Sunday, December 30, 2012


This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a month now. I don't know why I'm so reluctant to simply let go of it, one way or another, but I am. I want to keep it, to remember it, and I also want to get rid of it, to erase it. But I'm tired of being indecisive and I'm tired of seeing it in my drafts, so I'm posting it today, to let it finish out 2012, and tomorrow or Tuesday, I will write some nice inspiring "2013 will be all better" post to start off the New Year with a little more optimism.

I left a comment on Anne Stuart's blog this morning and I've been thinking about it all day. I need to revisit it. And what better place to do that than here?

Blogging is public, obviously, but my blog is also personal. Posts on this blog go back six years or so, long before I started writing fiction again, and I'm willing to bet that I'm the only person who's read some of the older posts. That's fine by me. For a long time, I posted words here but I never mentioned them anywhere else. This was literally an online journal--my memories, stored in the cloud. When I self-published my books and linked the books to the blog, I accepted that people might find it but I also never really expected that people would. I'm saying all this because I'm torn between my desire to write with honesty--for myself, for what I need out of writing at the moment, for my own experience--and my awareness of the possibility of an audience. Personal versus professional, I guess. So, warning: this is intensely personal and if you're only reading because you're hoping to find out when A Gift of Time will be available, it is absolutely okay with me if you stop reading and go do something more fun with your time.

So here's how the story goes.

R was unbearable last Sunday. Completely annoying. I finally snapped at him, "I'm done. Go away. I can't handle this. I don't want to hear it."

He did the hurt look.

I felt guilty.

I said, "Wallow in your own room. In your space. But I am not up for this level of self-pity."

He exited. Gracefully. I felt guilty. More than guilty. Evil. Mean. Bad mom.

Eventually, probably at least an hour later, I wandered over to his bedroom doorway. He didn't glare at me. He gave me the stoic, "you have crushed my spirit and wounded my sensibilities" look. It's a good look and he does it well. All his life--or at least from the time he was eight months old, which is the first time I can remember this feeling--he's been a master at the expression that says, "you have failed me, but I forgive you anyway." It's a powerful look and someday I should write the story of the only time I spanked him and how quintessentially perfect it was for my parenting philosophy, but that's not today's story. Anyway...

I said to him, "You have a genetic predisposition to depression. It is an illness. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain, a shortage of dopamine and maybe serotonin. It can be helped with drugs. And if you think that is where you're at, we can go to the doctor and get you medication and that's okay."

He shook his head.

I said, "That's fine, too. But what I'm hearing you say is that you feel overwhelmed and if you're overwhelmed, you still have options. I sort of think they're obvious. If you can't finish your English project, you tell your teacher, I can't finish, I need to work over Christmas break. And she says, well, I'll have to downgrade you a letter grade and you'll get a B instead of an A. And so what? You'll live with a B."

He glared.

I repeated, "So what? You'll live with a B."

He glared more. Maybe added a nostril flare.

I shook my head. "You have choices. You have options. It is not the end of the world or anywhere close if you get a B. Or worse. Nothing that you're doing is going to affect the fate of the world."

The glare deepened.

"Dude," I tried, "When I was in 11th grade, everything was desperately important to me. I felt like screwing up would be..." I couldn't come up with the words for what it would have meant to screw up in 11th grade. I shrugged helplessly. "I knew that I couldn't screw up. But I was wrong. It wouldn't have mattered if I did. And it doesn't matter if you do. You'll be fine. We'll be fine."

"I'm not going to screw up." His words were tight and hostile.

I sighed. Being a mom just sucks sometimes. You want to show that you understand but it doesn't come across that way. "I was desperately worried about disappointing people when I was your age," I said, trying hard to keep my voice even. "But you know what? It's okay if you disappoint me. I will love you just the same."

His glare softened slightly. But only slightly.

And inwardly, I wanted to roll my eyes. Great, I'd told him he could disappoint me. That wasn't really where I wanted to go with this conversation. He is--okay, I'm a little biased--the most amazing kid ever. He's never going to disappoint me. Not because of anything he needs to do, but because he is who he is. He could fail every class, and he would still be the gentlest sixteen-year-old you have ever met. He would still be a charm magnet for six-year-olds. He would still be himself. There is nothing he has to achieve to be wonderful. He simply is.

So I persevered. "When I was your age, I felt like I had to be perfect. I thought I needed to be perfect. But that was an illness talking. That was the wrong amount of dopamine in my brain. You don't need to live that way."

He looked away.

"If everything is overwhelming and you can't handle the stress and what you need to do is stay home and play video games all day for a few months, that's fine. We can make that work. We'd figure it out."

"I don't," he grumbled, still not looking at me.

"Okay." I stood in his doorway feeling stupid. I'm not sure what I finished with. I don't know how I ended the conversation. But I walked away frustrated and worried and uncertain.

The next day, he was sick. Sore throat, flu-ish, so I told him to stay home from school. He did the same the next day. Wednesday, he was back to himself, cheerful and positive and offering up quirkily random bits of information, like the fact that golden eagles were used as hunting birds in Mongolia. And then he said to me,

"The opposite of depression isn't happiness, it's hope. You know you’re depressed when you’ve lost all hope, and you know you’re getting better when you find it again."*

I think I said something along the lines of "Feeling better?" to which he said, "Yeah," and the conversation ended.

But I've been stuck on the words ever since.

My friend Suzanne asked me if I wanted to go to Belize a few months ago. I said yes. Since 1999, Belize has been number one on my list of places I wanted to visit. I still remember sitting in our dreary apartment in Walnut Creek, on the hand-me-down-down-down couch, and hearing the name of a completely unfamiliar country on a television show, probably Zoboomafoo and thinking "Where's that?" It was a place I'd never heard of, despite three solid years of major Model United Nations activity in high school, and it sounded wonderful.

And now--I just don't care. I want to care. I think I ought to care. I keep reminding myself that I adore Suzanne and her husband and I love going to new places and I've wanted to visit Belize for over a decade. But I just can't find ... anticipation.

I told R the words that I had quoted him as saying, and he said that he wasn't nearly so poetic about it, and that he just meant that he felt like normal life included lots of looking forward to good stuff and depressed life didn't have any looking forward.

Yes. Exactly. Depressed life has no looking forward. I am living in the absence of hope. I am trapped in the inability to believe that the future matters.

I don't want to go to Belize. I feel as if I ought to want to. But I just don't. And it is that way for everything in my life right now. I simply can't make myself believe in the possibility of tomorrow. All there is, is now. And now isn't very interesting.

I stumbled across this post the other day. I know it's long. But the part where she talks about feeling like you're living life through a television screen? I went to my favorite event of the year a couple of months ago with one of my favorite people in the world and that is exactly how I felt. I wasn't really there. I am not really anywhere.

There's a saying, "Depression lies." Yes. It lies. But it also erases. Everything meaningful gets lost in a cloud of "so what?"

*This is the motivation post. It never really got to motivation. I am just not motivated these days.


  1. I, fortunately, don't have chronic depression. I could. There are those in my family who do.
    I have had situational depression and I ocassionally have depression that can't be linked to anything.
    And what R said is exactly what it feels like - no hope and nothing to look forward to. It sucks.
    Sorry that you have it. I am glad that you are willing to face it and do something. (I assume that because you mention medication.) I was married to someone who wouldn't and it was agonizing. I felt helpless because he wouldn't take even simple steps to help himself.

  2. Hi - it sounds like you have a wonderful relationship with your son, can see why you could not decide what to do with the post, indecision we are all full of that some hide it better than others and that was a major conversation turning stone ect acceptance he was just coming down with a viral infection can lead to all sorts of revelations...the young spring up and go on and then maybe not remember the conversation in six months time..know what you mean about not being a go getter and just existing - life is a matter of stages, however you tick I can say I really enjoy your story telling ability go for it 2013 just came on to find out when book three is out, take care CHumphries

    1. Book 3 (A Gift of Time), barring the unforeseen, will be done by mid-March. The unforeseen might include me deciding it needs more revisions, though, so April is possible.

      If you want me to send you an email when I release it (which will also probably tell you a date on which it will be free), you can send your email address to wrafferty at gmail-dot-com.

      And thank you! I'm glad you've liked the stories!

    2. Hi - I love your stories ! (still cannot understand you wanting to change names to Zane when the charecter was out there in my head already, a thing I ponder on) and bizarely at present cannot remember real name!? it is late for me though - congrats on Belize trip go experience sights sound fun or just for the difference! read more of your blog shames me I don't speak with my boys that deep - but one of mine sounds like R giving you permission to big him up - allways a sign of inteligence! Light box good tip - publish when you ae happy and will always buy a book and pay for a coffe for you!!

    3. Hmm, did you start reading on Critique Circle? Zane was Zane through the whole writing of the book, but then I briefly tried him out as a Shane, because I was worried that people would think he was just like the Zane character on Eureka and he really is not. (I never really anticipated my audience getting much beyond fellow Eureka fan fiction folks.) But the people reading on fictionpress said no, he was his own Zane to them and so I went back to him as Zane. Only a very few people ever knew him as Shane!

      Thank you for the encouragement, and the future cups of coffee! :)

  3. Thank you for posting this. I've had my own painful and numb bouts of depression so I have some idea of how you're feeling. Thank you for putting it into words.

    My friend's brother recently committed suicide and it makes me sad to think of his pain. It seems such a waste for wonderful people like him (and you for that matter) to suffer from such pain of hopelessness. And yet I find that my cynic murky perception of life is true and I myself deserve no sympathy.... Depression lies.

    Here I am in the middle of dark and wet Scandinavian winter wondering if I'm on my way to rock bottom again and thinking whether I'll make it alive this time around. Then I found some sparkle of interest in life, more specificically in books, and came across your post. This goes to show that people connect. And that you matter. I truly wish you find yourself in a better mood soon. It starts with the sparkles.

    I, on the other hand, am now looking forward to reading your books. Thank you for that.

  4. Thank you! I am actually feeling somewhat more optimistic, which I suspect is partly random biology, partly the relief of the holiday season being over, and partly...I want to call it luck, but it's not luck, exactly. I think it's finding an awareness of the kindness of strangers. I realized very soon after I wrote this post (which was actually back in early December) that I was finding sparks of light in my darkness from the genuine niceness of other people, and that led me to getting motivated to write and then, for the first time in months, the writing was fun again. I know I'll still have bad days, but I stuck my passport application in the mail today to go to Belize, which three weeks ago, I was sure I was not going to be able to do.

    I hope that you continue finding sparkles of light, too, and that they turn into bright glows very soon. (Also, if you haven't tried a light box, you might want to look into one: I don't use one here, because I live in Florida and it's very rare that I can't be outside in daylight, but I wouldn't try to make it through winter in a colder climate without one.)

    Good luck! Come back any time. And I hope you enjoy the books.