Life and Death and Memories of Both…

I’m generally an even keeled person when it comes to emotional stability. Well, I am these days. I endured a nightmare of very deep, out of control depression immediately after my mother’s death. It lasted 2 years and if asked, I cannot give much info about those 2 years because I have no memory of them. I can offer a few anecdotes about that time, like I remember graduating from high school and returning to my home town for my prom, and a handful of other such “highlights” but the day to day living of that time is lost in a fog of desperate grief. Eventually the depression lifted, though I would fight it for years before finally admitting to a doctor that it was a problem. I’ve done therapy – still do, just to make sure I don’t lose myself during this cancer battle. I also take a medication every single day and it has helped quite a bit. The depression isn’t gone. I don’t know if it ever will be. Perhaps some day God will choose to remove it from my life for good. Until that happens, it is something I live with, though I have enough experience now to see and feel it coming and to take measures to head it off before it can swallow me whole like it did before. That’s what I’m going to do here.

I developed my depression coping skills over the course of a couple of decades. Once I rejoined the land of the living after that first major collapse, I wanted desperately to keep it from happening again. I’ve had some pretty rough patches, but I eventually learned to recognized the initial signs of impending trouble. I won’t bore you with the details of it all, but suffice it to say that part of my way of dealing with it is to distract myself. This is a valid tactic, and works quite well until I take it too far and it slips into avoidance and denial. I tend to get to a point where I refuse to even allow myself to grieve. It’s a lot of internal issues that I have, but basically I avoid the pain so much and for so long that it eventually becomes unavoidable. The solution is to let myself feel it. Seems simple, but no one wants to feel grief. No one wants to relieve the worst moments of their life. I know it sounds melodramatic, but for someone with major clinical depression, opening those windows to the past feels more like opening the floodgates at Hoover Dam while you’re standing below them.

I wish I knew how to explain what clinical depression is like. The medical explanation is a chemical imbalance. But that doesn’t even come close to touching on the reality of it. My brain just works differently than a normal person’s. It isn’t selfishness or a pity party, it is an intrinsic part of how my mind works. Kinda like being a pessimist and seeing the glass as always half empty. (Except, I’m not really a pessimist. If anything, I tend to be a little too optimistic.) Honestly, I’ve sometimes wondered if it might be more like possession. It’s like there’s this little voice in my head that does its best to turn every situation, every word or action by other people, into something dark and hurtful. It wants me to see the worst, to imagine the worst, to feel pain and sorrow and fear in every moment. The times it has overtaken me are the absolute worst times in my life. The medication does make a difference, which is a big indication to me that they might just be right about that whole chemical imbalance thing. I’m far less inclined to even hear that annoying little voice with the medication. It still rears it’s ugly head occasionally, though, and the past few days have been harder than usual. The biggest reason for this is that yesterday, December 6, was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 72 if she were still alive. Happy Birthday, Mama.

Wow, just saying it makes my throat close up and tears come to my eyes. I adored my mother. I never had any urge to rebel against her. I loved being with her. I loved talking to her. I was 17 when she got sick and died from pneumonia. She collapsed on Saturday morning and died on Tuesday night. My husband was there at the time, thank God, because I don’t know how I would have gotten through it if he hadn’t been. (This was in Mississippi, where I’m from. Hubby – before he was Hubby – had come down for a visit that weekend.) My sisters both lived far away, Debi here in Indiana and Connie in Texas. Without going into the ugly details, they both arrived before she died and I pretty much shut down the moment my uncle got to the hospital and took over making all the decisions. Mark had to tell me that the hospital was paging me when my sister called me back because I couldn’t hear it. The shock had already started to take over. I remember her getting there, but oddly, I can’t remember our sister Connie arriving. I just realized that. Anyway, it was a nightmare and it still haunts me to this day.

So I’ve been fighting the grief for the past few days. Feeling it pull at me and drag me down so that I’m quite to the point of not even wanting to speak. (gasp! to those of you who know me. LOL) And I feel antsy and anxious, plus have trouble sleeping irregardless of how tired I am. I’ve been avoiding it and that hasn’t worked, so I’m going to embrace it. At least I’m going to try. And I’m going to do it by taking a trip down memory lane. Starting with some pics of my mom.

Taken at Shiloh National Park, just over a year before she died.  

Mark took this picture of her during one of his first trips down to visit us. We took him to Shiloh National Park, site of the major Civil War battle. (In our corner of the world, this was one of just a few things to do. So few, in fact, that as a kid I took MULTIPLE field trips there with my school. So many trips that I and no doubt many of my classmates had much of the video that they offer memorized. LOL) But is was Mark’s first time and we had a blast.

The entire time we were climbing up there, Mark kept yelling at us that we were gonna fall and break something. We didn’t!

Mama and Mark, taken on that same trip. They were sitting in front of our fireplace. For those of you who know him now, look how black his hair and beard were!

I had no hair but Mama was determined to get it to curl and check out that beehive!
I don’t know were we were going. Looks like a Christmas thing, but I can’t remember.

Mark took this after a Music Mania performance. It was a big production our music department put on every year in the town’s theater, known as the Colosseum. We were in the park, I think.

One of my favorite pics. Mark took this on that same trip that we went to Shiloh. Wasn’t my mama beautiful!
I absolutely adore this pic of my mom. She looks so sassy!
My sister Connie and Mom.
Another shot of Connie and Mom. I don’t know what’s so funny, but there was always a lot of laughter when we all got together.


 I took this one of mom while my sister, Debi, was frosting her hair. That’s my nephew, Dale, keeping mom from covering up her face.

And finally, a shot taken at a family reunion. That’s Mama in the middle, looking backwards because our Aunt Geneva had done something to her right as the shot was taken. We come by our lunacy honestly. LOL

Man, do I miss Mama, especially now. I wish she could be here to do all the things a mama does, but I know she’s in a better place. Doesn’t make me miss her any less, though.

 Another family reunion, from L to R: My grandmother, Wyonia, Daddy (David), Mama (Carolyn), Me, my brother-in-law, Dale, nephew Dale, Jr., my sister, Debi, my sister Connie, my brother-in-law, Henry. (Just as an aside, those pants my daddy has on crack me up! LOL)

There are countless other pictures I could post. Vacations and Christmases, everyday shots of us just being a family. And Mama is the core of all of them. On a handful of occasions, she was the one behind the camera, but she was ALWAYS there, always the heart of our family.

I miss you, Mama, so very, very much.

About winsomebulldog

I am a Southern-born and raised woman who moved north for the love of my Yankee husband. We met in 1987 and have been together ever since. I am a lover of food, photography, crafting, sewing, quilting, dogs and cats - as well as pretty much any other critter - and the afore mentioned husband. I'm a Christian and not ashamed to say so. I tend to ramble in both thought and speech, so staying on topic is always something of an issue. I'm naturally optimistic, and find humor in just about everything.
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