No matter what brings us here, we have waiting in common. We wait for a diagnosis, for a doctor’s appointment, for medication to start working. Eventually, we wait again; new doctors, new medications, new diagnoses. Am I better? Will it come back? Our families wait. Our friends.
In fact, there is very little action in this whole mental health and healing business. Getting a name for what is happening, a new medication, a new appointment—the exciting, newsworthy stuff happens so quickly, compared to the time between. I am impatient. I hate waiting. I have no choice.
If we’re lucky, some people who really understand wait with us; this website (and our Facebook page) can help you find some of those people if you don’t know any and you’re looking. I have found some pretty amazing women to wait with me, through the toughest times. We will wait with you, whether it is you who suffers, or someone you love. Whether you understand, or don’t understand. We are really good at waiting. We have practice.
Nothing takes away the insidious pain of waiting. It sneaks reminders into my days; one day, the light changes, and a pill can look like a taunting little joke, filled with more doubt than medicine. My toddler’s tears inspire annoyance or even rage in me, and the best I can do is wait for feelings of sympathy. I catch myself going through the motions of motherhood, without feeling inspired, and resolve to keep doing that until I can ride a wave of love through an entire morning.
I have found a way to trick the trickster, and I’ll tell you my secret. It’s a trick I saw once for making a To Do list less overwhelming: I add small things to the list of the things that I am waiting for, tiny events that will definitely happen—soon. When things feel really badly, I get really tiny. I wait for the next time my son makes me smile, and I count that one smile as a victory against depression, even if it lasts for one second and it is followed by tears. That one might not work for you, but my twenty-month-old tiny man has a pair of dimples that have been making his smiles contagious since he started showing them off.
I wait to see proof that my child is thriving, because that is how I know that we are meant to be together, mother and son. If you do the right kind of learning about child development, those signs are there every single day. I remember the first time I held up a blanket in front of my face, and he pulled it away. That meant that he knew I was there, behind that blanket, and that he had the motor skills and motivation to move away the obstacle. He laughed, and I laughed. Every time his block towers get taller, I try to remember: Tell yourself that this means he is thriving, learning, growing.
Lately, my husband has been “doing” bedtime. He used to do the bath and the nighttime diaper, and then I would read a story and sing and nurse the boy to sleep. Then, he got bigger and demanded more nursing, more playing, until my patience gave out.
I wait for bedtime in a new way now, because I get to listen to the little conversations he has with his dad. He says “boat!” and his dad makes the noise for the motor, and they both laugh. I wait for bedtime, because the way he waves his hand exactly once and says a staccato “bye!” just kills me. He sounds just like a grown person heading out to run the most mundane errand.
At first, I saw this change in the bedtime routine as a sign that I had failed, again, and I wished that my anxiety would stop long enough for indefinite nursing sessions, just once a day. Now, I wait for the overheard laughter and the casual goodnight (preceded by many hugs and kisses) because I see them as signs that he enjoys his father and trusts that I will be there for him, if he needs me. He hates to be without either of us, but he adapts. When a child’s mother is failing, he is afraid. My son is not afraid. Therefore, I do not fail.
I wait for the next success. If all I can feel is despair, I wait for that next success, however small, and I hold on tight. It may be small, but it is my proof that the waiting is worth it.