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March 10, 2018

Gloominess

I know I have written about this before, on my social media and on this blog (read herehere and here) as  I think it is an important topic to talk about, but I don’t talk about it often because, well, for a lot of reasons. Mainly, because I often feel alone during these times and it’s hard to put the feelings into words.  I bet the majority of people around me don’t know that I struggle with depression from time to time, or when I’m struggling with a period of depression because on the outside it is easier to smile and push through it.  But sometimes I feel like a shell of the person I am and although I am me, the best parts of myself become locked away, inaccessible.

We don’t even call it depression in my house, we call it gloominess. We started calling it gloominess when my 9-year old son most recently began to express periods of sadness, feeling alone and unworthiness. He said he feels like a cloud of gloominess has washed over him.  He once articulately summarized depression as, “It’s like watching all my friends play tag football together. They are running around, laughing and having fun and I am just sitting and watching. Even if they yell at me to come and join them, I can’t. I am just stuck watching them laugh while I feel sad on the sidelines.”
This broke my heart to know he was struggling with the very same feelings I have struggled with since childhood, but it did not surprise me. You see, depression runs in my family and it most often affects those, including myself, with similar personalities; the empaths, the sensitive souls that feel deeply and care greatly. On one hand, I am thankful that I am someone who can intricately understand what he is going through, that I can help him be a voice to his pain. On the other, I am sad that he may continue to have these ups and downs because they are not easy and they are not fun. I have learned a lot from them though, most importantly how to sit with the uncomfortable sadness.

Today as I was walking next to my oldest son, I asked him with an arm draped around his shoulder,
 “Do you ever feel sad and gloomy, like a dark cloud comes and rests over your head for awhile?”

Ya, sometimes,” he said.
 And what do you do to shake it off of you, to get over it?”

Nothing.”  
What do you mean?” I asked him.

I don’t do anything to get rid of the feelings. I just let them pass. They always do.”
That was my 11-year providing mature emotional insight to his 36-year old Mama who keeps trying to shake off the gloominess because I am tired of just sitting with it. Reminding me that sometimes we have to hang on to the knowledge that waves come in and then they go back out. Learning to float may be the best thing we can do.


The other day my husband, in the most loving way, began to offer advice on what I can do to feel better.  "Do you want to watch a show on TV? Maybe movement will help you! Do you want to rejoin the Y? Take yoga classes? Getting out and walking when the sun is out will help you.”

I know.  I know that movement will help. I know the sunshine will help. I know music will help. Drawing will help. Gratitude will help. Stretching will help. And my response as tears streamed down my face was, “I hear you talking words at me and I cannot make those things resonate with my body right now. I am just going to have to sit and wait for awhile because I don’t have an ounce of energy to do any of that. I just need to lay down with my heated blanket for awhile and let the thickest of the gloomy clouds roll out because that is the best I can do right now."


And today I did something. I got up,  made myself coffee, went to my kiddo’s basketball game and witnessed him make a basket for the first time in a game, came home and began to clean the house as I try to do every Saturday. For a little while I forgot about the sadness and the sun was shining. But as I moved from room to room, becoming overwhelmed with the tasks on my to-do list, I began to feel the clouds roll back in. I walked into my boys’ room to make their beds and I discovered the drawing my 9-year old had been working on at bedtime last night.

There is so much guilt to contend with when you are a mother struggling with depression. You feel like you cannot be enough for your family, you beat yourself up that some nights you go to bed before them because all the noise is overwhelming. Some nights you cannot cuddle them because you are exhausted emotionally and mentally.  It’s just the worst part about all of this. But finding little reminders like this is a balm to the weary soul. It makes me realize that although we each have struggled with something hard, we have each other.

The best way out is always through. Isn’t that what Robert Frost said? I don’t really think there is any other way. But even walking through it, or sitting with it, we don’t have to do it alone.  Depression can make you *feel* utterly alone. I know this.  And I have learned to listen to my feelings, to acknowledge them, to thank them, even,  but to also trust in the knowing that remains somewhere in my brain. “It will get better. I am not alone.”  

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