church, or among my friends, that I have been finding life a little overwhelming these days - I've noticed a change.  Not only in my own feelings, my energy level, and my motivation level - but also in the attitudes of others as they interact (or don't interact, which is more often the case) with me. It's kind of intriguing in a way.  

Perhaps people just don't want to run the risk that I will bleed all over them, so they avoid asking me how I am.  I understand that.  Perhaps they think that them talking to me will somehow add to my stress.  Maybe they're just uncomfortable with anyone who's in pain; it doesn't agree with their theology or their life philosophy. Maybe they are judging me.  After all, I've preached freedom from the chains of the past and living one day at a time.  And now this??   

Whatever the reason, there's a part of me that sits back and finds all this almost clinically peculiar.  I've spoken to one person who has suffered from depression for many years and it appears that this kind of reaction is not unique to my situation.  Hm.  Of course I wouldn't want people to fawn all over me and pity me. That is absolutely disgusting; it makes me cringe.

But there's another part of me crying out to be acknowledged, to know that I matter, to feel that nothing has changed in how they see me - in spite of what my eyes tell me.  Some people won't meet my gaze; they avert their eyes when they cross paths with me.  Their discomfort is palpable.  Others who used to approach me and chat, no longer do so.  If I want interaction, I have to go looking for it. I see the sidelong glances of people passing by as I chat with someone I've gone to see; I have to force myself not to wonder what they are thinking. The sense of isolation is very real.  

A rare few do brave the possibility of hearing "bad news" ... and stay in touch.  I am grateful for them and I try not to go into much detail when they ask me how I am.  I've taken to saying, (IF they ask me and IF they stay to hear the answer) "Taking one day at a time."  If they press: "I have good days and bad days.  Today is one of the ___ days." (insert adjective).  Otherwise I say, "Okay," or (if I know they won't bother to stop and talk), "Vertical." Most times I avert my eyes from them, too - preferring to alleviate their discomfort rather than my own.  

I wonder to myself if that's always been my problem.  Disappear.  Don't let the grownups see you.  I find it easier to try to analyze myself as if I was someone else.  It beats feeling some pretty unpleasant feelings.  Yet I know that I need to acknowledge those things and bring them out to the surface so they can be dealt with.  

My mental cogs chug away, on and on, endlessly, while I go about my daily routine, trying desperately to keep me on target without losing myself in the stories I must read to do my work.  Produce the next widget. Write it down, let them know I produced a widget.  Stay under the radar. Play it safe. Don't think of the widgets as real people with real lives, try not to let their stories move me...and die a little more inside every time I write down a number like it was just one more piece of meaningless data. Come home.  Eat.  Avoid making decisions; even "What's for dinner?" Vegetate in front of the TV or my computer. If I have a choice to go somewhere or not to go there, I don't go - tired of the judgment, weary of the well-meaning advice given by folks who want to fix it with trite slogans or pat answers. All I need is the inner assurance that they haven't abandoned me - which is all too rare; the down side is that I do end up isolating myself and not giving those who might show their support the chance to do so. 

But these folks are the exceptions - and they usually find a way to express their love, and they don't mind if I shed a few tears when they are so kind to me.  I wish - wistfully - that the other people would quit smothering me with platitudes or their own solutions ... or stories of what happened to Uncle Fred (theme: it could be worse) or how their Aunt Mary got help. It's not any other human being's job to fix me or snap me out of it.  That's God's job.  

This is my journey; nobody can walk it but me, as difficult as that is for some people to accept. (It's difficult for ME to accept too!) To those brave souls that continue share their presence and their love with me - without offering their opinions or judgment - I give in return all I am able to offer:  my profound gratitude.

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