“I don’t talk about this – but I should,” my dad started as a change of subject. I wasn’t sure why he called – his voice had an urgency like he needed to tell me something, but twenty minutes into the call, he had not spoken of anything important.
“I’ve been going through a bout of darkness,” he continued, but then paused as if rethinking his words, “fuck, let’s call it what it is – depression. I still go through it at times – just not as bad as it was after my heart attack.”
After my dad’s heart attack, the medication and his fear of a second, life-ending heart attack had put him into deep depression wrapped tightly in anxiety. The medication, I had read, was to keep his blood pressure low so his heart could heal which was good except the side effect could often be depression as it mucked with the rest of his body chemistry. But the biggest issue was his own mental processing of what had happened. He almost died. My mom was there and saved his life which is not hyperbole.
What followed when he was stuck at home following strict medical orders was not good. He spent so much time in his head – asking questions that no one could ever know the answer to. Why him? Why not the guy who is 200+ lbs overweight and eats big macs at every meal? Why did he live? What is he supposed to be doing? If it happened once, it means it will happen again – but when? How can he leave the house – what if something happens and he’s far from a hospital – who will save him this time? Then he’d examine all parts of his life – we would get random apologies for little things that happened in childhood – things he felt horrible for doing or saying – things we rarely remembered happening. He felt the need to make peace for everything because he couldn’t die next time knowing he had not.
Things got so bad that when it was time to go back to work – medically time – he couldn’t. He would have massive panic attacks that he would translate into another heart attack – and end up in the ER. Finally between all of us and his doctor, he was sent to see a psychiatrist who got him on the right medications and gave him a place to talk about these things aloud instead of sitting in the dark thinking about them. Then he started going back to church – feeling the need to reconnect spiritually with the church he was raised. Honestly, it helped him a lot – and got him back to normal or at least to a point where he could live again.
I knew he had bouts of depression every 18-24 months which usually accompanied a health issue, but it had truly been many years since the last one. Hearing he had another one caught me by surprise.
“I found myself last week wondering what it was I was doing with my life. My routine is stupid – it’s coffee, it’s the news, it’s laundry, it’s going to the store, it’s mowing the lawn. So I’m sitting here drinking my coffee asking myself ‘is this it?’ Then I started going into that dark place where I feel like I should be doing more with my life – that I’m not dead yet but I will be if I don’t do more. I watch the news, and it doesn’t give me hope more is possible because of this area. But then your mother hates her job and hates working and is fed up with it all – and I feel like a failure. I should be taking care of her more. I should be working so she doesn’t have to stress. But what can I do?”
I could hear him sip some coffee – I get my addiction to the stuff naturally.
“And I know – I know how dangerous that thinking is. It spirals me down into a pit where I stop talking – I start examining things I cannot change or are pointless to examine – I cannot get out of my head. I get angry. I get upset. I lock myself in the computer room and just sit there wandering aimlessly like the Internet will tell me the answer.”
“And your mother – bless her – she tries to pull me out of it but doesn’t understand the hole I’m in – that it doesn’t work saying the things she is saying. So she gets frustrated – and I get frustrated. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us. But I finally feel like I’m starting to come out of it. Finally. I wonder if my meds are screwed up or if something is screwed up. I wish I was in a place where I could find someone I trusted to talk to about this stuff – but given all the shit your mother has been through, I have learned not to trust anyone in this fucking place.”
He sipped some more coffee, then added “I hope this doesn’t freak you out – I know I don’t usually talk about stuff like this.”
I assured him that it didn’t. I told him I wished he was somewhere he could get support too. We talked about all of the factors that are likely contributing to his mood. He had just had minor surgery which has restricted what he can and cannot do. Before the surgery, he had to stop taking certain drugs that would cause negative things during surgery which is likely also contributing. We talked about the fucked up weather. Sunny and warm for weeks only to get to cloudy and rainy and cold. Don’t know how sun affects mood? Visit a place where you don’t see sun for months – it can fuck with you. We talked about how much he misses people interactions – the friendships he used to have but has lost for many reasons – how that doesn’t help when he’s feeling down. In fact, he adds to the mess of thoughts knowing he has no one.
“I just wish your mother would get it.”
Mom has her own issues. She can’t see them which isn’t likely helping my dad’s mental health. I’m glad he’s usually fine, but after spending a few days with them, I could see how it would start taking its toll on him.
“Anyway – this isn’t why I called,” he continued.
I started laughing because it sure sounded like it was why he called. “Your mother has a doctor’s appointment by you next week, so we’re going to bring you the photos you forgot to take home with you. You going to be around?”
Honestly, I think the photos were the excuse for the call. It was easy to see his real reason.
I guess I’m just happy he called and told me – whatever the excuse.