I woke later than usual due to a round with physical pain in the early morning hours. Since childhood, I have experienced random waves of excruciating cramps lasting anywhere from five minutes to an hour. While it was likely not my first experience, in my first memory of the pain I am lying in the hospital, too young to describe what I felt. To date, there is no official medical diagnosis. These spells attack, seemingly from nowhere, and leave me completely exhausted.
The physical pain is gone. Nonetheless, I am wiped. When pain arrives in tandem with a depressive bout the coming hours are challenging, such is my story today.
This is what it looks like from the outside: I slept in, woke to a sunny morning, and the smell of fresh coffee. My wife and I sat on our front patio and sipped coffee, basking in the warm sun, enjoying the gentle morning breeze, and admiring the beautiful water view. The air carried the salty brine of the ocean and the grassy smell of the surrounding landscape. The steam rising from my mug wafted notes of delicious dark roast. It was a picture perfect moment, and I was robbed.
The script in my head is not aligned with the real world. It pins logic to the wall and then paints over it with a gloomy, dull hue. It stifles my senses and shallows my breath such that I struggle to embrace the beauty in everyday life.
The challenge is to stay here, connected to the present. Anxiety and depression steal your life in tiny moments that accumulate to a significant loss. My disordered thinking makes me want out. Instead of absorbing the present, I long for the next day, hour, or minute when I feel “normal.” My mind and body try to reject the current state and jump to a place where I can appreciate the little things again, hence, the stolen time.
Years of living in the air pocket have taught me survival strategies for the ebbs and flows of pressure. Today the weight feels like it will crush me if I don’t stay engaged in fighting it, so I adjust my position.
There’s plenty to do. I should be up and moving toward my next assignment. Nevertheless, I sit on the couch, eyes welling as I look at my wife. Maggie knows what’s coming, the inevitable crash. As a fierce protector and guardian of my well being, she offers advice, a plan to simplify my day. “Today is not the time to focus on the big picture,” Maggie said, knowing I am currently overwhelmed by multiplicity. She suggests a simple task from my endless to-do list that I can accomplish in little time. It is a reliable momentum-building tactic.
Before settling in, Maggie asks me to join her on a quick trip to the local beach where our dog can swim. “We won’t be gone long,” she promises. “It will be good for you to get a change of scenery.” I comply, with the caveat that I will bring my book and likely do a bit of writing while there. Nodding her head in agreement, I suspect she is relieved to find that the sadness hasn’t completely consumed my mind, yet.
Upon arrival, we park and follow a path through some woodsy brush to reach the beach. Along the way, I touch down on a slippery mud patch. In trying to remain upright, I hyper-extend my knee and let out a yelp, a minor incident that made me feel like I shouldn’t have come after all. “How absolutely perfect,” I think, sarcasm fully intact.
It is high tide. The view is bright and summery, boats on their moorings, a group of children getting ready for their sailing lessons, people out paddling and kayaking on the calm waters. I sit on a sunny rock at the water’s edge. The waves gently lap at the shore, and the seagulls squeak overhead. The peaceful soundscape doesn’t escape me, but it does little to cut through my staleness. I force my eyes to take it all in, and after a few minutes, I decide it’s time to write this entry.
Now I am home, wrapping up this post in my office. Maggie just walked in to check on my status. She asks if she can make me a snack or bring me a drink. My eyes fixed on the screen I respond, “No, thank you. I am not hungry.” I can feel her loving, worried gaze. She feels helpless because she is. She offers to bring me a fan among a few other comforts and ends with a question, “Is there anything I can get for you, anything you want?” “I want to write,” I reply.
Taking a pause, I look into her eyes and ask with genuine curiosity, “What do you want?” Without hesitation, she states, “For you to be happy.” With that, my cheeks are wet with tears. Not the sobbing kind, but the kind that leaks out when you are overcome with emotion, just a few pressure relieving ribbons – at least for now that is all that comes.
When I imagined creating Trapped In An Air Pocket as a thread on my blog, I decided it would have to be real and raw if it were to be truly cathartic and resonant. I could not hang on every word and agonize about being judged on quality or content. As I write, I am finding that difficult, but my goal hasn’t changed. Still, it comes with risk. Some who know and love me will be surprised by this portrayal. I am functional; my façade is strong from years of practice. That is what compels me to share.
There are so many folks who face private, cyclical battles to reach the beach due to mental health struggles. I am one of them. Trapped in an Air Pocket is my perspective.
Dawn, your writing is beautiful. It is moving. It is felt deep within and reaches deep down to the bottom of my heart and soul. You are not alone. Don’t leave Maggie out. She is your anchor. I love you both. I wish you peace. I, too, struggle to reach the beach. Sometimes you just have to take a break and tread water.
Thank you for your kind words and support Ellen!