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Wading Into the Darkness

They both have the kind of smiles that spread wide across their face and make their eyes dance like the first fireflies of summer. Their hugs are where, in times of emergency, I want to shelter in place.

They are two of the great loves of my life.

They both have the golden heart of a hippie and a love of blue jeans that I'll never understand.

One helped put me back together when after the other one broke me into a million pieces

Only one of the two remains today.

My mom has been gone for almost a decade now. And, despite saddling me with heartache that I must still actively work to ease and with bruised and battered memories that I'll never be able to forget, I still miss her. Every. Day.

My mom was a drug addict. That is well known. Her drug addiction announced her arrival. It was showy. Flamboyant.

However, hidden in her drug addiction's shadow was her creeping, whispering depression. I don't know if she was ever formally diagnosed with depression. But, I lived inside her. It was as much a part of her as I was.

Depression was her constant companion. I know this - now.

When she was alive, my hurt didn't allow me to care what caused her to behave like she did. I wanted her to just say no. I wanted her to stop reaching for thick leather belts and hard soled shoes and swinging them at me. I wanted her to be my mom, the golden one who showed up every now and again and chased all the clouds away. I needed her to be happy.

Therefore, I made it my mission in life to do that - to make my mama happy. I thought that if I was good enough, smart enough, well-behaved enough that she would no longer need to inject demons into her veins. I thought that all she needed to stop threatening suicide was to sign my straight A report cards and crack up at some of my stellar jokes. It was a gut punch every time my efforts didn't work.

But, depression isn't about being happy or being sad. For people like my mama, it isn't situational, they can't wash their face and take a walk and come back with a new perspective. They can't exercise it away. Their kid having exemplary manners wouldn't make them snap out of them.

It is in them.

It was in my mama and it is in my sister-in-law, my ride or die, my maid of honor, my soul sister, Lynn. Unlike my mom, Lynn is not an irresponsible, felonious drug addict. She is married to a helluva good guy. Her children are fairly convinced that she climbs a ladder and hangs the moon for them every night. Lynn was raised in a stable, loving household. She is one of the most loyal people that I have ever known. She comforts me, she puts me at ease and there is no one who makes me laugh like she does. Her outward beauty is only outdone by the deep artistry that is her soul. Yet, like my mom, she sometimes goes dark.

When Lynn's depression first began to surface, I got out my old playbook and came up with the same offense that I had ran on my mom. This time I would win because Lynn was a different team than my mom. It was a crushing loss. At the time, I was puffed up with anger and hurt seeped from my pores. I wasn't going to be the kid waving her report card in the air in hopes that someone would be proud of me. Simply, I wasn't going to put up with this bullshit again.

Eventually, I got over myself. I learned that this wasn't a game; I couldn't defeat someone's depression. I know this - now.

What I can do is remember that mental illness is just that - an illness. I did not take it personally when Lynn broke her ankle, and I damn sure didn't think that I could operate on it. I can develop a thick skin. I can educate myself. I can use my voice to end the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. I can think of all the times that Lynn that has picked me up off of my knees. I can remember that she is so, so much more than her depression. I can remind her that she is worthy and loved. I can remember that her depression is not a rejection of me or the love that we share. I can wade into the darkness after her. I can remember how fortunate I am to have been loved by these two beautiful, complex, magical women.

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