Is this how it feels for everyone?
Something I cannot identify tightens around my chest like a corset gone rogue. My peripheral vision turns hazy and a voice inside my head screams at me to stop. To turn around and run. As if I could bolt away and dodge whatever it is that's trying to get me.
My head feels heavy.
My heart feels heavy.
Sleep cannot come too soon.
As I stand in the grocery store, I fantasize about the cool darkness of my bedroom. I see the wine red curtains, glowing against the late morning sun, trapping the heat inside the cotton fibers so that the room itself remains temperate. I envision myself lying on the bed, back to the silky sheets, eyelids closed. I must get there, I chant to myself. Or, I must work through this.
These episodes don't show up often, but when they do I'm usually taken aback by them. I always thought I had escaped the curse of depression that seems genetically programmed into several family members. But then a day drifts in and I wake up, feeling slammed by an unknown force, a lethargy that pulls at my limbs and pushes me down. I know that description might sound odd--push and pull are opposites of one another. But on days like this, the fierce tug on my legs and the weight on my shoulders make me crumble onto the closest piece of furniture.
I busy myself with anything and everything: laundry, dishes, putting away any books, toys, or shoes that aren't in the right place. If I can compose the outside world, will my inside world tumble together in alignment? Hoping that notion is true, I continue to right all the wrong that's spread across my house. Keep your mind off of what you're feeling, I say to myself. Distract and disconnect. Distract and disconnect. I'm not sure my technique will work. Chances are, I'll still end up in my bedroom.
A few moments later, and I sneak away from the family and head up the stairs, listening to the creak of the wood as my feet touch each step. The small sound drives my head further into disarray even as the coolness of the wood against my toes tries to calm me. I fling myself onto the mattress, back to the sheets, just as I envisioned. I focus on my closet across the room, on the chirp of the birds, on the black fan blades as they spin against the white of the ceiling. Squeezing my eyes shut, I curl on my side and pull a pillow toward my chest.
Aaron finds me first and lies down next to me. I have no idea if he even knows anything is wrong. In his ten years, he's known me to be grumpy and irritable, but I usually have an explanation for that behavior. This time, there is no explanation for why his mom's head is foggy and she's resting in a darkened room. Thankfully, he doesn't seek one. Instead, he stretches out his hand, gathers my fingers into his, and squeezes. "I love you, Momma," he says.
I squeeze his hand in response and feel a lone tear course down my cheek. I don't know what's happening or why. I can blame it on getting older, a twist of hormones, or possibly all of the social stimulation I've had in the past week. Maybe I've been able to keep depression at bay for years, but something has changed, something I'm not aware of. I just don't know. But Aaron reminds me that I'm loved, and that I love in return. And knowing those two facts are enough to help me rise from the mattress and move forward.
By the next morning, I feel fine, and I realize just how lucky I am.