It’s night. I lie in the darkness of my bedroom staring blankly, body trembling. Sienna opens the door. It’s time for her to go night-night but she needs to see me first. She’s 4 years old.
“You’re so brave, daddy.”
She’s so intuitive. She gives me a hug. She smells like flowers. Tears form, but somehow I stop them from falling. But I can’t stop the tremors coursing through my body and I can’t stop my facial tic. Sienna and I hug in the darkness. The air conditioner rumbles. She breaks the connection.
An “I love you” stutters from my lips.
I think about time and gloom and death as my daughter, so full of life, so smart and beautiful, wishes me sweet dreams and opens the door. I sweat despite the air conditioner. I hug a pillow to my my chest. The left side of the bed is empty. My wife needs to put Sienna down because I can’t function.
The door opens again and Sienna’s back. Her footsteps sound so small. She wants another hug and we embrace once more.
“I love you, Daddy.”
She breaks the physical connection and leaves, this time for good, though I hear her spectacular giggling over the baby monitor as my wife reads her a story. It’s “The Battle of Loki” from an Avengers book.
Hours before I was in Manhattan at a Type-A Parenting bootcamp. I was down, but I managed to talk to strangers as they gave me helpful advice for my blog. They commented on how I’m helping so many people by writing about my depression. I shrugged them off. A few other members of the NYC Dads Group were in attendance and it was good to see them. A faraway friend made the trip to the conference as well. The bootcamp was designed to last until 4 o’clock followed by an after party at 8:30. I accepted a dinner invitation from one of my new friends so I could kill the time between the bootcamp’s end and the after party’s beginning.
I sat down with one of my NYC Dads Group friends, People chattered around us as I asked him for advice about a special idea I have, one that frightens me because it’s a realistic thing, and one I don’t know how to develop. Somehow the conversation devolved into me crying and saying I didn’t want to be here anymore. I have no clue how it happened. I’m unable to trace the convoluted road from asking for advice to wishing to disappear from this world. By then 2 other friends had joined the conversation and tried to calm me down, but my depression combined with a panic attack knocked me over the edge. Ashamed and embarrassed I got up and left. I couldn’t breathe. I stumbled down escalators trying my best to suck in oxygen.
“Everyone’s watching me. I’m a failure. I’ll always be a failure. Just let me go.”
The thoughts cycled faster and faster. I couldn’t stop them. I continued down the escalators hyperventilating and not even bothering to wipe away the tears. I trembled. I mumbled to myself.
“Just let me go.”
I reached the lobby and made my way to the street. I stopped and held onto a light post trying to catch my breath. The world continued to spin. Masses of people continued walking the sidewalks of Manhattan. Were they watching me?
My fingers shook as I texted my wife that I’d had a massive panic attack and was heading home. I started walking to 34th street. She responded with “Come home! Breathe!” Times Square was alive with tourists and people dressed up as famous characters. Iron Man talked with Grover.
Somehow I made it to the train station and then home. I unlocked the door to our apartment and found a concerned wife and a happy daughter who shouted, “Daddy!!” But I couldn’t muster a smile. My wife and I locked eyes and then she hugged me.
“Shh. It’s ok. You’re home. Go to bed.”
It was around 4 pm, but the bedroom was calling. The darkness. The rumble of the air conditioner. I stayed in bed. I cried. I yearned for death. I cried some more. I posted an apology to my friends on Facebook.
“I hate this F**king disease!!!!!!!”
Exhausted, I slept.
I awoke and realized I needed to print something. I dragged myself to the living room, sat down on the floor and opened the computer.
My beautiful, innocent daughter asked if I was sad. I told her the booboo in my head was making me sad. I printed the thing and went back into hiding.
I stayed in bed the next day as well, just staring into space, negative thoughts cycling. I lost an entire summer weekend with my wife and daughter to depression.
I’d felt the blackness creeping in for the past few weeks so having a meltdown is no surprise. It’s been 4 days since the conference and I’m still shaky. I’m not sure what’s triggering this latest battle. I just know it runs deep. I refused to go to therapy the week before. I’m on a new medication, but I don’t think it’s working. I’m battling the same thoughts I’ve fought for years but it’s like fighting a Game of Thrones army with a toothpick. I consistently lose.
Depression makes you want to rip off your head or stick a gun to it. Sometimes it takes every bit of energy just to get out of bed. It’s a very real and very painful disease of the mind and there’s no real cure. Depressives live in the past. Our feelings – the same ones we had as a child or teenager or young adult – consume us before logic can intervene. Depressives go to therapy to learn tools that will help us manage our disease, learn to focus on the positive and future. But it’s so damn hard and it’s so damn draining.
I’m a little better today, but as I said, I’m still shaky. I barely slept last night. Friends responded to my Facebook post about my major panic attack with reminders that I’m strong and I’m not alone.
And that’s what I need to cling to right now.
I’m not alone.