Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Year in Review

A year ago almost to the day, my boyfriend and I broke up. I had quit my job that had seemed like a perfect fit because it was part-time with benefits just a month before, and although many people didn’t know it, my family was struggling with my dad’s depression, which was the worst it had ever been in my lifetime, and most likely the worst it had ever been in his, too.
If you had told me that a year from then I would be living in a beautiful mountain town in Panama, about to perform in two one-act plays and 80,000 words into a book I’ve been wanting to write for years, I would have wept with relief, even if I didn’t believe you. This time last year was the toughest time I’ve probably ever lived, and it has become a central theme in the book I’m writing.
Last weekend I spoke to my dad on the phone, and he asked if there were parts of the book I didn’t want my parents to read. I said yes, but that it wasn’t for the reasons he might think.
“I can’t tell my story without telling part of yours, and I’m worried about what you might think of what I have to say,” I told him.
“Well, I’m not afraid of the truth,” he said. “It’s no secret that I was really sick, and I would hope some good comes out of it – that maybe you learned something from the experience.”
It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Even as it has become obvious that this book is most importantly a processing of the last year of my life, it has also become apparent that the story is not over: that there is more to learn. I am continuing to write it, not about the past anymore, but about every day that I live here, everything I learn about myself: where I've come from, and where I want to go. I’m not sure when I’ll reach a good ending, but I just have to trust that I’ll know it when I see it.
An important part of the journey, however, is gathering the courage to share some of the most painful parts.
Below is a letter that I wrote to my dad last October – when he was already MUCH better than he was at this time last year. I share this partly to gather the courage to share my story, and also to celebrate. I’ve come a long way in a year, and truth be told the mileage from home is the least important part.

Dear Dad,

I can’t keep the silence any longer. It is excruciating to me to see you in pain. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a child, considering the powerlessness I feel that you are my parent and there is nothing I can do to make you better.
For as long as I can remember, my universe has been shaped by your depression. This fact of life was discussed in the family, but not outside of it. You wanted to wear your anonymity like a cloak of invisibility, but when I borrowed it – which was often – I wore it like a badge of honor, especially because you wore it so well: so bravely, so stoically. Few of my friends could claim a depressed father, even if, at that point, your depression was held in check by medications that no longer work.
Do you realize, Dad, how inextricably we are linked? When I fled to a yoga retreat center in Canada this summer, you asked me why.
“Is it the money?”
“No, it’s because of you, Dad.”
“Me?!?” you exclaimed, as if you existed in a vacuum; as if our family hasn’t been battling implosion as we helplessly watch you suffer.
I am not without resources, thank goodness, and they have told me in many ways and under no uncertain terms that there is nothing I can do to empower you more than to simply live my own life and love you for who you are, regardless of how you feel. I am to trust you to your own path, as you have trusted me to mine.
I can know this to be true with all the intuitive fibers of my being; I can know I am attached to my laundry list of ideas to banish your depression and I want them to work, but there is no guarantee. I am just one in a room of many voices, clamoring for your attention, wanting to be heard, insistent that I know you better than all the other people you see for their professional opinions.
I know my role, but I want you to know: if it were in my power, if I could change it, fix it, or take it away, I would do it. I would not hesitate for a single moment, if it meant you would never wake up depressed again.
Do you know that watching you struggle is terrifying, horrifying, painful? Every time I talk to you and you say you don’t feel better, that you feel worse, that you’re anxious, or afraid, I want to hunt down a physical version of your illness and cut it to pieces and watch it die a slow, painful death so that I can know it has suffered even a little bit for the vast amount you have endured on its behalf.
You cannot see out of the hole you’re in; even when we assure you that you’re improving, that the treatments are helping, that you are better, your shoulders stay drooped, your spirits stranded, your eyes downcast. What I wouldn’t give to make you smile; a smile that would lift the corners of your mouth and cause you to laugh at the absurdity of it all, of your life, of the little problems that you used to remind me meant nothing, but now weigh you down like cement shoes.
I may think I have the answers for you, Dad, but they are my answers applied to your questions. Until YOU find the answers to your questions, there is only one thing I can do: stand next to you, hold your hand, and tell you that I love you; that I always have; that I always will. Because I do; I always have, I always will.

Love and a whole year of kisses

1 comment:

  1. I love your dad too. I did so from the moment I met him at a CPR class in the Entiat gym. I too have struggled with depression since 2nd grade. It comes and goes. This year I have tried a sleep study, and found that I was waking up 14 times in a night. It's treatable. It's better now. I am about to make a very positive change this coming year. Has your dad tried a sleep study? Try Central Washington Sleep diagnostic center. He can call and ask questions. Love, Paula Grieb