Mental illness means that what makes sense one day makes no sense the next. A breakthrough conversation, achieved after hours of sorting through emotional layers, disappears with a nap; a plan of action never moves from the recliner; a new organizational system gets filed under forgotten. And we begin anew, always in the same place.
Decades later, married and with three children of my own, I’m still here every day trying to help my dad. But wanting to help doesn’t always mean that you do. Some days there is just no winning. We’re a bunch of losers, I think as I jab and hook, looking right through my reflection in the mirror, and seeing flashes of my mother in the funky patterned activewear pants she bought me and which match her own.
I took the class this morning to get my blood moving and hopefully lift myself from this funk, to find renewed strength to shoulder this responsibility, this burden, this sad human tragedy who used to be my "dad,” but for years has been my “father,” a wall of a difference.
Yet, when the instructor commands us to dig deep and jab as hard as we can, I immediately envision his face and the amassed stress and frustration I feel makes me want to punch him. I jab, tears pricking my eyes. But I can’t. His face is long, his body already broken. His green eyes look back at me and they are mine.
Taking a deep breath, I center myself. I am only one of so many daughters and sons of a rising “sandwich generation” who struggle every day when the needs of their children compete with the needs of their sick or aging parent. And like so many of them, I am sometimes overwhelmed and depressed, knowing that even though I’m doing my best, my best might never feel good enough.
Still, I know this is only a moment and it will pass. I will focus on all the good – my children, husband, ice cream, classes like this. I will take care of myself, my family, and try to help him. I can take it.
I’m a fighter.