I can easily see the ending to this story. I’ll be standing on the beach. Everything around me is sage green and tan and blue. Blue. The crystal-clear blue that recedes from the sand into sapphire. My feet will sink deeper into the beach as each rush of water pushes past me to reach as far as it can onto land. Its grasp is weak. The thirsty sand drinks it in and the water recoils. A gentle smile spreads across my face as I watch the water desperately pull at my feet. I didn’t bring anything with me. No message in a bottle. No crystal or rock or necklace. The sea has taken enough. I came to say goodbye. The deep sapphire water lurks beyond the beach. I turn and walk away.
We have bats living in the trim of our windows. If you stay up late enough you can hear them screeching and clawing. I hate bats. They are disgusting and terrifying. Half rat, half bird, erratic, dark, invasive. My daughter reminds me that bats eat bugs, especially mosquitos. She’s allergic to mosquitos. I think I’m allergic to bats. I’m so uncomfortable in my own home now. Like something dark moved in with us without permission and life is suddenly unbearable.
I read a story when I was a child. It was about a lonely boy living on an island with his papa. He saw a mermaid on the beach combing through her long dark wavy hair. She was beautiful and kind and happy. But she swam away.
“Do any of your family members suffer from depression or anxiety?”
It was a difficult question. My family doesn’t get diagnosed. How do you know if you have depression or anxiety unless someone tells you that you do? I remember my mom crying on the closet floor. Running away occasionally. My dad punching a hole in the wall once after he lost his job. A birthday spent with just my mom because Dad couldn’t or wouldn’t come.
“I don’t think so…” I answer.
My therapist waits.
“Maybe… but in my family, you just don’t have that. You keep going. We’re cowboys and farmers, ranchers… we don’t have depression and anxiety.”
She gave me a knowing look. Her eyebrows raising ever so slightly.
She never officially diagnosed me. But she didn’t have to. The scars hiding under my new watch were diagnoses enough.
I have depression.
It felt gross admitting it. Like there was something nasty crawling up my back and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it off of me.
The boy in the story obsessed over the mermaid. She left him a magic key that led him to injured sea birds after a terrible hurricane drown many others and littered the island with feathered bodies. He learned to heal the birds. He looked for her often and wondered where she was out in the sapphire water. But he never saw her again.
I have a memory from my childhood. We must have gone on a business trip with my dad. I remember being at a motel, but dad was gone working. The motel room was dark with a wide window in the front near the door. An old couch sat under that window edged with accordion like drapes. The couch reminded me of crusty oatmeal. I was little, maybe 7 years old. And I squeezed my little body behind the oatmeal couch to peer out the window. There was a man that worked at the motel and I didn’t like him. He seemed distrustful. Too friendly. I watched him out the window and noted his every move in my “Spy Girl” notebook. The man came to the door. My mom opened it. He smiled from under his mustache at my mom. Too big, too much, too nice. He held a long pole with a weathered blue net on the end. He said he scooped a bat from the pool and thought her kids might like to see it. He called her ma’am. I had never seen a bat. I pushed my “Spy Girl” notebook under the couch and quietly crawled out from behind the curtains. I suspiciously followed my eager older siblings out the door. The cement was uncomfortably hot on my bare feet. I peeked into the blue net at a black lump lifelessly clinging to the mesh. It was oily and wet with tiny claws and leathery wings. My stomach lurched.
“Must have been sick, flying around during the day like that… drown itself in the water.” The man said.
I stared at the white bottle with little white pills inside. I opened it and peeked at them. My stomach lurched. I set the bottle back on the dresser.
The boy grew up. His papa died. He reverently began going through his papa’s dresser. A worn bible sat in the top drawer with faded letters and envelopes. He thumbed through the bible. A photograph of a girl on the beach fell from the fragile pages. She looked familiar. Her long dark wavy hair.
I wanted to be the mysterious mermaid, with the sea star comb and the key necklace. I wanted to know the water.
Tuesday March 6th 2019,
I feel like I’m drowning. The dishes. The responsibilities. The kids. The bills. The mess. The laundry… I try and try and try and it all just seems to swallow me and pull me deeper and deeper. I can’t breathe.
Saturday May 11th 2019,
I need to lean on others. I just don’t want to burden anyone else. Everyone is just trying to keep their heads above water and I would feel like I am the drowning person desperately grabbing at them for help… I don’t want to be that person. I’d rather drown alone.
Monday July 8th 2019
I try so desperately to keep my head above water. To keep from drowning. I fight and fight and thrash against the waves. Even when the water is quiet and I’m exhaustedly, stoically, treading water the wind slaps my face with a salty spray and everything goes dark.
I try not to look, or even think as I place the pill in my palm and quickly, before I stop myself, pop it into my mouth. I drown it down with several mini cupful’s of water. The tiny paper cups have inspirational messages printed on them. “Optimism is the key to Happiness” this one says. My stomach lurches.
There are so many different stories about mermaids. Some believe they are bad omens. Drowning those bobbing on the sea, pulling them into the depths until the only evidence of their life are the tiny bubbles that race back to the surface and pop in wet breathless screams. Others believe mermaids are beautiful women that fall in love with handsome men and leave the sea to have a family. Some don’t believe at all. I do. I used to be one.
The boy in the story, now a man, stared at the girl in the photo. His grandfather’s little sister. The little sister that drown in a storm as a child. Her dark wavy hair, her kind eyes, her happy smile…
We researched how to get rid of bats. Water. If you spray them enough they will stay away, for a time. Killing them isn’t really an option, it’s illegal, even in Ireland.
My daughter tells me that bats will die if they are grounded. They can’t fly off the ground. If they stay on the ground long enough they will die from exposure or a predator.
I was 5 years old when I drown. I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing air until 23 years later. Suddenly I was desperate for oxygen and that’s when I found my lungs were full of water. Breathing again was much harder than drowning. I choked on the water over and over as I tried to surface. Salt leaked from my eyes and dripped off the tip of my nose. I furiously pulled against the lapping waves to propel my body toward the air. I fought until I was delirious and exhausted.
I thought I was dying.
Once the choking stopped, I found myself alone in a vast sapphire sea. Lost. I couldn’t swim any longer. I needed to get my feet on land.
Depression moves into your life like an uninvited guest, invasive. You don’t really notice at first because of the silence, then starts the screeching and clawing. Eventually life becomes uncomfortable, then unbearable. And everything goes dark without your permission.
Some people think I am crazy for believing that mermaids exist.
Sometimes I worry I am crazy.
I read a book when I was a child about a mermaid. Some say mermaids are the souls of drown children. The salty water buffering them from the pain of the world. They take their time to grow up among the sea stars and shipwrecks and when they do, they return to land.
Hi! I'm Amy
I am a Christian wife and mother, a writer, and a recovering perfectionist who is tired of chasing happiness in all the wrong ways. I am now on a journey to find a deeper state of being. Join me on My Peace Project and we'll learn how to survive the chaos together!