Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dark Blues

Morocco Woman in Blue by Steve Evans

So, I was telling you about the fall of '81.
My blue period.

A week after the window exploded, I was nursing the baby when the phone rang. Walking backwards to answer (so I wouldn't expose my bare boob to Ron, the carpenter who lived on my deck) I clipped the end table. My knee went out from under me, and I fell, throwing Marta in the air. She landed on the hard kitchen tile, and I landed in a twisted heap. Ron dashed in to rescue both of us. The baby was fine, but I wasn't. After a few hours in the emergency room, I came home with crutches and a leg brace for the torn ligaments in my knee.

Fast forward another two weeks. Neighbors helped with my preschoolers; Marta spent her life on my bed, surrounded by diapers because I couldn't carry her and walk on my crutches at the same time.

That Saturday morning Dee had a leg-ache and took a couple of aspirin. Within minutes he was turning blue, unable to breathe. The paramedics arrived, gave him a shot of epinephrine, and rushed him to the hospital. I was told to follow in my own car. In the ambulance Dee went into respiratory arrest, and heard them yell "We're losing him! We're losing him!" He looked out the window, saw the sign of our grocery store, and thought, "This is the last time I'll go past Dan's."

When I finally hobbled into the hospital and asked how he was, the frazzled doctor said, "He damn near died!" Dee was bundled in warm blankets, shivering from the trauma and the adrenaline, white and terrified. Seeing him in this state was not reassuring. I put on my happy face, and we talked about how lucky we were, how we'd laugh about this someday, how great the doctors were, but his fragile condition twisted my heart and I was sure life would never be happy again.

I became a single mom of seven under eleven, on crutches, trekking to visit my critically ill husband in the ICU every day for two weeks. One night I told the kids they could go see Dad in the hospital the next morning. Micah (who was eight) said, "I thought he was dead." Josh said "We thought you just didn't want to tell us."

My heroes, Spring 1982

What kind of mother was I? I had completely missed the suffering in my children's eyes. While I was wrapped up in my own misery, they had created their own reality. Guilt twisted the tourniquet. Dee recovered after several setbacks, but I was afraid to let go of worry. It was really the only thing I could do for him.

On Christmas morning the kids began clambering for festivities about dawn. We'd already received our gift—the flu. Dee was in the bathroom throwing up so I put on my happy face and acted the role of Mrs. Claus with an upset stomach and pounding head. The happy face mask was too tight, beginning to fray at the edges. I couldn't stand wearing it anymore.

Back to normal.

Six months passed, the workmen were gone, the kids were installed in their cool new rooms, my crutches were stashed in the garage, and Dee was back in the pink. However, I was wrapped in blues. Life was getting darker and darker, although nobody else seemed to notice.

I was all sunshine outside my house, but my own little world was dismal. I had dizzy spells, double vision and random aches and pains—I was certain I had a fatal disease. Headaches lasted for days; I'd wake up positive my leg was paralyzed; sometimes I felt like I was walking above the ground. I blew up at the slightest thing, and had tantrums right along with my kids. I'd call Dee to come home in the middle of the day because in my frantic state of mind, I imagined all sorts of terrible things were happening to me or my kids—I was full of fear, doubt and worry.

The hardest part was that I couldn't let anyone in on my humiliating secret. Family, neighbors, and friends all complimented me on how how together I was, how I accomplished so much. I was coming apart, but I had to keep up my image.

Marty on a Merry-Go-Round

You can only spin out of control for so long.
Eventually you fall down and I did.
~to be continued . . .

Do you know somebody with this secret?
Please don't trivialize it when they finally share.


kenju said...

I am impressed that you are sharing this (and saying it all so well, of course.) I went through a period of depression in the 70's; never saw a doctor about it, though.You describe it to a T.

Diane said...

I wrote about this when we did School Days. It hasn't been me, but two of my children who have had depression once they hit young adult age. There is no more helpless feeling as a parent than trying to help them see that they need help, and working through that. Just thinking about it makes me shudder.

Meg said...

I went through similar feelings after my second was born. It wasn't until after that I realized that it was actually post-partum depression. I remember sitting in my rocking chair for hours, crying, wondering if I would ever be normal again.

Grandma Shelley said...

Did Ron end up seeing the bare boob anyway? You poor thing.

Excellent writing and so unselfish of you to share this with others. I can't imagine the weight of your reality back then. I'm so sorry no one noticed.

Cannwin said...

Oh, I'm completely with Grandma Shelley.... I have an image of you flying through the air with your left breast open to the air.

That is so something that would happen to me.

I, myself, suffer from bouts of deep depression. My husband has had more than one day where I called him sobbing in the middle of the day. My kids have had more than one time where I screamed right back at them.

It always makes me feel like an incompetent woman and a terrible mom. I'm glad that I'm not alone in this struggle.

The Grandmother Here said...

Not to ignore your depression, but why did an aspirin almost kill Dee? (I'm known for missing the point.)

Cannwin said...

@Grandmother Here,

My mom ended up in the hospital from taking Aspirin. Evidently being allergic to Aspirin is pretty bad. She nearly died... but maybe that's not what happened to him.


Totally didn't mean for my last post to sound like "Glad to find you down here with me" my son was screaming in my ear as I was trying to comment. It was meant to read like (((hugs)))

Kay Dennison said...

Thank you for sharing this! You know I feel your pain! Stress was not discounted or eliminated as the cause when I had my stroke at 31. Motherhood isn't for the weak.

Christie said...

Dee found out that he is deathly allergic to aspirin. That's why. I don't think he'd known before then, right, Oma? I assume not. He'd never take it if he'd known.

I think you are awesome and brave to put it out there. I've struggled with it this year, and I have such new respect for anyone who has gone through it.

polly said...

my depression came after yours, and i was grateful i had someone to talk to who had gone through it. you actually feel as if you will die of a horrible disease before you finally find out what is really wrong with you. it is a wonderful thing now days that there is a greater understanding with proper medicine and counseling we can get this awful illness under control and live normal lives.

Grammy T. said...

Oh my Gosh Girl!!!