That awkward moment in the public change room at the pool when you are politely chatting with someone, then you turn away to undress, but realize that they are still talking. So you try to act all casual about public nakedness, and attempt to nonchalantly wrestle your body out of a wet, one-piece bathing suit that has nowhere better to be. As body parts start flying around in all different directions, and sweat begins to bond with the chlorine on your skin causing your bathing suit to suddenly super glue itself to your body, you try to smile and maintain strict eye contact, all the while trying to avoid smacking your head off the lockers behind you and ending up in a pitiful pile of shame on the floor.
I never was very good at small talk. Turns out I’m even worse when I’m naked.
Sometimes, late at night, the soft whisper of feet on the floor gently pulls me from sleep as one of the children appears by my bed, groggy, disoriented, and asking to climb in. I silently lift the covers and shift slightly to allow a warm, tiny body to curl up next to mine. Wrapping my arms around the little person next to me, I feel their heart beating wildly in their chest. I wait for it to slow, for their breathing to deepen, and then I relax knowing that whatever inner storm that woke them has passed. Together we fall slowly and softly to sleep, drifting into dreams that swirl contentedly between us.
The sweetness of the moment is almost enough to make up for the inevitable hour when I wake up to find a foot pressed up against my cheek, followed by flailing arms, a puddle of drool, and missing sheets.
This pretty much sums up what parenting small children is like. Heartbreakingly beautiful moments followed by pain, confusion, mess and exhaustion. One giant ball of unexpectedly difficult joy.
Ever notice how when one (or more) of your kids is acting up, the other siblings suddenly start polishing their halos in an effort to win that much coveted “Kid of the Moment” smile from mom?
Like tonight, for example, when Emma was lying in bed screaming for water, and Isaac was sprawled helplessly across his bed pleading for me to tuck him in again (because he had gotten out of bed after the first time I tucked him in, and now the covers had turned to lead, and he was undoubtedly going to freeze to death overnight). Meanwhile, Gabriel was smiling sweetly up at me from his pillow, quietly boasting about how he had gotten his own water, tucked himself back in, and then “Farted, but kept it under the covers so the room wouldn’t smell.”
The “Kid of the Moment” smile from Mom was well earned by Gabriel tonight, my friends. The other kids got the “Oops! The Kids Pushed Mom Too Far, And Now She’s Got Those Batshit Crazy Eyes Again!” consolation prize.
Have you ever wondered why depression is so hard to see? It is because depression can be extraordinarily quiet. It has perfected the art of camouflage and deceit. You can sit in the same room as depression and never even know it’s there. It is buried beneath the soft smiles and brave faces of the ones we love. It blends in with the heroic souls who make the effort to show up day after day, never once whispering depression’s name. It is illusive, but if you do happen to catch its shadow out of the corner of your eye, don’t believe it when it tells you that it is fine. Depression would rather show you its finest armor than reveal the truth behind the hidden cracks within.
If you have ever lived with depression, you know that it is uncomfortably heavy. It is an unwelcome weight against your chest, a damp and foul burden pushing down until you feel its hot, sour breath against your cheek. Depression is hungry. It will feed on every last drop of your pain until you are left a hollowed out shell of your former self. Then it will demand more, and you will give it. Depression will steal your voice, distort your words, and work tirelessly to convince the world that you are doing fine in spite of it.
Depression hides in the shadows, and thrives on secrets and solitude. It shies away from love, light, and the power of compassion. When you share your story, there is power behind your words. You breathe life into your journey and invite those who are listening with open hearts to lend you their courage and strength while you heal.
For those who have felt the terrifyingly intimate embrace of depression, there may be days that are so deceptively dark that you will forget that you once knew light, but from them you will learn to see with your heart and lead with your soul. You will feel the strain in your muscles as you drag your burden from one day to the next, but you will build strength and courage with each step you take. Use those gifts to carry you through until the day you feel your shoulders relax and the knot in your chest begin to loosen.
The next time someone asks how you are, don’t let depression answer for you. Depression does not deserve to be fine. It is not worthy of the effort it takes to disguise its burdensome weight. Instead, take depression’s power away and say, “The truth is I’m not okay, and today I could really use your help.” ❤