When Passion Pushes Us Over the Hurdle of Fear

In our session I told my therapist that I’d been having random good days since my dosage of Lamictal was increased.

How do you feel on those good days? She asked.

How do I feel? It wasn’t so much a feeling as much as my ability to function.

Some mornings the alarm clock goes off and I get out of bed, start my day and do the things I’m supposed to do. The earth continues to revolve around the sun, the minutes turn into hours and as time keeps ticking away so does my life and I see nothing and feel nothing.

Then the day is gone and it’s time to sleep again. I’m like a zombie who fulfills the expectations of the life I’ve created and the day to day grind no longer has meaning. I’m just sort of there.

But you’ve noticed a difference since starting the Lamictal, right? She was now pushing the subject. Medications are intended to give you room to breathe so you can function. What are your expectations?

Maybe I’m losing sight of the big picture, I told her. My expectation is to feel normal, to be normal and to want to get out of bed in the morning like a normal person does. My expectation is a cure all.

Normal looks different for everyone. What does it look like for you?

What does normal look like for me? As I tried to think I sat there blank minded and quiet. I hadn’t put much thought into what normal means to me. I had been too fixated on the word normal.

I thought of moments in my life when I felt I walked away a better person. Experiences that I knew had to happen, good or bad so I could learn and grow. The times when I faced challenges and prevailed.

My son had been in a terrible skateboard accident, I said.

He was at the skate park and fell skating in a giant concrete bowl. His wheel locked and gravity took over. The Emergency Room at the Trauma Center called me and I rushed there panicked, scared from not knowing what to expect.

It had only been 45 minutes since he left the house. He always falls off his skateboard. It comes with the territory of improving skill and perfecting tricks. As a mother I don’t like it but I accept it because it’s his passion.

There he was laying flat on a hospital bed. I looked at him and my stomach churned. He wore bruises on his face and torso. His collarbone rigid, piercing through his skin.

X-rays concluded his right elbow was fractured and the joint was separated. A gross and painful injury but not the worst he was suffering from. He also broke off the left side of his clavicle and the broken piece shattered.

I stood staring deep into the film. The shattered pieces of his clavicle were clouded marks floating above his shoulder bone. My vomit reflex kicked in.

It would be a week until the surgery to reconstruct his clavicle. It was unbearable for both of us. His suffering and me feeling inadequate as a mother for not being able to take away his pain and for failing to protect him.

He would call my phone from his bedroom at night when he couldn’t get comfortable in his bed. I would get up and fluff his pillows. Thank you, mama, he would say. This provided us both with temporary relief.

I helped him undress for a shower and when I took off his sling his arm would hang with no mobility. The pain in his eyes cut through me.

I wanted to run over his skateboard with my truck. I wanted his skateboard to suffer as much as he was suffering.

In the recovery room after surgery he was told no physical activity for six months. I can ride my skateboard though, right? He asked. Perhaps it was the drugs talking.

No. The doctor’s reply was curt.

The day after surgery his girlfriend of nine months broke up with him, as if he weren’t already in enough pain. He cried on my shoulder that night. My heart broke even more for him.

He had regular visits to the surgeon for two months. He kept asking if he could ride his skateboard. It was the same answer each time. No.

This didn’t stop him from asking and during his three month visit the doctor told him he was okay to start lifting two pounds. Making progress, he said. You’re ready to pour your own glass of juice.

The months proved to wear on him. All he wanted to do was get back on his skateboard and the more he had to wait the more eager and passionate he became.

What if I just ride it and not do any tricks? He would ask me.

No.

Can I just sit on it?

No.

What if I just stand on it in the basement?

No. No. No, I snapped. I have an idea. Since you can’t ride it, why don’t you take it everywhere you go so you’ll always be together?

A few hours later I went up to his bedroom and there he was lying in bed spooning his skateboard.

The day finally came when the surgeon said he was clear to ride again. I wanted to lunge at him. Why would he tell my baby that? Shouldn’t we keep him in a bubble?

A better question would be, why does he even want to get back on his skateboard after the horrid pain it put him through and after all the damage it caused him?

As soon as we got home from the hospital he immediately ran in the house and got his skateboard. I stood there at the end of the driveway watching him skate up and down the street. I was torn.

A part of me was so proud of him for getting right back at it again. The other part of me wanted to drink Xanax straight out of the bottle.

After a few minutes of reuniting with the feel of his skateboard beneath his feet he went sailing down the hill on our bumpy, concrete street. He jumped off right before the stop sign as not to roll into traffic.

At one point he hit the ground and drudged a huge gash on his elbow and scraped up his knees tearing a hole in his jeans. He picked the skateboard up and did it again.

He tried hiding his wounds from me.

I was impressed by his courage and strength. Where did he learn this from?

The blood from the cut on his elbow was starting to stick to his shirt but he didn’t care. He kept on going.

As I watched him skate I thought about all the memories I have of him growing up and the challenges I had to overcome as a single mother raising him and his sister on my own. It was tiring to work full time, go to school full time and to raise them full time.

I would get knocked down. I’d feel defeated as the depression worsened. It was a cycle. For a few months I’d be good, and then a big period of bad would come but I always stayed on my feet and kept going regardless of how I felt. I didn’t even think about it.

No different than my son feels about his skateboard, I love him with a passion that drives me.

Maybe that’s where he learned it from? Maybe I just needed to step outside of myself to view myself differently or maybe I needed him to show me.

Maybe, the therapist said to me.

You said it yourself, normal looks different for everyone. This is normal for me. I need to stop looking at depression as if it’s a bad thing and instead see it for what it truly is, the strength to fall down and get right back up.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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