Tag Archives: melancholy

I Let Him In: When Depression Comes Knocking at a Special Needs Parent’s Door


This was not an easy post to write.  It was even harder to hit the publish button.  But when I decided to put myself out there, I did it with the intention of letting others know they are not alone in their journeys.  This is one snapshot of mine.  

I’ve said before that depression is much like an old lover.  One you’ve successfully managed to get out the door – along with all of his things – and begin a new life.  A life in which laundry gets done, friends get visited, lists get checked off, balanced meals get cooked, and the things you enjoy get enjoyed.  But something or a lot of things happen.  Usually in succession and often involving sleep loss, grief, financial or marital stress, etc. — and, under the weight of exhaustion, your resolve weakens.  That’s when he comes looking for you.  Whispering in your ear.  Telling you all your efforts are futile.  Crooning the familiar songs he sang to you before.  Knock, knock, knocking at your door.  Until you open it and invite him to come inside — and his seduction is complete.  And the next morning –every morning you wake beside him– you know you knew better.  But now his clothes are in the closet, his toothbrush beside yours, and he is ingrained into your life once more.

If you read me, you may have noticed you haven’t been reading me much lately.  I’ve noticed too.  I’ve noticed lots of things.  When I do, I race off to WordPress and create a post, give it a title, and even jot down some of the words that are clamoring to be released. But is isn’t long before he begins whispering to me. This post will take a lot of time.  Of course, if you write it, you’ll likely infuriate someone and will feel the need to respond.  Which will just upset you more than you already are.  You’re tired.  Tomorrow –you’ll write it tomorrow.  Of course, I don’t.  It doesn’t get written.  Thoughts and emotions keep pounding, and everything just gets louder. From the dishes being unloaded to the dog’s incessant barking to my children — Bronwyn just being five and Callum being a verbal stimmer. It’s all so very loud.  And all I want is to sit on a porch overlooking the mountains on a cool early morning and hear…nothing.  Nothing but the wind blowing and perhaps a little rain or moving water.  No voices.  No screaming.  No phone ringing.  No cacophony of everything I need to take of.  To sleep.  To read.  To write.  To recharge.  Because I am simply depleted.  I attempt to get my head together and manage to accomplish a thing or two.  But my constant companion draws me back in to myself.  His incessant whispering for me to lighten my load and sit down for a spell.  To put it off for another day.  To pull the covers over my head and attempt to hold the world back.  Yes, he knows how to talk to me.

My heart aches.  My fears bully me.  And even my bones feel tired.

I’m starting to see the things I feared and knew were coming.  I see my sweet little boy, excited by the mere presence of other children — but oblivious to their activities and play.  He jumps, laughs, and flaps away — and has no understanding that he isn’t a part of it all.  Part of me is grateful he doesn’t yet understand– while the other part of me just hurts.  Everywhere we go, we take two cars.  There are few things that we can confidently plan as a family.  It’s too crowded, too bright, too large, too hot, too long.  Too everything. People not seeing the delightful child he really is hurts. His sister having an uneven share of our time and attention hurts.  The looks we get hurt.  His discomfort hurts the most.

Sometimes the view from this ride is beautiful.  Sometimes, it’s fun.  But right now it is making me sick.  And I just want so very badly to be let off.  I want the support of my father, my stepmother, and my grandmother.  I want them to tell me it will be okay.  But they’re dead.  And, every time I get on the highway or have a strange pain, I fear dying myself.  Not for me, but because who will take care of him?  Who will fight for him?  And how – how – do I ensure that his sweet sister will understand that I love her equally though I cannot give of myself to her equally?  Some days – or weeks – it’s too much.

And, in my darkest moments, I fear that I am not enough. That I’m doing this all wrong.  Making the wrong decisions.  Not doing enough.  Doing too much.

Yes, I have been to see my doctor.  I have taken antidepressants.  They helped marginally, but my hair started falling out (a truly unfortunate side effect for a depressed person if ever there was one.)  So the doctor and I are trying again with another antidepressant.  Trying because there is no other choice.  For the alternatives to managing this are unacceptable.  My babies need all of me, therefore depression can be allowed none of me.  There simply isn’t enough room for him in my house.  I’ve told him he must leave.  To pack his stuff and get out.  Good riddance and all that.  So far, he hasn’t budged and has turned into a squatter instead.

But I know something he doesn’t.  I know the unconditional love and trust of two children who depend on me.  I know the maternal bliss of snuggling against their sleeping forms in the wee hours of the night.  And I know that, in this battle between him and me, who I’m really fighting for.  In nature, whoever gets between a mother and her young is always at a disadvantage.  He’d do well to remember that.

“Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering—this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary day-time advice for everyone. But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work—and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” 

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up 

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Somebody’s Knockin’

Yesterday, four people stopped to ask if I was okay.  Four.  I wasn’t sick.  I wasn’t crying.  And I had even done up my hair and worn makeup — something I get increasingly bad about doing as the school year begins to wind down.   And though the question was nothing but kind concern, the expression on their faces was unsettling.  Cocking their head and silently taking me in, as if they were seeing something not immediately obvious.

I think I said I was just tired.

But one of them looked a little more and asked again.  And I could tell she was really seeing what I was trying hard to not reveal.  She herself has lived years of worry and grief for her own child – for different reasons, but the effect is much the same.  She didn’t put what she saw into words, but I knew what words they would be.

There is an expression that can be seen sometimes in the eyes of parents of special needs children, parents whose children are drug addicted, and parents whose children have died.  In short, any parent whose dreams for their children have been significantly altered or ended.  I think you can’t fully see it – every nuance – until you are able to recognize it in yourself.   It’s not even there most of the time.  But, some days you look and it’s there again.  And it isn’t a look of anguish – as some might expect.  No, it’s a look of…nothing.

Today I feel like a walking place holder.  My body goes to work, but not my enthusiasm.  I eat the food.  But I’m not really hungry.  I laugh at people’s jokes, but I’m not sure that they are funny.  I smile at my children’s antics, but I am somewhere else.  And, because I don’t know where that is, I can’t seem to call myself back.

It’s funny how differently people handle a crisis.  There are some who fall apart during the crisis.  They rage and hurt and grieve — and then accept it and move on.  I’m of the opinion those folks fare best.  There are those who disappear.  They can’t handle it and never do — never realizing that stopping and taking a good look at what’s following them is the cure for what haunts them.  And then there are the autopilots.  They announce the crisis, put together a crisis team, make a plan, and oversee its implementation.  These folks appear to be doing wonderfully — and lots of folks congratulate them for their strength.  I’m one of those.

The problem, of course, is when the immediate crisis is over.  The support team is no longer on red alert.  Others think they are fine.  And those seemingly limitless  reserves of adrenaline are now empty.

That’s how I feel right now.  Empty.  Numb.

It seemed like I was working toward some very specific things this school year — Callum starting daycare, increasing therapy, his turning three and getting a diagnosis, his entering public school, the IEP, etc.  And, suddenly, all of those things have passed.  I gotta tell you –it feels a little anticlimactic.

Perhaps it is simply the realization that there is no finish line.  It’s the long haul.  And my tank – at least today – is empty.  Heck, it’s so empty I don’t even have the energy to try to fill it back up.  I’m just plain tuckered out mentally.  Content to sit in my stranded state and look at all the people passing by.

But the thing about motherhood is that I don’t have the option of doing that for long.  Melancholy is so much easier to wallow in before you have two little souls depending on you.  And I’m realizing that there is only so much longer I can go before middle of the night insomnia is going to take me down.

So I’m giving myself two weeks.  If I haven’t shaken this off in two weeks, I’m going to see the doctor.  I think I’m also going to try to get away for a day or two by myself.  To sit in a hammock, read a book, and stop this incessant …thinking.

For I have allowed all my worries — the what-ifs, the what-will-bes, the attempts to explain, and the guilt of not being able to be everything that my son needs– to stir up a cacophony in my mind , in endless repeating cycles, that are now attacking because everything I was previously so focused upon has come to be.  And yet little has changed.

If I were a computer, I’d give myself a hard reboot.

I’ll be okay.  Because I have to be okay.  Because these sweet little babies I love require me to be so.  The trick, I guess, is to figure out how long you can sit back and decompress before you begin to atrophy.   Before melancholy is no longer just an unwelcome visitor continuing to knock on your door — but one whom you invite to come inside and sit down a spell…before never leaving.

And to remember that all of these feelings, thoughts, and worries are not to be given permission to steal my joy.  I am very aware that I am blessed and very grateful for this sweet little boy whose future I keep obsessing over.  He is not the cause of this melancholy.  That’s me.  My head.  My giving in to fear.

And there is nothing to do but work it out.  To stand up and begin going through the motions — until, like walking, mental muscle memory takes over and every little thing  isn’t a major effort.

This journey?  No, it’s definitely not for sissies.   But that’s okay.  I’m tougher than I look, and I’m stronger than I feel.

And I’m not opening that door.

“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” 

-Kahil Gibran