Monday morning as I was driving to work, I began to notice that some of the tell-tale signs of a mood cycle were revealing themselves. I thought about the weekend, and the week before, recounting all my activities and moods. I had a great weekend! I got a lot accomplished around the house, and I felt really good. Not too good, I had thought. I wasn’t racy, or speedy, I did have a lot of plans and thoughts on my mind, but I didn’t stay up until sunrise to work on them. I hoped my good mood was in normal range. But this morning, I felt off. I was in my head all the way to work, analyzing every thought and feeling. I was feeling alarmed because this could be the first indication that the depressive part of a cycle was beginning, and my “good weekend” was hypomania. I began to panic. I wondered how bad was this one going to be? Was it going to be a crippling depression? Would it be relatively mild, where I’m down for about two days, and then I’m on the way back to the land of the living?
My friends and I worked out a signal that if I was having a meltdown, and needed support, I could send it to them and they would know that it was very important and they would reach out to me. I told them how hard it was for me to call and express what was going on, so I didn’t ever call. My friend Missy said I should use the poo emoji. “Just text the poo emoji and we’ll know and we’ll call right away!” Genius! I did feel like shit, so it was extremely appropriate. I sent out the poo message. Within two minutes my phone rang, and I got to talk, vent my fears, cry, and express my anger. The anger that goes, “Why me? Out of all the people I know, I’m the only one that has to deal with this shit! I don’t understand why this is happening to me! It’s bad enough that my parents were taken away from me…but then, evidently the event triggered me to mentally suffer for the rest of my life! I can’t enjoy the good life that I have now!”
She listened and I felt better to get all of that garbage out of my head. I thanked her and hung up and tried to get it together for my first client.
What happened later that afternoon made me realize some things…
My last client of the day left me a message on our voicemail that she needed to cancel. She didn’t leave a reason. Then, a couple of hours later, she called and asked if I had given her appointment away, and if not, could she still come. I hadn’t, so I said of course she could. She was a referral, so I had never met her before. She shows up right on time, and immediately started apologizing for cancelling and then wanting in again. She talked about her day, and that it was so horrible, she didn’t think she could sit through her highlight appointment, but later, decided it might actually make her feel better. I didn’t ask why her day was horrible. I’ve learned that most people will tell you on their own if they want to talk about something, and it’s better not to ask. So, for over an hour, we just chit-chatted and small talked. We talked about where she worked, her husband, where she grew up, and all of the usual stuff. Then she started asking me questions. How many kids did I have? How old were they? What did they like to do? Did they work? Have girlfriends? Pretty common questions that I answer a hundred times a week.
I glanced at her in the mirror and to my surprise, her face was beet red and she was crying! I immediately put my hands around her arms and gave her a sympathetic squeeze. I had no idea what she was crying about until she began her story with, “This is why I had such a bad day and almost didn’t come in!”
Her daughter was in her early thirties and had two babies under three years old, with two different daddies. One daddy gave up a baby and the other dad adopted that baby. Right now, that daddy is in jail for reasons she didn’t go into. She said that this daughter lived with her right now and did not have a job. But, then, she said, that wasn’t the worst thing right now. It was her 34 year-old son. He was addicted to drugs. She didn’t know exactly which ones, but he did have to be hospitalized for an over-dose on bath salts. He lived, but she said he’s not the same person as he was before. She said someone saw him shoot heroin, but only once, so she didn’t know if he was doing heroin. She didn’t know exactly what he was doing. He was wanted for shoplifting in the county north of us, and in our county, he has five DUI charges. That morning, he was to be in court for these charges, and she had signed his $10,000 bond. He did not show up to court, which makes her responsible for paying back the money. She said she knew she shouldn’t have signed that, but it was her son and she didn’t want him going to jail! Over and over she kept saying that she didn’t know where she went wrong as a parent. She said she can’t sleep at night, and she knew he was going to end up dead. The tears flowed, and she told me that no one knows what it’s like to have a child who is addicted to drugs. She said, “I look around at other families, and they seem normal! Their kids work and have families and are just regular people! Why is it that my family is so fucked up? My son will probably die because of drugs, has five DUI’s…who has five DUI’s? He’s already OD’d once. He doesn’t show up for court, leaves me owing $10,000, and he’s also wanted for stealing! And my daughter! She has two kids by two different men, who are both pieces of shit, one of them is even in jail! She’s 31 years old and she has to live with me because she’s so damn broke, she can’t even support herself! I just don’t understand why this is how my life is.”
Wow. I felt so bad for her! I can’t even wrap my head around what that must be like for her as a mother. After she left, I think my black, bitter heart felt a little lighter. I realized that my “cursed” life could be a hell of a lot worse! She even said the same words that I’d said earlier that day, asking “Why is my life not normal like other people’s?”
Yes, what I’ve been through has been terrible, and having this illness for the rest of my life is a hard thing to accept. But…I wouldn’t trade places with that lady for a billion dollars. So far, both of my kids fall into the normal, average category. I mean, they have their stuff, but I’m not losing sleep for fear of their death. I’m not paying money so that they can get out of jail, or begging them to go to rehab, or praying they survive their overdose. My son’s personality hasn’t gone from normal to brain dead because of bath salts. My God, that poor woman. I cannot even imagine her pain. I told her I’d pray for her that night, and I’ve prayed for her every night since.
Let me assure you, I’m not so naïve as to think that my kids could never follow similar paths as hers. They could, just like anybody else’s kids could. If that does happen, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. For now, however, I’m going to try to count the blessings I do have instead of just counting the burdens.
The next couple of days I felt fine. I do think I’m headed slowly into a depressive state, but I’ll deal with what comes. When I’m beating myself up and cursing my luck though, I’m going to try and think of my client and remind myself that it could be so much worse. Additionally, if I really need some support, all I have to do is send out that text of that little picture of poo!