In the mental health community, we often discuss the importance of stopping to breathe when we are overwhelmed. It sounds silly — I still roll my eyes at my mother when she attempts to force me to do an old tantrum-calming tactic. As a kid, she would make me raise my hands above my head with ballerina fluidity as I breathed in, and pull them down as I exhaled. As I got older, I realized that it was more of a distraction tactic. I also looked pretty ridiculous, which doubled as a tension breaker for my mom. Either way, it worked every time. All it was? Breathing.
I thought about all of this as I was struggling to find words for this year’s letter to you, and then the perfect song came through my headphones and I just knew.
Music is so important to me, my mood, and my coping mechanisms. I can tell you the songs I was listening to during just about every epiphany and turning point I’ve ever had.
One dark night where I sat alone nursing my son, feeling like we were the only two people in the world, I downloaded a song I had heard earlier in the day while watching “Shrek Ever After,” of all things.
I know plenty of people with eyes closed … They don’t see you like I do. Darling, I do, see YOU.
I listened to the words as I stared into those big blue-grey eyes that told me I was perfect in that moment. It didn’t matter that my body was manifesting my mental symptoms in a physical manner. It didn’t matter that my rage toward my husband would come close to permanently damaging his spirit. It didn’t matter that I felt broken, deflated, and alone, despite having all of the support in the world … to my son, I was everything. He saw me in spite of myself. And I? Had never known how big my heart could be until him, even though I felt like a shell.
So today, when I heard the words
I want to change the world, instead I sleep. But all that I know is I’m breathing … And all I can do is keep breathing …
I remembered those days. Sometimes it took all I had to face the day, to get out of bed, to be a friend, wife, daughter, or mother. Sometimes all I COULD do was keep breathing.
Somehow, I kept breathing and the days flew by faster than those breaths I took. My boy grew and flourished, and I, right along with him. Two years after my diagnosis here I am, breathing.
You may not feel like you can do much more than breathe, if you even feel like you can do that. If you can’t? It’s okay. You’re not alone in this.
I’ll be here, breathing right along with you.
~ Lindsay Maloan
Songs: “Darling I Do” by Landon Pigg and Lucy Schwartz and “Keep Breathing” by Ingrid Michaelson
Lindsay became a serendipitous advocate after being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in 2011. She lives and breathes New Orleans with her patient husband, sprightly son, and critters. She blogs at www.withalittleloveandluck.
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