How to Take Care of Me

I don't know how to take care of you, J exclaimed in frustration. I know I should be sympathetic, but instead I just feel mad.

He had a right to be.  I knew that.

I'd gone off my medication and had {predictably} sunk into a depression. He was upset with how easily my current pain could have been prevented, but I was too trapped by my own paralyzing feelings to try and handle his as well. 

Don't kick me when I'm down, I thought. If you can't love me right now, just leave me alone.

Days passed. I got better and our pseudo-argument faded into a non-conversation, the way so many items of conflict do.


Last week as I drove down the US-60 to pick up the older children from school, a car ahead of me blew a tire, skidded across two lanes of traffic and flipped before slamming into a barrier and ejecting a passenger. All I saw was the smoke from the tires and a sea of brake lights, but I pulled to the side and ran to help.

When I arrived on the scene, an older woman who had witnessed the accident was standing in the road, hysterical. I put my arms around her and walked her to her car, murmuring comforting words and telling her to breathejust breathe. She pointed to the young woman lying in the street, saying, it's terrible so terrible and why don't they stop? Why don't they help? There were, in fact, a pair of women crouched over the bleeding form, but I settled her into her car and ran to join them.

The girl was alert but confused and bleeding from multiple head wounds. We took our shirts and jackets to wrap her head, then carefully put a layer of clothing underneath her to protect her from the burning asphalt. She begged for us to move her to the shade, but we used our bodies to shield her from the sun instead and distracted her with talk of sexy firemen coming to her rescue. She kept forgetting where she was, asking what happened and who was traveling with her and where was her mother?

I left her briefly to peer into the wreckage of the car where another young woman was crying and cradling her shoulder, but otherwise unhurt. It was obvious that neither of them had used safety belts. Fools, I thought as I asked her name and told her sit tight, help is on the way. 

Once more crouching over the first girl, I held her hand as another woman dialed her mother, gently informed her of the accident and then held the phone to the girl's ear as she sobbed into it. My heart hurt for that mother.

Am I dying? the girl asked me. No, sweetheart, I answered, no.

Not long after, police cars and fire trucks pulled up with sirens wailing. I relinquished my hold on her hand as the paramedics took over, then walked to my car and slowly pulled back into traffic. I was short a jacket but in all other respects, it was as if nothing had happened. Just a surreal and horrific dream.

But for days afterwards, I found myself checking and re-checking that my children's safety belts were fastened. It became so compulsive that in exasperation, E sighed and asked, are you still thinking about the car crash? 

Yes, yes I was.

I pictured my children launching from their seats, lying crumpled in the road and I got angry at those girls. I was angry that they hadn't been buckled, that they hadn't prevented their injuries and that their mothers had received those dreaded phone calls. I know I should feel sympathetic but instead I just feel mad. 


I hate taking that little pill every day. I hate the mocking tone it uses as it tells me that I'm not enough on my own, that I'm weak and broken and damaged. I hate that sometimes, though it lessens my lows it also lessens my highs, until I feel like I'm floating through life feeling just okay, with no passion or spark or creativity.

I realize now that as much as I hate it,  it's a safety belt, and I love my family too much to leave them with the aftermath of a crash.

But please, if I do end up confused and crying on the asphalt? Don't be angry. Just hold me and tell me that as much as it feels as though I am, I'm not going to die.

No, sweetheart, no.

{images from our NY trip 4/2009}


The Dragonfly said...

Such a powerful comparison. I always feel like I've been given a window into many souls when you share your struggles with depression. Thank you.

Thank you also for stopping to help as other's drove by.

Creole Wisdom said...

What a beautifully written post.

You are a strong, capable woman!

aLi said...

Remarkable. How absolutely awful to happen to be there and witness a horrific car crash. What a blessing it is for you to learn something from it!
I have figured it out, that darn little pill helps me cope with day-to-day struggles as a mom. When I don't take it I start feeling awful, terrible, just bad. And at times I've tried (like you) to prove the pill wrong. I can do this on my own!!! No. I can't. I find myself in a deep, dark depression pretty soon after. This is my cross to bear for my life, and I can make it easier by taking that little pill. It is worth it to me. It is worth it for my children, for goodness sake. And it is soooo worth it for my marriage. I am very similar to you with your struggles. Thank you for writing so beautifully about it. I'm rooting for you. Good luck Mel. :)
I commend you on telling that girl encouraging words. I hope she made it?

Kristina said...

Thank you for the beautiful post, as always. It can feel so frustrating at times that I have to take pills for the rest of my life to be "sane," but I think a large part of the self-consciousness comes from the illness itself. I hold tight to the knowledge that when I'm resurrected, my body--and my mind--will be whole. Sometimes it's the only thing that gets me through the day. A lot of people don't realize how important the meds are, but your very apt metaphor will hopefully shed some light. Because it is that serious.
Good luck!!

melyssa_marie said...

That was beautiful. I know exactly what you mean. You must have needed that crash. You all did. Right place at the right time for a reason.

Miggy said...

Wow to the experience and wow to the writing.

I can only imagine how taking that little pill must feel and I'm sorry you have to do it. I am glad however you have that "safety-belt" option today that our grandmothers didn't have. Maybe they didn't need it as much, but I'm sure some of them did....

I still can't believe you witnessed and assisted at that crash. You must have nerves of steel.

Bea said...

I can't tell you how clearly this resonates with me: "though it lessens my lows it also lessens my highs, until I feel like I'm floating through life feeling just okay, with no passion or spark or creativity." Sometimes, it's not until I skip a day (inadvertently) that I really feel. Like you, I take them for my family.

Apis Melliflora said...

Taking your "safety belt" pill is a sign of your great strength and understanding of how depression works.

That you can write about it all so eloquently is a sign of your God-given gifts as a big-hearted poetic writer.

You were meant to be there at that awful crash to help and be helped.

McBooter said...

You are superb at many things, but sharing is perhaps one of your very best skills. Terrific writing, terrific insight.

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