Happy #WorldMentalHealthDay

That may seem to be an oxymoron. I mean, how can you be happy and face the challenges of mental health? For the past eleven years and one month that has been my struggle. Even now that I live the charmed life, it is a battle that I do not always win. And yes, that is the well upon which I draw for many of my characters.

I will try not to bore you with too many of the details. But fourteen years ago, I followed a man to the UK. I was forced to leave one child behind for the sake of another, a real-life Sophie’s Choice. It was only supposed to be temporary – two years tops, while we straightened out my husband’s immigration papers to the US.

In the space of two and a half years, I lost three jobs. None of which were my fault. I discovered that the husband I had given up my life to follow was cheating. My daughter started to have seizures. And of course, I was living in foreign country (never think that just because the UK speaks English it is an easy transition).

The straw that broke this camel’s back was a miscarriage. An incomplete miscarriage to be precise. For ten days, I carried my dead baby inside of me. Perhaps my forty-five year old body was trying to hold on to the last vestige of motherhood? This may sound morbid but I saved and froze those ‘products of conception’ until I was ready to bury them. My then-husband did not bother coming; he was too busy.

I was circling the drain. In fact, the night before I went into labor with my dead baby, I came as close as I ever have to suicide. I googled my daughter’s seizure meds to see if they would kill me. I threw glass jars on the tile floor of my kitchen – with the intent of slitting my wrist. My ex-husband came screaming down the stairs not to wake our daughter that he had work the next day. That was it. I knew then that no matter how hard life I was, I could not leave my child in this man’s hands.

For the next two years, it was a daily struggle just to get out of bed. And if not for @PanKwake, I am not sure that I would have. But I got up, got dressed, and took her to nursery Monday to Friday. I reached out, no, I begged and pleaded for help. There are stories there.

But the one that I want to share with you today is a positive one. One of the key markers of MY autism (everyone’s is different) is aphantasia. In other words, I cannot see things in my mind. My dreams are auditory rather than visual. I can close my eyes and try to picture those closest to me. I can remember their features but not ‘see’ their faces. The only exception is a few life-changing moments. This was one of those…

It was spring time. The sun was shining. @PanKwake wanted to play in the tiny park out front of our flat. It was just the two of us that day. Mind you, @PanKwake was not an easy baby or child. Her sensory processing that marks autism combined with the inability to communicate those frustrations led to half a dozen meltdowns every day, some of them violent.

But this day, she was happy. She played on the climbing for a bit. Then she ran to rocking boat. She laughed. She screamed but this time in joy. I leaned against the black wrought-iron fence that enclosed the park. The sun warmed my skin and ignited long dormant neurotransmitters and ‘happiness’ hormones. I remember thinking…

At this moment, I am happy.

Yes, I was in the middle of a major depressive episode that would last another year and a half. I still had to face the trauma of ending my marriage, finding a place for us to live, and so many other obstacles. But in that one moment, there was joy, peace, and happiness.

Sitting here now, in my posh-ass house, my soul mate asleep on the other side of this wall, @PanKwake an intelligent, compassionate, and all-around awesome human-being, I am going to admit something…

I still struggle.

Last night, I screamed out the window at a group of young people who were making too much noise outside. I could not get back to sleep. I felt like my skin was crawling. My heart raced and my head threatened to explode.

This morning, the sun is shining brightly and together Alan and I came up with a plan to move our bedroom to a quieter location…and in the process I gain a new larger writing area.

That reminds me of this scene from My Country Tis of Thee

“I hurt so bad. I felt like everything I did was doomed to fail. I had failed Caleb and his mama, just like I had failed Kim Lee and Jade Su. Hell, there was even enough of that damned religion still left in me that I thought I had failed god too.”

He pinned Mike with his stare as he spoke, “I put that gun in my mouth, and I pulled that trigger.” A giant laugh that echoed louder than the waves shook the man. “The damned thing jammed. I thought, what a fuck up is that. I couldn’t even kill myself. I drank until I passed out.”

Luke walked from behind the bar and came to stand next to Mike. Wrapping his arm about his shoulder one more time, “Look around, boy. Look at this house. Look at my son and his family. Look at Jade Su, Danny, and my grandbabies.”

Mike watched a single tear spill from the corner of the bear’s eye and track down his weathered cheek as his gaze traveled to his wife once more. “But look hardest at Kim Lee. She’d still be sweating her ass off, making barely enough to survive while she sewed designer clothes for rich people.”

“If that gun had not jammed that night, none of this would be.” His eyes bore deep into Mike’s soul. “When that moment comes for you. And I know it will. I can feel that. You remember this moment, and you put that gun away. Cause somewhere out there is a good woman like my Kim Lee that needs you to save her from life’s pain just as much as you need her to push those demons aside and save your sorry soul.”

Extending his other hand to grasp Mike’s in friendship. “Trust me; shared burdens ain’t nearly as heavy as they feel right now. The love you find in the arms of a good woman will save you like not even god can.”

Or in my case, a good man. Yes, I saved him, too. After his wife of twenty-five years died of cancer, I brought our unique brand of Crazzy into his life. And together those shared burdens are not as overwhelming, even in those dark moments like last night.

But as Luke said if I had slit my wrists, what would have happened to him? I know beyond a doubt that @PanKwake would have have grown into the happily autistic young woman that she is.

So, please, no matter how dark this moment is, or even that there may come darker days ahead, please find those ‘happy’ moments and hold on to their memory, because none of us know what is ahead.

Goddess bless, heal, and sustain us each and every one,

P.S. I am almost done with the next chapter of Love In the First Degree. By Monday?

5 thoughts on “Happy #WorldMentalHealthDay

  1. Hi Tara,

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Or something like that.

    I’m reaching out here for the same reason as Arthur. To make sure you know that you are loved and that your art is necessary and important. I found you a few years ago on Lit through the Aegirs (now Njörður’s) series. Erotic lit had become a sort of therapy for me at the time. I was in the process of coming off of a long relationship with pain meds. Meds I took for chronic pain. But if I was being honest with myself, meds I also took to numb the depression that began in my early twenties when I was in law school and has continued to cripple me since (I’m 40 now). Anyhow, your stories gave me the short dopamine and serotonin boosts I needed to get through that first month without my pharmaceutical friends. But then the stories became more. I come back to them often. They are comforting to me in a way I don’t fully understand. I just love those damn Vikings and their lovely wife and family.

    Parenting with depression is such a complex, painful, lonely, almost impossible life. So I appreciated your mental-health-day post more than you know. Sometimes, learning that someone you admire is battling similar issues makes it easier to face your own. These demons we battle are a blessing and a curse. Mostly a curse, who am I kidding? But it’s the hand I’ve been dealt and most days it’s all I can do putting one foot in front of the other, slogging through my work day and then loving on these two kiddos, trying to make sure I’m raising decent humans to send out into the world.

    I’d be lying to say that there are more days than I’m comfortable with when I want to just give up. My brain is a freakin’ jerk and, as hard as I try, it won’t cooperate with me. So for now, one foot in front of the other. And thank you for your stories give me the lift I need on my darkest days.

    All my love to you and your gorgeous family.

    Just another sad mama in Texas,

    1. “I’d be lying to say that there *aren’t* more days . . . . ” Geez. So many typos. (I’m a writer, too. Albeit, of a much more boring variety (I’m a civil appellate lawyer). But still. Apparently, I obsessively read and edit even random comments on blog posts. LOL.)

    2. Megan, Thank you for sharing that. You are what keeps me going. Knowing that my humble words in some small way touch even one person’s life makes such a difference.

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