Sunday, July 24, 2011


It's mid-July and I am just now getting a full pool day with you and your sister. Slathered in sunscreen, wet hair tangled into the strap of your goggles, you smile broadly as you glide over to me on your noodle. You take my hand and point to the waves licking the far side of the swimming pool. "Those waves are from me, Mama. I did that." You look serene, which is not a word I would use to describe your summer.

No, Rachel, you have not been serene. You have been a lot of things, and you have expressed each feeling quite acutely. Because when you feel, you feel. Your anger shakes your body and your sorrow collapses your face and your happiness sends your auburn eyebrows sailing toward your hairline.

You have been contentedly residing deep inside your imagination for two months now, creating intricate plots for your toys, which are acted out with a ferocity I often confuse for distress. You light up at the sight of a small square of cotton packing, explain "I want to use this for something," and disappear back into the playroom.

You have climbed under my covers in the early morning. You have cooed and snuggled with me and your father. You have dropped everything to seek quiet moments in my lap. You have rolled your eyes and moved over to make room for Anna.

You have been frustrated with your role of younger sister. You have railed against Anna's constant nagging and ordering. You have cried bitterly when she didn't want a playmate. You have competed for parental attention, computer time and the last popsicle. You have had to be patient. You have screamed and stormed and slammed doors.

Your emotions are close to the surface. You are your mother's daughter.

And like your mother, you love the water. While your sister practices cannon balls and demands I time her underwater swims, you hold my hand and tilt your face up toward the sun and smile. And I kiss your lightly freckled cheek and tell you, yes baby girl. Those waves? They are from you. You did do that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I was 23 the first time the world ended. Alone, lost, confused, I climbed into bed and succumbed to the darkness. Sleep was my escape from depression, binge eating was my answer to anxiety. Miserable, I made my first trip to a psychiatrist who stabilized me with medication and tried to match me with a therapist. So began a journey that apparently will never end. Because there is no cure, only treatment, so I get to navigate these dicey waters for the rest of my life.

Over the years I've ridden a roller coaster. Never quite as bad as that first bout, but other times where my world has felt like it was ending. Where I was just that hopeless. Periods of time lost to my symptoms, sometimes foreseeable (right after having a baby), sometimes not at all (waking up one morning in a blind panic for no recognizable reason). There have been therapists, though none that I have ever really truly connected with. There have been medications and side effects and honeymoon periods and adjusted dosages and oh, the money I have spent trying to find the right cocktail to keep me from going back to the dark bedroom.

I didn't want to blog about it. For one thing, others have blogged about the issue so beautifully and honestly and thoroughly. What do I have to add? For another, I didn't want it to become who I am or what my blog is about. I'm already a cliche - a mommy blogger. And a mommy who not only drones on about my kids but also whines about her mental health issues? Who needs that? But, here's the thing - it IS who I am. And obviously it affects my writing - look at the date of my last post.

I withdraw. It's my pattern. I don't answer my phone and sometimes I don't even listen to my voice mails. I overeat, I don't eat, I sneak bowls of cereal when the house is sleeping. I cry and get overly emotional at songs on the radio. I snap at my kids and criticize my husband. I start blog posts and don't finish them. I self-loathe for not being able to finish my blog posts. I drive everyone around me crazy. I realize I drive people crazy and so I withdraw further.

All these years later I still find myself wondering if some of these habits are actually mine or if they are symptoms of the illness. Or if it even matters. I hope I never get back to the darkness of 23. I've spent the last 16 years trying to make sure I stay out of that particular forest. But still, I withdraw.