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A Vacation From Depression

It’s vacation time in our family.  Once our two kids were married, we decided that we would alternate years for Christmas and years for vacation together to allow time for all the families.  This year it was vacation time for us and we were fortunate enough to share the rental on a house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  And the vacation choice, I might add, was my husband’s who said he wanted to go to the beach.  All the others thought it important to honor that since he had had such a difficult time of it this past year with his concussion and with his depression. Now he was feeling better and hopefully off to a good recovery.

We arrived and the ocean, the house, seeing each other once again was great. It was great until I realized that Ed was withdrawing himself from the group. I had decided before going that I was not once again going to be caught in the position of juggler –  taking care of my husband and his depression, making sure that everyone was having a good time, and walking that fine line between everything is good and everything is falling apart.

So I enjoyed my grandson, playing chase and inventing games, collecting treasures, and talking about why the ocean was choppy, why the roly poly bug rolled up into a ball – yes he is in that “why” stage.  I played games with my daughter and son and their partners.  We flew kites on the beach and each day we laughed until tears came to our eyes.  We ate anything and everything justifying it with “we are on vacation” even as we finished off another pint of ice cream.

And I tried to include my husband but felt so often that I was patronizing him:  “Let’s get Grandpa to chase us” or “maybe Dad should shuck the corn” or some other such inane attempt to involve him. To his credit he was probably trying, but there were no attempts on his part to engage in conversations (of which there were many he could have played an active and very welcomed part) until the last two days of our time together.

Another interesting thing that occurred was his sudden frailness, something I hadn’t seen except during his deepest depression.  He was walking and responding like a man well into his eighties.  He was reluctant to go anywhere near the ocean, having fell once in the waves by the shore with all his children around him and convinced that he therefore could not handle the ocean. And, although he claimed he felt good, his behavior spelled depression.

The first year after I became sober those thirty years ago, I remember often reverting to old behavior.  We called them dry drunks because although I was sober, I acted as if I were in my cups.  It took a lot of recognition and effort to realize that I no longer needed those dry drunks to relate, to feel comfortable, to be okay.

I wonder if that same phenomenon occurs when those who suffer from depression begin to feel better.  If they have been depressed for so long, do they behave, even when they are feeling good, as if they were depressed because it is comfortable and a safer response than treading out into the new territory that opens to someone who is recovering from depression?

I don’t know if that is a scientific fact, but I intend to discuss it with my husband once we return home.  One thing I do know is that when I concentrated on just enjoying myself, I found it renewing  and it showed me that the world is good and I am indeed a person who will survive and survive well because of the people who love me.

– Bernadette


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