“This has been the worst day ever.”
How many times have I said those words after a long, stressful day? Countless. I often speak in hyperbole, but I never thought the day would come when I’d mean it, when I’d know definitively that I had just experienced the worst day of my life: June 19, 2015. It was the day I watched my mother die.
I’d lost loved ones before: grandparents, great aunts and uncles, other assorted family members. I’d sat through funerals and felt like my heart was going to break. But nothing could have prepared me for my mother’s death because not only is there no comparison, no grief quite like losing one’s mother, but I’d never watched someone die before.
And watching her die? That was traumatizing. You see, movies lie. Continue reading
Last night, I dreamt my mother died.
It’s not the first time I’ve dreamt that a family member has died. It’s not even the first time I’ve dreamt that my mother has died. I rarely remember the details of how these dream deaths occur, but I always wake up feeling raw. When it’s about my mother, I wake up feeling angry — with myself, with her, with everything. Those feelings stay with me for hours, sometimes days.
But usually after some time, I’ll tell myself it was just a dream. I know that dreaming about death doesn’t necessarily mean I’m worried about someone’s death; it’s usually metaphorical. The difference is this time, I think it is about a death: my mother’s death.
Over the course of the past year and a half, I’ve become much more aware of my mother’s mortality. The idea of losing a parent has always felt so abstract to me. My brain won’t let me process it. Accepting that my mother has cancer that’s incurable, even if it’s treatable for now, has been hard for everyone in my family to accept.
Growing up in North Carolina, I have clear memories of the UNC women’s soccer team dominating the sport at the collegiate level (which has continued into my adulthood), and some members of the USWNT like Mia Hamm (the first professional footballer I ever learned the name of) were a household name long before anyone even talked about the USMNT. It was years before I fell in love while watching Zidane at the World Cup or before I stumbled upon Manchester United. I didn’t know lad culture. I didn’t know that the football community would deem me unworthy because I’m a woman. If I had — if I had comprehended this at all — would I have let myself become so invested?
Loving football didn’t come naturally to me. It took time, effort, and a single-minded devotion in the days of really shitty internet speeds. In a lot of ways, I embraced it because it was mine, because it made me feel different. It made me feel special. It made me feel connected to a community that didn’t exist locally; it took me out of a hometown I hated. When I “discovered” United, I learned everything I could about the club — about the history and former players and current players, and then about the Premier League and other famous players in other leagues. I watched England during the World Cup, and I met other people through the internet that loved it as much as I did. I never got into MLS as there was no MLS team in NC. And honestly, for me, part of the appeal of football was how unpopular it was in the US at a time when I had a major identity crisis.
I really don’t like birds.
A few years ago, I did what every tourist in Venice does – I went to the Piazza San Marco. I wanted to see the architecture, to take in the sights of the beautiful square after spending hours wandering through the streets and canals.
I’m convinced my friends wanted to go for one reason: the pigeons. I think they knew that I hate birds, or at least they learned when I backed away as far as possible after they paid for some bird feed and started throwing it at the pigeons. My mistake was letting them see how uncomfortable I was. So, guys being guys, they started chucking it at me so the pigeons would fly at me.
There are days, weeks, even months when living with depression feels like moving through a dark and endless tunnel. I work on autopilot, going through the motions, and using every bit of energy I have to trick people into thinking I’m a normal person. During these times, I drift through life without having any idea of where I’m going, of what I’m doing or saying. I feel apathetic, bored, and unmotivated to pull myself out of it. That’s something no one talks about. Depression causes me to feel really bored all the time no matter what I’m doing or who I’m with.
The simple truth is that having a mental illness hurts. It robs my brain of all positive emotions. It makes me paranoid. It makes me distrustful. It makes me resentful. It makes me hateful. It makes me miserable. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me lose my sense of humor. There are times when I’m so full of emotions and feelings and thoughts that all I can do is retreat into my head, where I’m at the mercy of a malfunctioning brain. Being depressed is like being trapped in a crawl space with no air, no light, and no hope of getting out.
The first memories I have of my mother are of smooth, tanned skin and warmth. My early childhood was an endless summer, and my mother carried the warmth of the sun within her. I felt it every time she put her arms around me and surrounded me with love and the heat that radiated from her body even in the midst of winter. Continue reading
A lot has been written and said about antidepressants and how they help or harm people with mental illnesses. But while statistics and studies may be enlightening and interesting, in my opinion it’s as important, if not more important, that people share their experiences with them if they are willing or able. That’s not to take away from anyone who has chosen not to take antidepressants or from those who cannot find it in themselves to speak about their experiences. Rather, it’s a reflection on the (sometimes willful) ignorance of the general populace regarding mental health. Continue reading