I love Fridays under normal circumstances – especially between 4:30 and 5 in the afternoon, when I can pack up and leave the office. But last Friday (January 20) proved particularly more welcome than most of those normal Fridays. I had a brutally difficult week and really needed it to end. And yet …
I am grateful that week.
I know, such an attitude makes little sense on the surface, especially since this challenging week seemed to fit rather snugly into my brutally difficult stretch of life that dates back quite a few months. Complicated by various stresses and potholes, my depression generally has held me captive in a world constantly clouded by sadness and frequent despair since as far back as late 2015.
The last six months or so have felt particularly burdensome. As an illustration, consider that I posted 90 pieces of my writing to this website during the first half of 2016 – 17 in June alone – many of which other websites around the country published first. In the seven months since then, I have written a total of 14 pieces.
I used to wonder if this whole subject mirrored the chicken-or-the-egg quandary. Which comes first: I feel better mentally, so I write a lot? Or I write a lot, therefore I feel better mentally? After months of having plenty of writing ideas only to begin a piece and find my mind blocked from squeezing out more than a few paragraphs, I know that my writing requires at least some semblance of decent mental health.
The whole thing hasn’t made for pleasant feelings. I love to write; I miss it. Worse than that, I have let people down. The folks who operate the other websites for which I contribute surely have grown tired of waiting for me. I lost a monthly paying opportunity with a magazine and in the process really let down someone I considered a good friend. Other writing offers have come and gone.
And every once in a while, people who have been regular readers in the past have dropped me email saying they miss my work. Work? No, writing isn’t usually work for me. Again, I really miss it.
Yearning for an absent something can hurt. The pain really ganged up on me this week.
My journey began last weekend, when I began to write a piece for the St. Louis Review. I had a Tuesday morning deadline that I absolutely had to honor; I started the process several days early knowing it wouldn’t flow smoothly, and the fact that my heart chose my sinful nature as a subject might not have helped much. Thank goodness I didn’t have to work at the office Monday, Martin Luther King Day; I hope the late civil rights leader and preacher would have been proud with the Review column I finished that day.
Tuesday morning proved standard depression operating procedure for me. I couldn’t get out of bed. Well, not without a great effort, that is. I finally found the strength from God and rolled out of the sack an hour and a half after my alarm clock first buzzed. A bigger roadblock lay ahead, as my usual half-hour commute to work took two hours and could have been worse. Police shut down the interstate less than two miles from my office building because of an accident. I sat in my car on the highway a long time before transportation officials directed me toward a detour.
Getting to work late made for a load of guilt; I have had trouble staying on top of things lately, thanks in part to high volume, in part to my health and in part because I simply haven’t worked as efficiently as I should. So Tuesday provided some more stress.
Maybe that stress messed with my sleep a little that night. At least at the beginning. I had a lot on my mind the first three hours I lay wide awake in bed. Along about 2 a.m., something else became my big issue. Severe stomachache, pounding headache, nausea, alternating hot and cold — welcome, flu bug. I spent all of Wednesday in bed and, once I finally managed to fall asleep, slept about 21 of the next 24 hours.
I was still weak when I got up for work Thursday morning. Every time I stood up, I felt lightheaded. I didn’t have an appetite. That turned out to be the least of my concerns that day. Somehow, I had messed up my lower back during the previous 24 hours. As the day progressed, the pain increased to the point that I couldn’t get out of my chair without feeling dizzy and wincing out loud.
I had no idea how I might get through Thursday night, including how I might sleep and make it through Friday at the office. Thank God for a heating pad. Thank God even more for a son-in-law who is just a few months away from graduating from Logan University and becoming a full-fledged chiropractor. Tom worked on me that evening; he’s really good at what he does.
The back still was stiff and painful Friday morning. I still felt a little weak with little appetite. Work still felt like work. I still found myself grateful the weekend nearly had arrived.
But when I looked back on the previous several days, I really couldn’t complain.
That accident on Interstate 270 in the St. Louis area Tuesday included two passenger vehicles and a semi-truck, all of which caught fire. The incident occurred at 8:30 in the morning; the highway didn’t reopen until 3 that afternoon. One man, 58 years old, was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other people went to the hospital in serious condition.
Depression, writer’s block, flu, back pain, work stress … My week wasn’t so bad. After my time at work ended and the weekend rolled around, It got in my car and drove safely home to my family. I’m alive.
And I’m saying a prayer for Rick Matteson, the gentleman who passed away in that crash, and his family. Please pray with me.