The sun was shining so bright it hurt my eyes. Blue enveloped my prisms as I laid in the grass that tickled my cheeks as my hands reached down and pulled out the long blades as fast as I could grab. A wind blew through the large oak tree fast and strong, the sound bringing me out of my trance. My face slowly turned to the left to make sure that it wasn’t a ghost haunting me like they did in the night. Heart racing, blood pumping I brought my hand to my heart to try to push it back into a place where it belonged. My lungs filled, let go, filled, let go, filled…and then that is where it began. I could no longer breathe…
I am going to die. I’m nine years old and I’m going to leave this place, leave the oak tree. I saw my grandma, my grandpa, my mom. Oh, my mom. I missed her so. Her soft song in my ear, her sweet scent on my skin as I tried to fall asleep but never could. My dad’s strong arm around me crying in the night wasn’t enough to save me as my lungs filled with not air, but the absence of it.
…I raced up, ran to the oak tree in front of my grandma’s small cottage style house and begged it to take me far up unto its branches where I’d be high enough to catch my air. I fell to the ground as the tree abandoned me of such wishes.
The warm air came, took me away to a castle in the sky made out of beautiful white clouds that somehow saved me that day. From the demons inside my mind.
My first anxiety attack, I would learn later in life, followed me throughout…
Sixteen years old met me with worry and fear deeper than the sea and faster than a hurricane. I’d pace in my room until I could somehow wage peace with the fear that told me to take it all away. I remember walking past a Bible in my living room and thinking, “what if God ended it for me, then I wouldn’t have to.” I ran to my room in fear that the thought would hunt me down again, unable to escape the thoughts that raged inside me, I picked up a pen and wrote. Faster than words could flow from mind to pen, I scribbled them down.
Take me away
Find me death.
Find me life.
No more pain…
Seek me out greater strength. Please.
I don’t want to fight
I can’t fight Anymore….Ami Beth George 1988
Journals followed me through my life, giving me a window into my fight with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts through my days as I felt way too deeply. I read back in my life, penmanship sometimes smeared with tears deep into the night of the anguish I was in. Sonnets of pain filtered the paper and dug deep into the sacrificed tree meeting ink that screamed for help. At times I found that solace, I acted out trying to find a peace that comes in the ways of the world. Love that isn’t love, and hope that is fleeting in ways of horrible choices that made me hate myself even more.
Thirty years old came and it was apparent I needed help. At five foot seven, I weighed 100 pounds, my face sunken, my body barely covering my bones. It got so dark that I knew I needed light~if not for me, for my two sons. Beautiful lives that needed me more than I felt like I needed myself. I saw someone. She helped. I took the pill they told me to take, even though I absolutely knew that made me the weakest of weak, the lowest of shallow, the most pathetic person alive. I sunk the pink and white pills into my body, secretly not caring anymore if I was as low as the world tells us we are when we have to take such pills. I simply wanted to feel better.
And I did, four painful weeks later, I did. Miraculously, I did feel better. I came to life and found the sun shining on my face again, felt the blades of grass under my feet and smelled the flowers in my garden, and then it happened, I smiled.
Carole. Her name was Carole and she helped me, she dug deep into my past…divorce, abandonment, abuse, eating disorders and a need to be accepted at any cost, she opened up all my wounds. Carole, I’ll never forget her because about that time I took to the ice for the first time. The cold frozen water beneath my blade sounded like heaven the first time I lifted myself off the sheet of cold and leaped into the sky and landed on a quarter inch piece of steel. She encouraged me to seek the cool air and blue ice and keep skating until I could create poetry on ice, a story of my life, of fighting, of running, of seeking and of finding peace.
Finally, I found myself under the spotlight for the first time, I was terrified yet electrified. In front of a thousand people, I told them the story of my life as I lifted my hands far above my body, pushed my legs faster and harder and leaped, soared and met myself landing on one foot. In a bounty of grace, God had me, He kept me and called me His own, giving me the gift of dance. On ice.
Depression and anxiety have been a part of my existence since I can recall. Through writing, skating and speaking to others about my pain, I have found peace and even a bit of joy. I have come full circle with my struggle, accepting it, even embracing it a little. But then it all came crumbling down…
On a Thursday. In February. During the cold dark winter. It all came to a threshold of pain that no mother ever wants to feel. I received a knock on my bedroom door. Panicked he called for me. Pacing, grabbing his hair, ripping off his shirt in a bounty to get away from the darkness that was coming for him, the black that already had him, the wet dew of tears that had fallen down his face and that had stained his heart.
Oh, God. No. Not him.
Not my baby boy. No!!!
I stumbled from my sleep and met him in the comfort of my writing room. Falling into my arms, his eighteen old body wept. And then it happened. The words uttered, they fell into the earth with such thunder that I quaked. Bile rose up inside my lungs like it did so many years as a little girl, as he uttered the words that would forever change my life. “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
The spinning wouldn’t stop as I paced with him, pulling at my own hair, falling apart at that moment, I knew I had to pull it together. He needed me.
Back and forth I rocked him like I did when he was small enough to fit into one of my arms. Shhhhh….No. Go back to being innocent, my darling. Let’s go back, to where you and I exist, where the world doesn’t beat you down. To where only you and I reside, when you were safe inside me. Disappear pain. I begged to God, float away from his sorrow, lift your clenches on him~take me instead, but it already had. This was his.
He collapsed in my arms like he did when he was a baby.
But this time he wasn’t an infant, he was a young man, feeling it all. Each and every note of the song that is so sad he couldn’t drag himself from the depth of the sea. “Mom, I’m so scared. I’m so dark.” His voice mixed with excruciating anguish. He struggled to breathe. I made him, forced him to look me in the eyes and fight. Battle like he never had before. I’ll wage this war for you. But, deep inside, I know I can’t, all I can do is let him fall into me. All I can do is jump off the deep end and pray I don’t hit the bottom so I can be enough to bring him back to the surface.
The song sang, the band played and I heard a symphony in my ears as I listened to his pain. Words after painful poetry in the form of life, he told me how life had done him wrong. Going back in my life~staying right where I still am~I heard him like he was speaking my truth. That our brains struggle to find balance. The sky was falling and we only hope we can catch it before it closed in on us. My hand in his, he slowly found himself back with me not caught in the whirlwind of darkness that swirled between us.
“It’s not your fault mom.”
He said that.
But yes, it is. I gave him this. It played over and over again in my brain the days that followed that night. Thursday. Thursday night. Forever embedded in my mind forever, the night my child came to me and said to me that he didn’t want to be here anymore, that the pain was too great, the black was too dark when it became my child’s pain too.
A ringing in my ears screamed at a pitch so high I could hardly move. Life told me, this is a generational curse. ‘This is your fault. You gave him this.’
Sunday. The smokey bright lights sang loud as the singers at my church took to the stage. The song played on and I begged God for saving grace, I came forward trying to climb my way out of the darkness for my child. My body shook, my heart caved and then I found arms wrapped around me, telling me that it isn’t my fault. She prayed, hugged me tight and pleaded with me on my son’s behalf. “It’s not your fault.” She sang. I pleaded for it to be true. It’s not my fault.
Mental illness is like no other. You don’t feel weak in the mind if you have a diagnosis in the body. You accept it and take the medicine they give you to allow your flesh to heal. But the pain in the mind isn’t treated like it is in the body, it’s a weakness viewed by the world as incomprehensible.
Sunday. Sweet Sunday, the pastor took to the stage and his message was on, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. God is real, He is there and His timing is magnificent. Embraced in my husband’s grasp we listened to each and every word like it was the last we had to hear. I wept. I listened. I prayed. I cried deeply out to God to heal my son, to give me strength on my own voyage at sea where I have such thoughts from time to time.
My story is simple, yet complex as I’ve ridden out the falling force of my own mind and now I do so with my own flesh and blood. I’m off the deep in as I pray to reach the ground, afraid I won’t find the shore, but I have. Time and time again I find it~a large oak tree that whispers in the wind that I am ok and now that my flesh and blood will be too. Because we meet the ground, where God has us even when we feel our minds leaving our body, we find our way back again. To the surface where we can breathe again, where we can exhale the pain and find our way past the depression and weight on our hearts.
It’s not a generational curse, it’s not my fault. It’s called life, bad times fearing ourselves, that we aren’t enough. God is our enough, our complete in pain, our call for change when our brains can’t back away from the deep end.
I take his hand and we go down the path of healing; together. Knowing one another has been there, far from sanity, yet closer than we’ll ever know. I dive in knowing I can help him, testify my truth and how I found my way to the light in the face of bleakness. His smile will reach his eyes again just as mine did. We are in this together, darkness meets light, depression finds laughter, anxiety blending with calm~feelings of not wanting to be here, making us want to fight that much harder to be here.
Longing for change, we take this journey together. It’s not a generational curse, it’s a family blessing that he knew he could come to me, knowing he’d fall into my arms and I’d know how he felt. That I could, with God’s love, bring him back from the deep water, that we can crash back to the surface together.
I hold him, love him and tell him that it will be okay because as I didn’t give this curse to him, I know that he can overcome it. For, words spoken over my life are, Overcoming Odds, Fulfilling Destinies. And that destiny today is my own boy who needs to know he is heard like a young girl who ran to an oak tree for comfort can calm the wage at sea inside because my generational love and knowledge of this pain can be love only I can give him. Not a curse, a blessing to bring him out of the disparage of darkness. The light will come, we will embrace it together and I thank God for the past I have so now I can be there for my future facing the same struggle I did. My generational love will be the light I cling to as we wage the war against the shadows of darkness, together.