My ex and I had, and still have, equal shared custody of our sons. During my depression, on the alternate weeks I had the boys, I worked especially hard to hold it together. Literally and figuratively. It was nice having their energy and their presence in the house, a respite from the isolation, and it gave me a little sense of purpose.
But they knew. I mean, hell, my eyes were always red, I was constantly blowing my nose. Doing laundry, planning and executing meals, simply trying to mute my depression was excruciatingly difficult. I eventually bailed on every meal but dinner, leaving them to take care of their own breakfast and lunch. And more and more, we ordered or went out for dinner. I could handle take out, but shopping and cooking were just too much.
I’d had a few calls and short conversations with my ex-wife, saying that I was having a really tough time, mostly because of isolation. But I now told her that I may need for her to take the boys on one of my weeks, or indefinitely, because I was now having trouble functioning. Getting out of bed, bathing, feeding myself.
Early on, I put all my regular bills and utilities on auto draft because I sensed that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. I had at least thought to prepare myself in that way. I wasn’t worried about stocking the pantry, because I was barely eating, but I needed water, electricity, gas, and trash pick-up, if I remembered to take it down, which I rarely did.
I stocked up with Kleenex. I could collapse in any room in the house and have a box within reach. I couldn’t feed myself, but I could wipe the snot from my face. Such were my priorities.
My less-than-congenial psychiatrist recommended that I take part in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) where I could do in-person therapy in a group setting. It sounded promising. I’d be around people; we might even get to take our masks off if we socially distanced! But first I had to go in for an evaluation.
That Thursday morning, I got dressed and wrapped round my shoulders a six-foot-long, two-foot-wide knitted prayer shawl and drove to the facility, a mental health and addiction hospital. The shawl, a remnant of my life in Southern California…