That second day of work really kicked my ass. I spent several hours helping in the busiest part of our company, and by the end of the day I was anxious and near tears, but I held on. I rested on Christmas Eve day.
On Christmas Day, we took things at a relaxed pace in the morning and opened presents around 2 o’clock. It was just the four of us. Later, we played games. I didn’t go to my room to lie down at all, though I wanted to. While playing games, I began to feel “squiggly” inside. That’s been my shortcut expression to explain the physical sensation of anxiety mixed with dread in my chest when I’m losing the battle and sinking into depression. My sons, husband and I were sitting around the dining room table, playing a game called Code Names, when I kind of froze. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to talk without crying. I said, “I’m having a hard time,” in a shaky, tearful voice. All three of them stopped and paid attention. My husband asked what could be done to help and my younger son questioned what had caused me to feel unsteady. My older son held my hand.
Now, I don’t want others to think these responses are automatic. When I suffered my first two episodes of deep depression, which I’ll cover in the Chapters of My Life, you’ll see that my husband’s responses have been far less sensitive and helpful in the past. I think that’s why it touched me so to have three strong, attentive men focus on my needs.
I’d scheduled a doctor appointment for the morning after Christmas to establish care with a new primary care provider. I knew I wouldn’t be drinking alcohol, so I figured it would be no problem to make a 9:00 a.m. visit to a new physician the day after the holiday. However, sitting there on Christmas afternoon, I felt tired and thought to myself, “I need to spend tomorrow in bed.” I immediately realized I couldn’t because of the doctor appointment I’d already confirmed. I explained this to my family, and we agreed that I should cancel the appointment and have a day of rest. I called the provider’s office, expecting to leave a message, but a triage nurse answered. She cancelled my visit.
This was the first time I’d spoken to my family as a whole while struggling, instead of hiding behind a smile and soldiering on in an effort to maintain a happy holiday facade. It was such a relief to say out loud that I wasn’t doing okay and have it received so thoughtfully by my guys. I felt less pressured then, and we continued to play games. My husband single-handedly prepared a wonderful surf and turf dinner while my sons and I continued to play games.
Now, a couple of things I want to emphasize here. I will describe my earlier major depressive episodes in chapters and you will see that the current support expressed by my family has not always been the response to my difficulties. The other thing I want to point out is, if you are a family member or friend of someone struggling with depression and/or anxiety, being there for the person, asking what you can do to help, and accepting that your loved one is experiencing a difficult time, even if you don’t fully understand, is a gift. I was so grateful and amazed at the love expressed for me. I opened up and was vulnerable, instead of trying to carry on and “not ruin” the holiday. Instead of ruining our time together, we actually worked through what was bothering me most and went on with our evening.
We may not have had lots of expensive gifts or a large family gathering, but this was undoubtedly one of my best Christmases ever.
It also occurred to me throughout the day that, had I followed through with my suicide plan, Christmas Day would have been the one month anniversary of my death. I hadn’t thought of that when preparing my departure, but now it made me feel like such an asshole. I’m so glad I was spending the day with my family, giving and receiving love, rather than having devastated them all.