Thursday, May 10, 2012

Searching For Our Sassy

I don't want to write this. I can already feel the fog of judgement descending. I'm about to open myself up to criticism that can stab me, but for some reason I need to do it. I need to tell you how real depression is. I need to tell myself. And if you don't understand, well, good for you. Know that you're one of the lucky ones and be thankful and find compassion.

I know it's real. I know it's real for me and I know it's real for other people. But I didn't know how sneaky it is. I didn't know what a real asshole it is. Now I do.

D has been a monster for the last few months. Or year. But she's a teenager and she's supposed to be that way. She's supposed to do things that make me want to throw her out because she'll be leaving in a couple of years and I need to be ready for that. Only somehow it seemed worse than that. I had a feeling it was more. I had the thought that she might be depressed. And then I dismissed it. Because it couldn't be. Because I was unemployed and going through my own shit and I couldn't take on one more worry. Because depression tells you you're the only one. Not in a you're-so-great-that-everyone-thinks-you-poop-rainbows kind of way, but in a only-you-are-the-worst-person-and-everyone-else-is-better-than-you kind of way. And this extended to my own daughter.

She finally went to talk to her school counselor a few weeks ago, who told her she needed to talk to me. She had looked up symptoms of depression and pointed to all of the ones she felt she exhibited. Cue self-loathing. I knew it. I knew it and I didn't do anything about it. I made an appointment with a doctor for the next day. She talked to both of us, she talked to D alone, and assessed D as "pretty severely depressed" and prescribed an anti-depressant after discussing it with her. She wasn't sure she wanted to take it, so we talked about what it does and doesn't do, the type of medication, and the dosage. She agreed to try it.

I've been watching her. When she has a good day or is cheerful or excited about something, I think to myself, yes. It's better. We're good. Next. I should know better. I should know how much I pretend myself.

Yesterday was a particularly bad day for both of us. When I feel bad, I shut people out. When she feels bad, she attacks me. She hurts me with her words. I shut down. And when she said she has problems, I said so what. So fucking what. We all have problems, what makes your problems so much worse? Cue intense self-loathing. She spent some time in her room and when she wanted to talk, she really wanted to talk. She wanted to say she was sorry. She wanted to say how much she hates herself and how she cries when she looks in the mirror. And then she told me how much. How she doesn't deserve to be happy. She told me exactly how much she's hurting and how much she's losing control and falling apart and it shattered my heart. My beautiful baby girl who loved dance and her friends and laughing and life. She hurts and she doesn't deserve it.

We talked. We watched this. We cried. She asked me why we have to have this. This depression. I told her it's because we're strong because it's the only thing I could think of. It's true though. She was strong enough and brave enough to ask for help. Not just once, but until someone listened. She was brave enough to tell me and show me how much she hurts. Telling someone what you are inside is scary. She thought I would be disappointed or disbelieving but she did it anyway. She risked opening up that ugly part that we want to hide. She is brave and she is strong.

I told her all of the good things about her. I showed her the friends on Facebook who tell her how wonderful she is. I told her she's beautiful and kind and a good friend and talented. And sassy. It's one of my favorite things about her but she said it isn't a good thing. I said, oh yes. Yes it is. We are both sassy and it's good. Sassy is strong. Sassy means saying things that not everyone wants to hear. Sassy means being yourself. Whatever it takes.

This isn't what I wanted. When I held my precious baby for hours on end, this wasn't my dream for her. I want to protect her. I want to make this go away. My first reaction was to fix it. Only it can't be fixed. It can be dealt with, it can be understood, it can be talked about. There is no magic fix. I have to find my own strength to help her through it. Her beautiful bravery will be my motivation when my own asshole of depression tells me not to care.

Cue the sass.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

That Time When I Met That Author

I once met Wade Davis. I had no idea who he was at the time. He was hired by the company I worked for to do a presentation about people in other cultures for a client conference. I thought he was brilliant. I had a schoolgirl crush on him in about 30 seconds. I was so infatuated that I insisted my book club read his Serpents and Rainbows. Then came the disillusion. Everything he'd spoken so eloquently about in his presentation was written almost word-for-word in the book. What seemed to come so naturally to him as a speaker turned into something canned and stale. Color me disappointed.

Recently, my book club read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles because one of our members, JC (not Jesus Christ, he's just lucky enough or unfortunate enough to have those initials), was invited to do a talk for the library on the book as part of its Novel Idea event. JC was asked to compare Rules with The Great Gatsby and that was the lens through which most of our discussion was viewed. That isn't a fair thing to do as evidenced by our discussion. I had wanted to like Rules so badly. So badly. And then I got to This One Part that ruined it for me. I still can't get past it, even knowing now that it's just my issue. And it wasn't just me. I think we picked the story to death. The meaning behind the story. The comparisons with Gatsby. We even questioned whether Amor was his real name or made up.

When Mr. Towles visited Central Oregon to talk about his book, we decided to attend. After our regular meeting about another book. On Cinco de Mayo. Because we're just that kind of crazy cool. JC was invited to the reception prior to the main event and was permitted to bring the rest of us crazy cool people.

I was prepared to not like him. I wasn't going to be disappointed again. Fool me once, brilliant-seeming writer, not again. The best thing about having no (or low) expectations is how delightful the alternate can be if and when it happens. It happened with Mr. Towles. Not at first. He looked so normal. Once JC was able to drag him over to our little group to talk to us, he seemed so normal. So easy to talk to. So easy that I felt completely comfortable actually asking him the actual questions I wanted to ask. What? So forward of me, I know. His answers were unsatisfying and I told him so. Yeah, I'm that kind of bad-ass.

We moved over to the the main event. It turns out that the seats in the front row were reserved for us but we didn't realize this important, ego-boosting tidbit until after the fact. We didn't need them though. Amor (because after my assault on him I think we should be on a first-name basis) mentioned JC twice in his speech and me once! Told you I'm crazy-cool-bad-ass.

Here's the best part. (Or next best. Because the best part is always about me.) Amor was a total super smartypants. We all agreed that he is much smarter than his book. Which just means he needs to write another one. He talked about art. He talked about people. He said the job of a writer is to "show you the universe, as best I can." I love that. I've said it over and over in my head dozens of times. He never answered my question satisfactorily. And that's how I know that it was just my issue. He had nothing to do with it other than showing it to me through the story he told. I think that's what writers do. Yes, they explain the universe to us. But the also show us the world within ourselves. They make us better in this way. They make us think and say "no, that's not how it is" and "no, I won't believe it" but in the end we do. We believe what is true for us. We believe what we didn't know was there, even though it's been there all along.

Afterward, we got to talk to Amor and say thank you and goodbye and I walked away feeling like one of my better selves, one of my smarter selves. The kind of Me that could have a conversation with a best-selling author and not sound like a total goofball. Even if I might have acted a little bit like one.

I found out a couple of days afterward that Amor emailed JC and said he wished that we had all gone out together that night after his talk. Yep. We are that crazy cool. And even if Amor isn't his real name, I'm going to pretend that it is.
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