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Battered and Bruised by the Water

Battered and Bruised by the Water

The high cliff overlooks a river that snakes through the countryside. It’s nestled into the valley, covered in trees and the water, it beats roughly against the rocky coast. I stand on the highest hill, a silent observer to the water as it splashes and swirls before dropping several feet into that whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall.

The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever. Mom she’s gone. I hear myself say that over and over again in my head, on a loop that I can’t shut off. My voice lacks all feeling, a reflection of my true self, because it was one more piece of news than I can’t absorb, interpret or accept. 

WIP 2016, Sheryl Steines

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I’ve been afraid of deep water, (I’m 5’3″ so it doesn’t take much), since I was six years old. Before six, I had no issue with the water, stick me in a blow up ring and let me float on by. At six, I took swim lessons, in a lake. I will never forget the day we jumped from the floating dock into the water, water that was definitely deeper than the top of my head.

Not the first one in; I watched others jump in; it seemed that the others before me, were immediately lifted out of the water to sun dry on the wooden dock. When it was my turn, I jumped and stared up and through the greenish, cloudy lake water, I could see the sun in the sky and I remember thinking, “When am I going to be lifted out of the water?” I panicked, the panic seeped inside and from that time, water was the enemy.

I’ve taken swim lessons at an adult, trying to allay those fears, not wanting to pass them to my children, but the fear and anxiety is so deep within me, I’ve given up hope that I will ever enjoy the water.

I’ve been writing poetry and essays of late, writing my memoirs in a way that’s pure emotion as I discuss the life I’ve led so far and why it might be important to another person. My theme for the bad times seems to be the churning water. How it pulses, undulates and suffocates, much like I feel when I’m in a large body of water.

JK Rowling wrote about her depression in Harry Potter through the dementors, the life sucking creatures that ate your souls and left you as merely a shell, much like depression does in real life. She didn’t write a literal interpretation, choosing instead to give you the image, in a beautiful, grotesque way.

Water, for me, is the perfect representation for the emotions that envelope me through several past life experiences. It swirls and comes alive and batters me against the edge of the lake.

Eventually the water will flow down river into a quiet pond, but right now, it undulates, rumbles and terrorizes.

I work on my autobiography because I hope, someday, somewhere, someone will read it and gain perspective and a sense that in the end, it will get better. The river eventually ends.

The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

The Water Churns, and Undulates, Alive with Pain, Anger, Love and Loss

I’m writing my memoir, sort of. It’s not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It’s a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.

That’s not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I’ve been terrified of the water.

I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn’t see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.

I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can’t teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that’s not a waste of time.

As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.

“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”

“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”

“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”

I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.

The water doesn’t just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed.

This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.

Water terrifies.

The Mother Load

The Mother Load

I spent the last day of 2014 and the first two days of 2015 crying. Partially because I dislike my job and would prefer be doing anything other than what I am doing, but mostly because I’m emotionally exhausted.

There is this idea that the new year is a great time to reflect and resolve to change something, improve on ourselves. I don’t necessarily make new year’s resolutions, but this year, the bad stuff that I endured during 2014, hit me hard and left me feeling as though I had just flown into a brick wall.

I’m no stranger to bad things. I gave birth to twins 16 1/2 years ago after enduring fertility issues and a bad pregnancy. one twin, was born with a neuromuscular disorder that claimed her life at 11 months old. I thought after the stress of caring for a terminally ill child and the pain of watching her die was my stumbling block, my brick wall, my pain that I would move on from and live my life.

But life is chaos and you can’t necessarily be certain that you only have one hell to live through. As it turns out, I was still to live through post partum depression and to come out it to endure with my second daughter debilitating anxiety.  Light breezes to stormy winds, had her hiding in the basement. She spent time with the social worker, a therapist and a psychologist all in the hopes of helping her come out into the open. It was hard, being present for the temper tantrum at the zoo, people watching my 10 year old child screaming because the wind was too much. It’s hard planning for the future when she choses not to live it thinking we’ll take care of her long past becoming an adult and having to teach her everything so she can deal with her future.

And when we finally came near the light at the end of the struggle, hell opened up once more. The youngest child, the one that found the joy in life, the one that was the happiest, tried everything and enjoyed herself, was depressed. Not the blues, not situational, but seriously depressed. She was going through something more than the average teenager as she navigated her world and came to conclusions about who she was. We all have those moments and most of us scrape by and move on, but when the pain is so overwhelming you need help through it, whether it be alcohol, drugs or in her case, self injury, it more than just average.

It’s the process of doctors and drugs and therapy. I’ve done it all before, but this time, it was protecting my teenager from herself, trying to keep her healthy and not trusting her with her own safety. It’s beyond stressful, and it’s exhausting.

I know I’m not alone in this journey. I’ve met several other parents through our work with the outpatient program who are living the same nightmare as me. And with every  hell I’ve found myself in, I move through it by taking one step at a time, baby steps. As long as I’m moving forward, I will eventually come to that light.

But this new year was almost too much to handle. To much sadness and too much feeling as though I’ve failed my kids somehow. Did I not read to them enough, was I too lenient? Too much feeling that I’m inadequate and not qualified. And after having my temper tantrums the ones that I so needed because I have never given in to them before, I realized it was time to really take stock of my life and see what it was all about.

I’m always five minutes away from shutting down my website, closing the Twitter account and removing my author page on Facebook. I almost decided to delete my novels from computer or at the very least store them elsewhere. Because the realization that I’m not good at any of this or not even a good writer hit me as did everything else.

And as I thought seriously about everything, I decided quitting wasn’t in my nature. Not this time. I can’t quit on the kids as much as I can’t quit on myself. Writing and creating is who I am, and at least with that, the writing is my therapy.

I can only hope that 2015 is a better year. That my kids grow into healthy young adults and that I no longer grimace as I hold back the tears. Maybe this is the year that I have a truly publishable book that I can proudly sell and that I start winning a few.

There’s only quitting or there’s pushing through whether we obtain our goals or not. We have one life and we need to do the best that we can with it.

There’s no woe is me and I expect no pity, only understanding that right now, it’s hard and I’m entitled to an occasional moment of doubt and the inevitable breakdown.

With everything, I find the positive. And I expect that 2015 will be better.

 

Depression

Depression

depression_3You either know what if feels like or you’ve been lucky enough to weather life’s storms without that intense pain and sadness that sometimes grips us during those dark times.

As an onlooker watching a loved one live through depression it’s not for you to understand what it is to be depressed or what it feels like to breathe underwater, scream in whispers muffled by the weight of the water. Its not your job to fix it. It’s for you to offer unconditional love and support, not give suggestions or answers. Depression isn’t black or white. It’s a light gray, dark gray and every shade of gray in between, and there is no one single answer that can make it go away.

There is a standard of care, between drugs and therapy that can be applied but no matter how good that medicine or therapy is, depression just doesn’t go away. There is always an underlying cause of the pain. Only time and therapy will ease the pain. The medicine, it can only ease so much.

We don’t chose to be depressed, we can’t just get happy, like we can’t change our eye color or change our sexual orientation. Some things we are just born with. And sometimes we’re born with a chemical imbalance that tugs us in opposite directions. It feels like a violent storm, like we’re falling and flaying and grasping for something. And you can’t pick yourself up because you’re paralyzed by fear or overwhelmed by feelings you can’t understand.

Sometimes you dull that pain, hide in the shadows, masking those feelings with drugs, alcohol or self injury. But the pain is only knocked out for a brief moment. It will always come back.

I’ve been depressed before and I understand that turbulent storm, the pictures that flash in your head because it can’t slow down, it can’t relax, it can’t heal. But this time, I’m on the outside looking in. I’m forced to relive my struggle as I offer unconditional love and support. And my heart breaks because there is nothing I can do to ease the pain for someone else.

If this is you seek help. Start with your doctor. If it’s your child start with their pediatrician. There is help.

Web MD

 

depression

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