I remember sitting in church with my family on Easter Sunday.
We were dressed nice in brightly colored clothes, skirts, ties and dress shoes. I sat between two of my children to prevent the inevitable feuding over elbow bumps, shoe touching or whatever was irritating one or the other.
Sunlight shone through the stained glass images of saints and Mother Mary.
The priest was standing up front delivering his sermon or homily, but my mind was not taking in any of his words. His voice echoed far off in the distance but my head filled with a faint hum.
Staring down at my lap, I saw my skirt colored with vibrant flowers staring back at me with tiny wet droplets dotting the spaces between. Had it rained outside? I struggled to remember the walk from the car to the door, but distinctly remembered the sun shining outside, warming the cool April morning.
That’s when I realized they were teardrops. This struck me as odd because I didn’t think I was thinking. Was I sad? I didn’t feel sad—just numb. I didn’t think that I felt much of anything.
I tried to remember when I last had feelings. I hadn’t been happy lately, but I wasn’t sure when that all started. It seemed that I had been moving about in some sort of sleepy fog. I found myself lying a bit longer in bed—my eyes not really focused on anything—and noticing the light blanket of dust that had formed on my nightstand.
I should probably clean that, I thought. Someone should clean it. Carol Brady would clean it—or her maid, Alice would have. It would be nice to have a maid, maybe.
For awhile I had been wandering around without much thought other than tiny observations like what Carol Brady would do. An image had come to mind of those nesting dolls, with brightly colored faces. Each one, after cracking open the side, would reveal another doll that would in turn reveal another until upon reaching the inside there would be something different or unique than all the others.
Except for me the inside was empty. I felt like I had become this shell—all dressed and colored with a painted smile on the outside with layer upon layer of the same, but empty in the center.
As I drove my children to school I could hear their voices like tiny chimes, but didn’t really hear what they were saying. Occasionally one would repeat “Mom, mom, mom!” when I didn’t respond. With all my might I would focus on their words to really hear what they were saying. I would answer, my voice a faint echo from far away.
Where had I gone? I used to be here—present and alive. I used to be awake and then somewhere along the way I had gotten lost.
At some point a thought occurred that maybe I was depressed. Depressed. That didn’t seem to fit.
Weren’t depressed people the kind that were unable to get out of bed in the morning and lost their jobs? Weren’t they the kind that allowed alcohol or food to consume them? This wan’t me. I got up every day and went to work. I mothered, I cooked, I didn’t drink and ate normally. I slept at night.
But there was still that feeling of numbness.
Out of curiosity I took an online depression quiz. Was I suicidal? No. Did I want to hurt myself? No. Did I want to die? No…but I felt like I wasn’t really alive. Did I sleep too long? No. Did I have trouble falling asleep? No.
Clicking off the “no’s” I began to feel silly for even bothering to take this quiz. But some of the questions sort of fit. It turned out I had ranked high in apathy. I just didn’t seem to care about some things.
Chronic Depression the result said. Dysthymia. This type of depression lies low under the radar and many times no one knows about it other than the person experiencing it. While reading that was reassuring because I wasn’t imagining these non-feelings, I didn’t know what to do. Do I tell someone? Do I take medication or St. John’s Wort? The irony is that even when one knows he/she is depressed, finding the energy to remedy it can be daunting.
Where do I go? Who do I tell? What would my family/friends/co-workers think? I stayed caught in this half-numb half aware state, unsure how to act. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to act. The beauty of being numb was that I could keep going without feeling sad or happy or angry. It was easy to just move through the motions.
So here I was sitting in church filled with shiny happy people on Easter Sunday and there are teardrops on my skirt. I glance to the left and right to see if anyone notices. No one does. They never do, I thought.
And right then and there I wanted to stand up and walk out and leave those walls that seemed to be closing down on me. Those images on the windows seemed bigger and threatening and the priest was still talking—forever talking. Yet I couldn’t move. I was stuck. Stuck.
I was suddenly aware of the humming that droned out every feeling and sound and thought. Wait, I thought. I am here and alive and I don’t want to be numb anymore.
We filed out of church in a chaotic herd of chatting and mingling and children tugging on their parent’s jackets. My face felt tight where the salty tears had dried and I felt my daughters hand take mine. I squeezed, noticing her tiny fingers and smiled down at her.
I don’t want to miss this, I thought. It’s time to wake up.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise