Looking Inward

Those of you who’ve known me for a long time will understand that I don’t talk much about the stuff that goes on inside my head. Most of the time, that’s a good choice for just about everyone involved, because I never claimed to be sane. Fake it well enough most of the time, but that’s a scam I’m pulling on the world.

Last couple of days, I realized just how depressed I’d gotten over the last month or so. No one big thing set me off, so much as a bunch of little things. Death of a thousand paper cuts kind of build-up, if you will.

July’s always hard for me. My first wife died of breast cancer eleven years ago this week. My birthday was a month ago and turning 50 really has made me look sideways at a lot of things and wonder if I needed to make some changes. Screwed up my ankle about three weeks ago and it got so bad at one point that I actually had to buy a brace, just to be able to walk.

Then I saw a conversation on the social medias talking about how children deal with trauma and what it does to them as adults, so I got to thinking about that, and who I was.

Warning: enter at your own risk.

I was the weird kid, always on the fringe of whatever group you wanted to put together. Too intellectual when hanging with the jocks. Too much a jock when hanging with the nerds. Not crazy enough to be an artist, but too crazy for normal folk.

Realized that I’ve spent most of my adult life fearing the sorts of ostracisms that I had gone through as a child. As a result I don’t build deep and permanent ties to organizations, because some angry and terrified part of me is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and me to have to start over with nothing.

I’m done that more times than I care to even remember, let alone admit. It made me a hard, bitter, angry SOB in the bad old days. Cost me a lot along the way, but that’s all water under the bridge at this point.

In 2013, July was also a trigger. Couple of things set me off into a white hot angry. I don’t ever remember that much rage that close to the surface. Burn the whole fucking world down and salt the smoldering ruins kind of bad.

But then I stopped and asked “Why?”

Realized that the anger had taken over and was going to put me in a very bad spot soon.

But more importantly, that it was unnecessary. I didn’t have to be angry. Sat down with an inventory and decided to be happy instead. Cut a couple of toxic people permanently out of my life. Met the future second Mrs. Ward not long after that, and became someone so totally different than I used to be that I barely recognize him.

People will say “Do you remember…?” and my usual response is something along the lines of “That was so many me’s ago that I barely remember the person, let alone the date.”

It’s generally been a better time since then. Happy.

So a hard bout of depression that snuck up on me over the last month or so caught me off-guard. Squirreled me in on myself in bad ways, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to really wrap my head around that. Finally think I have my hands on it, and I’ll work it out, but it’s been a rough couple of weeks. (Not that most people would notice. As I said at the top, most folks never know what’s going on in my head. Most of you couldn’t even guess, despite a few of you who’ve known me for 20-40 years.)

But I also occasionally forget that I don’t have to be bulletproof all the time anymore. That the world isn’t necessarily out to get me, the moment I let my guard down, not like in the old days. (You read my poetry from 25-35 years ago and tell me I was sane.)

Not really looking for sympathy right now, so much as trying to publicly acknowledge that I’m an occasional fuckup, and that it’s okay. That I can apologize to people when I do screw up and hopefully it doesn’t cost either of us too much.

That I’m in a better place now than I’ve ever been, and this is just a bout of depression that I can get over with self-care and patience, like a really bad cold.

But I also figure that there are folks out there that would do better to know that we’re all human, and that it’s okay to be depressed from time to time. That they can acknowledge it, understand it, and hopefully move past it. I’m 50 now, and I’ve got 50 more years of fun ahead of me, so I need to make sure I’m making the most of these second chances that have fallen into my laps.

Because I got friends like you.



3 thoughts on “Looking Inward

  1. Larry Vaughn

    Sorry you were in a bad place😢. For context, here’s a retired 74 year old former Marine, bartender, IT techie, words of experience. Anniversary reactions are common to those who have lost someone or experienced some form of trauma. What makes them emotionally debilitating is they sneak up on you without warning and you can’t figure out why you are angry, depressed, etc over things that would not normally bother you. You may not even recognize or remember the anniversary but your subconscious does. I’ve had such anniversary reactions to such years, even decades after the event. Who knows what triggers the subconscious to bring it up but when you find yourself in a bad place unwarranted by current conditions, consider the past, what happened this month, ask is that why I’m in such a bad mood? Recognize it, understand it is in the past, grieve if warranted, but then put it away and move on. Improvise, adapt, overcome……now get back to writing 🤣

  2. Caroline Wolfram

    Completely agree with Larry. Happened to me several years ago…had a breakdown (completely lost my shit and couldn’t catch my breath from sobbing) & scared the hell out of my family who are used to me being the strong one…hmm. Anyway, finally figured out that my younger brother had died from suicide exactly 20 years earlier…really weird because I really hadn’t been aware of the coincidence until right then.

    Our brains are weird, wonderful things. I now prepare myself for a mental dip every October/November. It’s not a perfect solution, but it keeps me functional and my family reassured. Thank you both for sharing. Being human is hard sometimes and it’s okay to let others know when you need a little empathy…or space. 😉

  3. Linda

    As you can see, you are not alone, it feels very alone, yet as above, self care is key. My Mom passed away at a traumatic yet ripe old age in 2013, and this was the first year i forgot the day til a few days later…now Mom was a single Mom, and i was an only child, i was always the other in just about everything…
    At 50, after a spontaneous question she let me know she had been sexually abused as a young kid….and that piece of the puzzle was big for me…i call it pain, once removed, like a cousin, once removed….sometimes we just are empathic, and we don’t even know why, i know that may not help much, thank you for sharing

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