Once in a while, I boast and gloat. I tell whoever it is that I’m over my depression, that I am now healed thanks to a regimen of prayer and positive thinking. In reality, it’s not so much that I’m being conceited. I’m just so damn grateful I am finally embracing myself and the blessing of life. Like the soldier says, there’s that awful side of my mind, the one that is mean-spirited, self-hating, destructive, violently angry. I would like to think that side is dead but it won’t ever be. Whenever I feel threatened or hurt, it will resurface. Last weekend, it re-emerged.
Last Saturday began brightly, my beloved blue sky outside my window. I was giddy over a recent meeting with someone new. Within hours, I had begun to twist and turn with self-doubt, mistrust, paranoia, and panic. By the time I got to my parents’ house for dinner, I was shaking and trying my best not to hyperventilate. I wanted to take a swig of agua de azahar, Mami’s cureall for un ataque de nervios, but what would Daddy say? With my heart pounding and stomach cramping, I made it through a dinner of Mami’s spaghetti, one of my favorite meals, and a few hours of iTunes downloading and Net surfing(not good for a fragile mind.) Then it was home to feed the dogs who sensed the danger and whined when they saw me. Inside my lonely house I began to cry. I cried for someone to pick up their phone, for myself in all my damaged brokenness. I wondered about the sharpness of my kitchen knives and the amount of Tylenol and Benadryl in the medicine cabinet. These thoughts sent me further into a panic as I curled up on my bed and prayed aloud. I begged Jesus for healing. Then my mentor called.
Ann has been my spiritual mentor for years. I’m not the most loyal student. Sometimes, because I do feel guilty about my exploits, I don’t speak to her for months. But when I finally do, it’s as if no time has passed. Nothing I can do would earn her judgment. Her love is that of a mother or a saint. It is unconditional and soothing. So we were on the phone for nearly three hours.
My brother called during that time. We spoke for a few minutes but it made such a difference. Hearing his concern reminded me of the times I did crazy things in front of him, when I was a teenager on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My brother, ever patient and loyal.
I slept like the dead that night. The following morning I was still sad but I had to lector at Mass. The readings, as God always manages to do for me, were appropriately about the call to prophecy: Isaiah eating the scroll and announcing his intent to do God’s mission, Paul pointing out his unworthiness and gratitude at God’s call. I wonder if anyone noticed the flush of my face or the little tremor in my voice before I left the microphone. In my catechism class, we talked about prophets in cartoons and movies, how we are asked to go outside of ourselves and speak up for others. My nerves still frayed, I cried a little more as I got ready to leave for a conference in Long Beach.
Long Beach was the right place at the right time. A soft king-size bed. Blue sky. Temperatures in the high 70s. The familiar sprawl of LA. Busy days. Good meals. Laughter with old and new friends. Nighttime conversations with my closest friends.
The best moment came early Monday morning. I rose before dawn, intent on a workout at the pool. I hadn’t realized the pool was outdoors, on the second floor facing the high-rises. Despite the coolness, the water was warm. I swam beneath a gibbous moon, below planets and stars. In the water, I felt alive again, whole, clean. Slowly the sky began to turn pink. I got to see the dawn arrive.
I’m better now. I have been embraced by friends. I have faced the fact that my fear will only hurt me, that it is better for me to venture into the unknown, to open my heart to strangers, to live.