verge (vʉrj)
the edge, brink, or margin (of something): also used figuratively the verge of the forest, on the verge of hysteria

to tend or incline (to or toward)
to be in the process of change or transition into something else; pass gradually (into) dawn verging into daylight

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Looking Up

Things are looking up.  We have some clarity and the days are starting to resemble days again.  For the last couple of months I've been at a loss for words--no, I've been lost in the words.  I've opened and closed my writing each day, having put nothing down.  I could have written about dogs or this merciful winter or my walks in the woods, as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary here, but that's not so.  That's just not so. Instead I've stuttered around the keyboard and screen, starting-stopping,  yet producing nothing more than a pile of silence.

I work in the mental health field as a therapist, seeing and hearing the effects of depression and anxiety daily. I've been able to navigate the vocabulary--speaking and listening--in my attempt to help others. I'm not afraid to go there, usually. And yet even when the therapeutic relationship is strong, the true distance between chair and chair remains beyond words.  I love what I do, and while my care and help is genuine, I cannot know exactly what you feel.  I can often reconcile that in my work.

But here at home, not so.  I notice that it's easier to talk about mental illness when it's over there and somewhere else.  It's easier to know what to do and what to say if you are talking about it in a general way.  At home and in the world, it's easier to grasp and understand when it isn't actually happening.  It's easier to know what you're doing when things go just as you planned.  When it hits home, the words suddenly scatter and fall out of order and without meaning. Unlike anything I've known, a wave began to rise here in the fall, rising so fast and so every which-way that when it finally crashed around us, I found myself fumbling with words and the spaces between them, not knowing what to say.  Or sometimes the words would come--but with no way or no place to say them.

My daughter became the victim of unspeakable bullying last semester.  As the fall months unfolded anxiety took hold of her, followed by severe depression which resulted in nearly two months of hospitalization.  Through the course of all this, we found ourselves oddly wrestling our words, as if the words themselves were too heavy or too awkward or too stiff to say or use around others.  It's not that we were hiding--it's that we were out in the wide open without a way to speak it.  Suddenly, the answers were elusive.  The questions were worse. As she struggled, our attempts to help seemed foreign and clumsy. Sometimes all we could do was just sit as close as humanly possible and say nothing.  While doctors and staff prescribed pills and plans and did their routine check-ins, the most tangible help we experienced came in the form of silence. Of Hershey bars and jigsaw puzzles. Of acceptance.  Silently putting the pieces together--putting something in order--seemed to give her comfort and safety.

Depression and anxiety come as invisible aggressors.  No two days are alike.  What worked yesterday doesn't work today.  Progress is measured in different ways by different stakeholders.  We all agree and then we all don't agree.  The loss of control she senses is real and terrifying.  How can you describe that? And how does she? The medical doctors order pills and then 'pathologize' their side-effects.  They don't often listen.  They sit across the room on the other side of that gap, and then they leave.  As practitioners, we often fail to grasp the distance between knowing solutions and experiencing solutions.  I watched my daughter attempt to cooperate with her treatment, but no one could really begin to loosen the invisible handcuffs of her darkness--except for her.

I still don't know what to say about it all.  But here's something: she's getting better.  She's home with me and home in herself again.  I don't know why or how--it's too elusive--but I know that we are coming out of the woods and back into sunlight.  I can take my eyes off of her and look around.  I know this because she is able to look through her camera lens again.  I love what she sees and where her eyes are taking her.  I can see...and she's looking up.

Photo credits: Meredith Bempkins


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Beautiful. Hugs to you all. Living with anxiety is it's own hell as we well know. The bullying? I still don't understand why one needs to pull someone down to make themselves feel good? It just doesn't compute with me and with the openness and anonymity of the internets it is out of control. Thinking of you all and hope to get together soon for coffee.

  3. I wish you strength and hope and continued progress.

  4. Lovely. And loving.

  5. Alice, I wish there was a way that I could help you as you helped me. Those bright moments although few and far between are a blessing. Praying for you all.

  6. This is a gift. For her, and you, and everyone who loves her. And your writing is a gift to us. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I too am in the profession, which helps me navigate, but the journey is still the same journey as everyone else.

  8. Mental illness from the third person to the second is quite a horrific jump. May you never find out how bad it is in the first. I don't know, though--in some ways it may be harder to be a parent with a mentally ill child than it is to be mentally ill oneself. I have no idea whether you are a spiritual or religious person, but if you are, I'd advise that you pray not only for your child but for your own strength to deal with and lovingly accept it all. I've often heard it said that there are no coincidences. I tend to believe that; this is happening to you and your child for reasons--albeit reasons unclear to you or her now. I know that is probably not much or no consolation now, but try to believe that and hang on. Remember, though, that you are neither responsible for the situation nor in control of its outcome. Bless you and your child.