Mar 3, 2021
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
It’s 7:32 on Saturday morning and I am replying to a text about how my adult son is doing. I hate that question. If I tell the truth and say that he is in a deep depression that is making him either sleep or be mad at me, then people respond consistently in one of three ways.
“Oh, that’s too bad, hope he feels better tomorrow.”
To this response, I smile, but on the inside, I cringe. His depression will not just disappear in the morning; it will continue for the rest of his life. Tomorrow will not be any different. I know they mean well, but I get angry. What I want to say is, “Don’t be so naive. Learn about depression and the life-sucking power it has.”
I cannot bring any light to him.
“He is so lucky to have you.”
Sometimes I feel that’s true. I do love this young man so much. I wish and pray the best for him. Other times I feel like a fraud. If people only knew how tired I am trying to cope with his depression. I don’t mean tired as in wanting to sleep, although sometimes that is all I can think of. I mean tired in the sense of being pulled down into despair. No matter how much I love him and how much I try to be a light in his darkness, I cannot bring any light to him. I worry that sometimes I won’t be enough. It takes so much energy to keep from drowning in his depression.
Although my tiredness increases, I put on a smile and a happy disposition. It is exhausting to feel like I always have to be “on.” I still worry that he may kill himself. For so many years I had to check him, sometimes every ten minutes to be sure he was still alive. He promises me that he will not commit suicide but I can’t help feeling that if he stays in those desperate numb moments for too long, he will. I feel the old pain and worry that he will suffer so much and think of only one way out.
The third predictable response is something like, “Is he busy, does he have things to do?” or “Does he have friends to hang out with?”
This is where I always get tongue-tied. I know the people that ask this mean well, but it is the dumbest thing to ask. Well, at last I think it is. If someone with severe depression can’t think straight, can’t remember to go to bed, can’t wake up once they fall asleep, how can they maintain friendships? Clearly, those people don’t understand that he is hiding from life. It’s too unbearable, and so he sleeps or is rude to people to make them go away. He says whatever angry thoughts are in his head since the depression has eaten his brain’s supervisor. He says things that show his blackness.
The yard somehow represented my life
My son has moments of being “okay” but most of his days are still hard. He struggles so much that his connections with people disintegrate. Depression rules his life and when he gets a handle on that, his autistic brain isolates him. But I don’t say that. Instead, I end up saying that he is fine and people say they are so pleased for him. It’s all a big circle of lies.
Instead of answering, I went outside and hung the clothes on the line. I looked around at the messy yard, the projects that my son was to do, and the things he was to put away. It was a mess because, in the past three weeks, he has done almost nothing but sleep. The yard somehow represented my life: ugly and tired and uncared for. I glanced around and wallowed in my despair for a moment.
And then as I glanced around the yard again, I saw something different. In all that mess, there were moments of calm and beauty. The mint was thriving. The peas in the pallet garden were growing. The asparagus fern was strong and tall and going to be the biggest it had ever been when it filled out. The transplanted irises were dark green and bushy. The hostas had come back after the deer ate them. The kayaks were standing tall just waiting for the splash of heading into the river.
He is the treasured old bird houses on the wall
Suddenly I was back. I could handle the yard, could handle my son’s depression. I just had to think of the days as the tiny sections of our yard that were worth celebrating and that brought me joy. I smiled when I looked around this time. The yard was me. I could find joy in hard times. The yard was also my son; he could sit in the yard and watch the fire in the pit and be calm.
Go ahead, someone, ask me how my son is doing. He is the asparagus fern that will bloom someday. He is the hostas that will grow again. He is the treasured old bird houses on the wall; they just sit there. No birds come to them, but I love looking at them.
Wait, I change my mind. No one ask me how he is doing. If I tell people he is asparagus ferns and bird houses they probably won’t believe that anymore than when I tell them he is having a hard time.