Beth was my best friend throughout high school and college. I’ve mentioned her before, and no doubt I will mention her again due to our many misadventures together during our formative years.
Beth & I often took spontaneous road trips. We loved adventure and the freedom of the open road, as many college kids do. One early summer weekday we decided to head to the beach. We both had the day off and enough cash to buy gas and snacks. We packed a few supplies, got in her big red truck with the “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker and headed southeast to the coast. Upon arrival, we grabbed our spot on the shore, stripped down to our bathing suits, and got in the water.
The public schools hadn’t yet let out for the summer, it was fairly early in the day, and there were no lifeguards on duty. The beach was relatively empty and we had our little section of the ocean to ourselves. We paid little attention to the world around us as we splashed around in the ocean, and soon we found ourselves farther out from shore than we had intended. So far, in fact, that we were past the end of the nearby pier. We failed to pay attention to the waves, failed to pay attention to the current.
We’d gotten caught in a riptide, and we were in trouble. A lot of trouble.
Thankfully, enough survival instincts and training kicked in for us to swim back to shore. The journey was rough, exhausting, and there were times I didn’t think I would make it. I’m not a strong swimmer in a pool, and swimming in an ocean is – as you know – even harder. When we finally reached the shore, we dragged ourselves out of the water, splayed ourselves on the sand, and attempted to catch our breath while coughing the water out of our lungs. When we finally regained our bearings – and enough strength to stand – we walked the couple hundred yards back to our pile of clothes. We had the whole “That was Really Scary” & “I’m Never Swimming Again” conversation and then hopped in the truck to travel further down Highway 17 towards the next adventure.
That particular misadventure was tucked away in my brain for sixteen or so years, all but forgotten…until Beth died.
Beth’s death was the catalyst to this long and tiresome grieving period that I’m in. I’ve been here a little over three years. The grief I feel these days isn’t for Beth’s death, but for more current events in my life….but regardless of why I’m grieving, a three+ year grieving period is really freaking long, you guys. Really.Freakin’.Long.
With that grief has come some bouts of depression. It’s not the pseudo ‘Starbucks is out of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes’ or ‘my favorite show got cancelled’ kind of “depression” (btw, that’s an inconvenience, you guys. Maybe a sadness. Use your words.) It’s the kind of depression that requires help from Therapist…though I have just now (after six months with him) said anything close to “um, this is depression, yo,” because a) I’m REALLY good at faking the happy, b) trust issues & c) It took me awhile to realize I was in full blown depression mode.
Here’s why I didn’t realize it was happening again: Depression comes like a riptide. Hey! That’s why I told you the Beth story! See? There was a point to that. I can be swimming along, minding my own business, thinking all is well and enjoying the sun, barely noticing the sneaky pull…until it’s too late and my feet are no longer anywhere near the ground, and I’m surrounded…by agony. Waves of wretched thoughts bash over and through me while I gasp for air and scan my surroundings, desperately seeking the safety of the shore. It’s exhausting, frightening, and there are times when it seems like sinking to the bottom would be easier than treading water or swimming.
Beth and I reached the shore that summer day because we had each other for support. I gasped “keep swimming! You can do it!” when she got tired and she yelled “The shore…it’s right there…just a few more yards” when my vision was impaired by the salt water. I no longer have Beth to direct me to shore, but I do have others to be my eyes when I can’t see. I know I’m not alone. I grab a lifeline when I need it, and I keep swimming until I make it back to safety – regardless of how tired I am. Thanks to hope, faith, and sheer defiance, I will always make it back to shore.
I’m good right now, by the way. I’m on the shore, watching the waves and brushing the sand away from my tired soul. It took awhile to get back this time, and I’m exhausted, but I’m good. Suck it, depression.
If you’re suffering from depression: Remember, depression lies. It will try to drag you down. Don’t let the lies pull you under. Look towards the shore, start swimming, and scream for a lifeline. You’re not alone out there. The number is right here, lookit: 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.) Call it. The safety of the shore is closer than you think, even if you can’t see it right now. Don’t sink. Swim. You can do it. You can. I believe in you.
I’ll wait for you here on the shore.