Of course I knew they would return, but that only made it marginally easier when they did.
For eight days, the monsters stayed away, at a safe distance, not bothering me. It was a nice relief, sure, but it also made me wonder. What happened in my brain last week on Monday afternoon that caused me to stop feeling overwhelmed so often? What happened in there that gave me back some control of my emotional response to the world? For eight days I had no crying fits, in stark contrast to the days and weeks prior to last Monday.
The question yesterday was, what happened in my brain to bring back the feeling of being overwhelmed? What was it that again brought about the tears? Well, I know what brought the tears back. I’ll get to that. I guess the question is really, what is it that let the raw emotions out yesterday? There are times when I could get through each of these situations with aplomb, doing what I need to do and not falling apart into an emotional mess – like the past eight days. Then there are times when any one of these would threaten to bring me down, and when all of them together render me overwhelmed and utterly helpless. Is there a switch in my brain? Some neural connection that fires for a while, then stops?
I don’t know the answer. I do know that yesterday the switch was flipped, the connection was severed, and the monsters are back.
I read a heartwrenching account from a beautiful soul, about how their world fell to pieces over the course of a few months. This person, a familiar one in the blogosphere, has confided in me frequently over the months. The night before last – or well into the following morning actually – this person gave me the rundown of the days when their life was progressing beautifully and the world would soon be their oyster. The story took a turn for the worst, and I learned how everything came crashing down around them, leaving them and their life a mere shadow of what they and it were before. I’m not only unable to change their past for them (obviously), but am feeling unable to offer any words of comfort or wisdom for them. Being that we don’t live within 600 miles of each other, I’m also unable to physically be there for them, with a real shoulder to cry on. Their story is sad – so sad – and I can’t help make it better. Of course they’re not really asking for anything from me when it comes down to it, but still. Days like yesterday, reason and logic take a back seat, and I seem to work purely from emotion. In this case, the emotion was sadness.
I was unable to do anything useful or helpful or compassionate or loving for a little girl who needed all of that. My younger daughter, she of the newly installed expander in her mouth – in anticipation of braces at some later date – has been unable to eat anything of any substance since early Monday. Her mouth hurts, her teeth hurt, her tongue hurts from constantly rubbing up against this expander thingamabob, and her belly hurts from lack of food. Her hair probably hurts too. Yesterday afternoon after school, it was all too much for her and she could barely do her schoolwork. Did I offer any helpful or comforting words? Did I make any real attempt to actually help her with the math problems that were stumping her? No, and no. I simply got frustrated by her lack of answering me when I asked her what was keeping her from her work and walked away. She cried some more, took her books and papers up to her room, and probably cried herself to sleep under her bedcovers.
I had verified something I’ve known all along, at least intellectually. Specifically, that my monsters affect those closest to me about as much as they affect me. My older daughter visited her therapist Monday. At one point in the conversation, her therapist – familiar with all of us in the family and aware of my issues, which she freely refers to as depression – mentioned how Daddy was having a hard time “getting rid of the grumpies”, and asked her how that made her feel. She, according to The Wife, broke down in sobs and could only mutter something like, “I love him so much.” Oy. If I didn’t have reason to seek out help for myself before, that would certainly do it. Even still, having waited so long to seek help, I deprived my daughters of a full dad for ten and twelve years, not to mention depriving The Wife of a full husband for longer still. That is frustrating as can be, because I can’t go back in time and make it right. Those years are never coming back. Even if I magically become well and able to fully be a dad within weeks of now – a ludicrously scoffable thought – I’ll still have lost those first twelve years of my daughters’ lives.
So there I was, in the midst of it all again, after eight days of relatively bright, monster-free days. Today, they seem to have retreated back to their summer homes again, but who knows how long they’ll stay there? I don’t. I suppose, now that I think about it, that’s one of the things that my imminent visits with doctors/therapists/psychologists will address. Well, not how long the monsters will stay away, but what I can do when I see them coming. And I do see them coming now. Yesterday morning, I could feel it was going to be a rough day. Some would say that one’s attitude determines this kind of thing, and I agree to some extent. But if it were that easy, I’d be doing it. I’d be able to tell myself that the day ahead is going to be great, and it would be. At this point, though, that’s another thing the switch controls.
I sure wish I could find that switch.