The One Where I Am Feeling Things

I was in my sweatpants by 6:00 tonight. It was one of those rare days where the cancellations synced up with a clean apartment synced up with a while before the next writing deadline. A quiet evening — soup, Christmas lights, kitten snuggles and binge-watching Netflix.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I told the doctor who has known me since birth. He had made the same booger joke he’s been making since I can remember just a few minutes ago, when he looked up my nose with the light. “I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I’m throwing up every morning, having minor panic attacks every couple hours. Everything hurts.”

Something about making soup inexplicably calms me, draws me to that place I so often try to avoid. As I chop carrots, dump in beans, shred leftover turkey from Saturday’s dinner party, my mind quiets down… and when my mind quiets down, my heart pipes up.

“Anxiety and depression,” the doctor said. How had we jumped from booger jokes to this?

He kept talking as he began to scribble on a prescription pad. “Your dad thinks this is bullshit [the doctor has always enjoyed cursing around me], but I’m the one with a medical degree and I’m putting you on medication.”

He stops writing abruptly, crumples the page. “I forgot your insurance is useless. I’ll get you samples.”

I pour in the broth, watching all the ingredients from the bottom of the pot begin to float. Then it hits me. A year ago, almost to the day. That’s how long it’s been since I stepped down from my internship at Crossroads. How long it’s been since I admitted that the dream I had held for years wasn’t God’s plan for me. Since I was able to sleep for the first time in months. I turn off the TV, and the only sound in the apartment is my knife, chopping a few more carrots.

The doctor is still talking, even as I watch the paper crumple to the ground. I’m perched on the exam table, silent, the familiar feeling crushing my chest again.

“Counseling,” he says. “Is a must. You have to take care of yourself. Are you exercising? Keeping to a routine?”

He doesn’t let me answer. “Start exercising. Keep to a routine. Go to counseling. Take this medicine. You’ll be okay.”

I haven’t talked about those days much. Not here, not with friends, not anywhere really except to the $25 an hour “counselor” out of a church in Angola I went to three times who tried to “break the word curses” placed over me by “speaking prophecies of truth over me.”  They say time heals all wounds, and it was true with this one – unless the prophecies actually worked. There are no hard feelings, no grudges or ill-will. God has graciously mended broken relationships.

The feeling came back, last winter, after the samples ran out and my medicine got changed to something affordable.  The chest squeezing, sleeping too much or not at all, eating too much or not at all, panicking for no reason feeling. My childhood doctor had a stroke a few months ago.  He’s back in the practice, a few days a week, but his office is two hours away.

So I went to a new doctor. She looked up a list online of the symptoms of depression and read them to me in a monotone, asking me to rate myself. At the end, she did some blood work and prescribed me something different. She handed me a few business cards for counselors and a bill for the 15 minute appointment. $250.

The carrots are chopped, so I swirl in some heavy cream, sprinkle in some basil.  I unwrap a loaf of crusty bread, cutting off a piece to put in the oven. Last week I rescheduled a day of appointments because the seasons are changing and the anxiety and depression are coming back, stronger.  I laid in bed until 2 pm, staring at the ceiling in absolute silence. Elijah came over after his classes and held me, silently, understanding without speaking.

It’s been a year. I took a little orange pill this morning, now blessedly covered by insurance from my new job, and on Thursday I’ll spend an hour in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I bought a sun lamp and I sit by it for a while every day.  Jocie comes to the gym with me and I make myself push through it – whatever it happens to be that day.

My counselor tells me I need to slow down and stop talking so I can start feeling things. She says that I explain my pain away and talk through my sadness. She’s probably right. After all, last week at our session, we sat in silence for 15 minutes. It was uncomfortable and awkward and I cried for two hours that night.

I sit at my table, still decorated from the dinner party Jocie and I threw on Saturday night.  As I dip a warm crust of buttered bread into my soup, my apartment is silent. I am slowing down. I am not talking.

I am feeling things.

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The One Where I Learned from Watching Her

I push the box of cereal further back on the conveyor belt. After all, there’s already 3 or 4 produce-related items there, and I have to keep them all together so it’s easier to put the groceries away when I get home.

I fold the sleeves of my shirts in first, then fold them up into thirds.

When the baby I’m holding starts whimpering, I whisper, “what’s your matter?” as I bounce them gently on my hip.

My hand mixer and my grill utensils are in the same drawer.

When the pastor makes a particularly eloquent point in church I find myself saying “hmm” under my breath.

I gasp sharply as I swerve to miss a raccoon in the road.  My boyfriend jumps, annoyed and startled.

The slightest relational conflict cuts me deep, and I’m loyal to a fault – I won’t let go of friendships that should be over, constantly reaching out again and again.

I find joy in the outdoors, in walking barefoot through the cold, damp dirt of a garden or letting a calf suck on my fingers. Fall is my favorite season; I love to crunch the leaves.

Travel runs in my veins, and I would accept a ticket to anywhere as long as I could explore like a local instead of being a tourist.

I sing “give me that foot” when I put kids’ shoes on. When I read “Love You Forever,” I know how the song is supposed to sound.

For every day of my 22 years, my mother has been teaching me. Though I have not always recognized it as such, I’ve constantly been learning.  How to boil an egg, scrub a toilet, fold clothes (though I do that far less frequently than she, and much more slowly), respond to service workers, and treat the elderly.  As I attempt to be an “adult,” I see more of my mother in myself every day.  I hear her in my phone voice, I see her in the way I hold babies and talk to kittens.  She hovers in the memories of childhood, the little routines and traditions I hope to one day pass on to my children.

I remember asking her, once, why she did something the way she did.

“That’s how Nana always did it,” she replied. “I learned from watching her.”

At the time, I didn’t fully grasp the depth of the comment, but I think I’m starting to now.  See, we never sat down and had “How To Be An Adult” lessons. My mother never handed me handbooks about tucking the sheets into hospital-style corners or gave me worksheets about appreciating the world around me and loving those different than me.  Instead, she showed me in quiet ways, by living out her life in a manner worthy of exemplifying. When I see her traits in myself, I am proud to say that “I am my mother’s daughter.” She taught me every day, and she’s still teaching me today. Through lengthy daily phone calls, visits home and ceaseless prayers, she continues to teach me.

I was asked the other day why I did something the way I did.

“That’s how my mom always did it,” I replied.  “I learned from watching her.”