The last few days have been hard for me. I found myself pulling away from my social media outlets, struggling not to snap at people and making a, sometimes visibly, conscious effort to remember to smile. Anyone who knows me, knows, this is extremely unusual behavior for me. I am not known to fly off the handle and start yelling. Nor have I suffered uncontrollable crying in public since high school. I’ve always had a ready smile with no effort needed to shine.
So what happened in the last few days? What could possibly drive me to flail on the edge of the abyss and even look down with a horrified curiosity? In my distress, I considered a virtual suicide. Deleting my blog. Shutting down my Twitter, Facebook, Skype, email accounts, photo uploads, and every thing else that I had online, including my job search accounts. I figured, I could just fade away. No one would notice. No one noticed I was here now. It was a strange place for me to be. Ungrateful, selfish, self centered and dark. For me.
After months of unemployment, uncertainty and frustratingly still recovering from a terrifying divorce, I was feeling less than positive. I think it’s called depression. It’s not something I have much experience with. I could only think dark, dismal thoughts, and could only see how much the world was stacked against me. For me, this was an unusual experience. I’ve never felt this… low. I’ve been depressed before, but this was different. I was depressed when I was going through my divorce, but no one would have been able to tell. My coworkers didn’t even know I was going through a divorce until my name changed. I was depressed as I worked through various other unpleasant evils that have happened to me in my life, but again, no one would ever have guessed. I was never depressed in a way that would make myself or anyone else pause or wonder.
But this week, I was and still am suffering from a long bout of bad luck and negative events. It seems since the moment I learned I was pregnant, over four years ago, that I haven’t had a true free moment where there was not something absolutely horrible or frightening happening in my life. Something that required my constant vigilance or attention. You could say, I snapped. I’d had enough. I started to crumble in on myself.
I thought to reach out to friends but the season being what it is, I figured everyone would be so busy or finally being reunited with long gone loved ones. Plus, part of me feels that after over four years of my soap opera drama, I have overused their shoulders. So I decided to do what all the books say is the wrong thing: go it alone.
For a few days, I sat and moved only when my daughter needed something. Lonely, depressed, and seeing no way I could make it one more month, I was disgusted with myself for even being depressed. I don’t get depressed. Not me. I’ve been through worse. But here I was. Depressed at the “happiest time of the year.” How cliche.
Then I got a phone call from an Associated Press reporter, Shaya Mohajer, I had interviewed with earlier for a story regarding unemployment: Benefits: Jobless relieved life raft still afloat. It seemed the story had struck a cord with a few people around the country who wanted to reach out to me and my daughter. I was stunned. Unsure how to proceed. Unsure whether to proceed at all. How does one accept gifts from strangers? Should I even accept them?
The distraction of trying to work through this conundrum, got my brain moving again. Should I accept this? Would it be safe? How would I thank them if I accepted the help? What would happen if I said “no, thank you?” What if I said “yes?” I flipped back and forth in my head about what to do. Normally every Christmas I donate to Toys-for-Tots, and participate in Adopt-a-Family. This year I couldn’t donate and it was weighing heavily on me thinking that a child was going without because of my misfortune. Surely, they still needed help. And then as I sat watching my daughter sleep, the tears in my eyes cleared enough to see her peaceful face set in the perpetual smile I have tried to cultivate. In that moment, I made a decision. I would one more time, swallow my pride and accept the help, to give her a happy Christmas memory.
I checked my email “junk folder” and sure enough, I found three forwarded emails from Shaya. I read them, trying to think of how to respond. Three different moms from different parts of the country with different stories of their own. Two unemployed and one with an excess just wanting to share. I was moved by their own sharing as they tried to reach out to me. With time running out, I responded to each one, thinking if only one responded and did still want to provide a gift for my daughter, that would be enough.
To my great surprise, all three responded and quickly. Two sent gifts in the mail immediately, and one sent a gift certificate for Toys-r-Us so I could run and get something immediately. I am still shocked by their generosity, and don’t really know how to thank them properly. I’ll make sure they get to see the joy they helped bring to my daughter on this Christmas holiday. I’ll remind my daughter of this Christmas when strangers reached out to help.
I still don’t know how depression works, or if I really was in a full blown depression as opposed to just a down time. For me, it was a depression. For many others, it would not be. I can say, I still feel stressed, tired and frustrated, but I have felt the spirit this season, and I have seen it manifest today, as Santa gifts showed up at my door today from strangers and friends, alike. I am humbled by the generosity of the season in a way I have never felt before.
I do still believe in Santa. In strange ways he still makes a showing even in the dark times. I do feel blessed to have friends who remembered us, and to have been blessed by the spirit of strangers. This Christmas is a beautiful one. In my depression, I had asked for a reason to continue believing. I was given it with a solid *THUMP* to my head. Sometimes it’s not a really bad nights sleep that can wake someone up. Sometimes, it’s just a few days of wallowing, a phone call, and a child’s sigh that can jump start a spirit.
Mahalo to our Santas. I am forever grateful, not just for the physical gifts, but for also giving me a reason. I can’t even express how grateful I am. I just am.
Mele Kalikimaka, from our home to yours.