People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

Unclear On the Concept

On the route I take to Carter’s school, there’s a short stretch of road that runs through a neighborhood. It’s pretty heavily trafficked, but just two lanes, and people go flying through there like it’s the damn autobahn or something. I’m always careful to go drive the 25 mph speed limit because a) there are frequent speed traps in there and I can’t afford a ticket and b) running over a pigtailed first grader on her way home from school would ruin my whole day.

So of course, with my drive-the-speed-limit habits, I often end up with a car or three stacked up behind me. Yesterday, a huge truck drove right up on my bumper. I watched the driver in the rear view mirror as he gesticulated wildly, pounded his steering wheel, and pulled to the right as he considered passing me in the bike lane.

I was watching the speedometer oh-so-carefully, keeping it exactly at 25 while this guy blows his ever-loving top behind me.

We came to the intersection and I signaled to turn left. I saw his lips move, “Goddammit!” as he pulled into the turn lane behind me. I turned left onto the new, four lane road, and he raced his engine as he pulled into the intersection, intending to slip around me as fast as he could.

Ooops! What’s this? Road construction? One lane closed? And him without room to pull around me? More gesticulation. More steering wheel pounding. I swear he was trying to climb into the backseat of my car. Meanwhile, I watched the speedometer and tried not to let the man see me laughing at him.

Finally, we came to the intersection where I turn left to pull into Carter’s school’s parking lot, and the man, window down, drove past me, screaming, flipping me off, and honking his horn.

And to think, he drove away thinking that I was the asshole!

Me? I’m wondering what it must be like, to be a person who is so fundamentally angry that being stuck behind a person driving the speed limit causes you to act like a total douchecanoe. I’d rather be late!

During the long (long!) year-and-a-half (winter 2009 to summer 2010) when Carter was dangerously unstable, I ran.

I ran to appointments with therapists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and assorted other healthcare professionals. I ran to put out fires (metaphorical, except that one time). I ran to meetings at the school. I ran to pull Carter off of children/dogs/furniture he was trying to hurt. I ran to prevent Carter from hurting himself. I ran to keep up with the basic necessities of ordinary life in the in-between-crises times.

There wasn’t much opportunity, with all that running, to think about how I was feeling. Not to say that I was OK; I most decidedly was not, and I knew it. I just didn’t have the space to get all introspective about it.

In fall, 2010, when Carter began to stabilize (and that stability proved not to be of the short-lived, false-alarm sort), I was nearly overwhelmed with feelings that were jockeying to be acknowledged, understood, and felt.

Chief among those feelings? Fear.

Huge, hulking fear. Monolithic, oppressive, and relentless.

During my many sleepless nights in October, November, and into December, my thoughts ran on a loop, from fears about Carter’s stability collapsing, to our financial future, to our ability to continue accessing appropriate health care and education, to whether or not the relationship and personal damage our family has sustained in the past few years will ever be healed.

Around and around I went, in a kind of a thought-rut, until I felt like I would never get a rest from my own thoughts.

Almost worse was the guilt I felt. How could I get lost in myself like that, when there was so much to be done? There were two years of neglected issues – the other kids, my marriage, the house, my medical needs – to face and wrestle to the ground. How could I collapse inward in the face of the one thing I had been working toward and dreaming of for so long: Carter’s stability. How could I?

And you know what? I just did.

I just fell apart.

The harder I abused myself over falling apart, the worse it got, until the depression seemed impenetrable.

I think that, sometimes, I try to put on a brave front. Not because I’m noble or strong, and not even because I’m a private person (I am definitely not that), but because I am working so hard to avoid other people’s pity. I say it’s fine, we’re fine, I’m fine, because I don’t want people to make that face.

Somewhere in there, I started to pretend, not just for other people, but for myself. I forgot to acknowledge that this is seriously, massively difficult.

Because it is.

When I gave myself permission to stop trying to pretend I was OK, I started to be more OK. Sometime around Christmas, I got my feet under me again, and I’ve been slowly recovering ever since.

Sometimes I worry that I’ll frustrate people with my frequent writing about this notion that we can’t be OK until we acknowledge our decidedly not-OK feelings. After all, aren’t we admonished, and often, to have a positive attitude? To look on the bright side? To keep our chins up?

Over and over again, I find myself stuck, and over and over again, I realize that I’m stuck because I’m trying not to feel what I’m feeling. Why? I don’t know; maybe it’s my nature, or my upbringing, or our culture. Probably a combination of all of those things. Whatever the cause, I have to acknowledge the dark and ugly feelings or I get stuck in them.

It was a long depression and I have aways to go before I am recovered, but I’m getting better. This afternoon, Carter interrupted me while I was reading to him. “Mommy? I think you’re happier now. Your voice sounds happier when you read.” I couldn’t force that to happen. I had to breathe deep and wait for the waves of fear to crash over me.

And like magic, the tide went out and left me, shaken but whole, still myself, but wiser.

This post originally appeared at Hopeful Parents.

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