When The Guilt Of Your Past Part 2: When Guilt Turns Into Depression
By Guest Contributor Miss Brittany
After my mother had suffered her stroke, we moved her into a nursing home. Because of her situation, I could no longer force myself to ignore this battle. During my time at school, Chicago visits had become synonymous with going to visit my mother and keeping her in good spirits. However, when I moved back to Chicago after my graduation, it hit me, no more visits to go see mommy.
I started thinking about my last visit. I had promised her that the next time I would see her I would be a college graduate. She smiled and although the stroke had taken her speech, she was able to utter a distorted “yay” that had the twinkle of a smile behind it.
I remembered my sophomore year of college when my mother was placed in hospice care. I had been planning a trip down to Southern University for their Player’s Ball, when I got a call stating that she would not make it through the week. When I got to Chicago, I feared the inevitable was upon us.
Yet, when we got there, circumstances got a little brighter, My mother’s health got a little better. She was living in spite of a prognosis of death.
We sat around and joked that she devised this scheme so she could see her girls. With a twisted mouth, distorted voice, and a slight grin she uttered a “nooo.”
But then two years later, as I remembered my promise to my mother, the promise to be a better daughter, I wondered, what if I had came home just a little bit more?
What if I never tried to build up that suspense and “surprise” her with my diploma?
What if in the midst of my absence, she began to think that I didn’t need her anymore and her spirits died causing her to? The “what ifs” took over my thoughts and the demons of guilt began to plague me.
It was Thursday, November 27, 2008, seven months after my mother’s death and my first Thanksgiving without her.
I was at my grandmother’s house and as was tradition, we would each say what we were thankful for before we ate. I could think of nothing.
I thought about my childhood, thought about the bodies that used to crowd around the table that were now gone. My pa-pa, other friends and family… and my mother.
Heard all the voices of those that had gone home and I couldn’t breathe. (Just like I can’t breathe right now writing this post. I can’t lie, right now I am bawling my eyes out, but it’s therapeutic so I’ll continue to write.)
I thought about all those people and sadness overwhelmed me. I went into my one of the spare rooms in my grandmother’s house, laid on the bed and cried myself to sleep. No food, not even granny’s soul food, could comfort me. I wanted my mother. When granny came in to talk to me and tell me how “God would make a way,” I rolled my eyes. I didn’t want to hear about no damn god. By this time I had already stopped going to church.
December 25th, Christmas day. The realization of just how long forever would be started to hit me. Words like NEVER entered my mind.
I would NEVER see my mother again.
I would NEVER be able to hold her hand again.
I would NEVER be able to get the image of her body out of my head as it laid in her ivory casket with the golden trim.
That day on Christmas, I sat in my house with the TV on watching me. Nothing to eat, but I wasn’t hungry anyway. At around 5pm, my dad had called me to see what I was doing, what I had eaten.
Nothing. Nothing. My answer to both questions. He just said okay and hung up.
Six days later, New’s Year’s Eve, I came home from work. At seven o’clock I poured myself a full glass of Barcardi Gold Rum. That had become my drink of choice and for the past two or so months I was drinking almost everyday. Within the hour the glass was gone, and I was numb with drunkenness.
I slept through the New Year’s countdown. It didn’t seem important to me, even though I was glad to see 2008 go, because it was the worst year of my life, 2009 wouldn’t matter, because 2009 couldn’t bring my mother back.
2009 wouldn’t give me time to apologize for being the selfish little daughter that I had been when I was younger.
2009 wouldn’t give my mother the 50th birthday that she deserved three days later on January 4th.
So 2009 didn’t mean a thing to me.
On Sunday, January 4th, 2009 I sat in my house with a glass of Bacardi and I sipped and cried. When my dad called me that day I tried to sound sober.
“Soooo , you don’t talk to anybody anymore?” he asked.
“I ain’t had nothing to say,” I barked back.
My dad was in DC on that day and wanted to know if I had gone to church this Sunday.
“Nope, didn’t feel like it.”
“You haven’t gone to church in a while, what’s up?” He asked with a twinge of irritation, masked by concern.
“Brittany, what’s up?”
“Nothing, I ain’t got nothing to say to god and he ain’t got nothing to say to me.”
My dad tried to probe into this statement, but after so many “because I don’ts” and “because he don’t” my dad gave up and hung up on me. I didn’t talk to him for a month.
My days began to consist of waking up, going to work, coming home, making a cocktail, crying, and going to sleep. I was in a functional state of depression.
But it was also during this time that I had built up an important friendship that was the epitome of intimacy and honesty.
I had met him in August of 2008 when I moved back to Chicago and we almost instantly connected. One thing that brought us together was the death of our moms. His mom had died five years earlier of cancer and he often shared his memories with her and allowed me to share mines.
It was this friend who began to take a particular interest in my sleeping, eating, and drinking habits.
He noticed my mood swings and forced me to talk to him because he knew the importance of me having to express my feelings in a healthy outlet.
I remember a conversation one night. He was beginning to use the words depression and psychiatrist around me and I was refusing to acknowledge my situation. I called myself just being dramatic. I called myself being a strong black woman and we don’t get depressed. We deal with whatever we have to, however we have to, but we don’t use the “D” word and we sure as hell don’t go to psychiatrists. Anyways, this one night during our conversation I don’t know how he did it, but he got me to open up about my guilt. Open up about why I was angry at god and stopped believing in this concept.
I remember ranting about how god was complete bs. I’d remembered everyone telling me to turn to god he can never put more on you than you can bear…blah blah blah…and I thought about it in relation to my mom.
I remembered at her funeral how as my uncle eulogized her he said she used to ask him does god hate her. I think that’s the first time my anger overtook my guilt. Hearing that was something I couldn’t forgive god for doing to my mother. I couldn’t forgive him for making her doubt him. I remembered thinking that my mother didn’t deserve what happened to her. That god was using her to get back at me for the wrong I did. I remembered feeling guilty because, all the things I had done it should have been me, because my mother was a good person. I remembered wishing I could have switched places with her, because I thought I belonged in the grave instead of her. More guilt.
Ironically, in the midst of this breakdown I had a breakthrough. I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want to acknowledge this weakness. Nevertheless, talking about it is what made me strong. Like with 12 step programs, the first step to overcoming my problem was admitting that I had one. I had someone talk to me without judging me. To this day I am grateful for his presence, because I believe in some way he saved my life.
When it comes to depression, we treat getting help and going to see a doctor almost near worse than going to get an HIV test. In any event, some people can will it away, others can’t. Regardless, if you don’t go to a doctor, make sure you at least talk to someone.
Don’t let the guilt of your past blind the potential possibilities of forgiveness!