There’s no logical pattern to when PTSD symptoms will hit me, but I can usually tell when depression is on its way over. I try to ignore it, but like a socially awkward friend that just doesn’t read body language, it just keeps creeping over to say “hello”.
So here I am, lonely but constantly with my daughter whom I am responsible for caring for while my wife is out of the country. Not impossible, but spending time with her does not abate nor negate the loneliness I feel. The nagging feeling that I’m doing it all wrong: that I’m not doing enough work to stay employed, that I’m not spending enough time making quality memories for my daughter. That she’s seeing me in tears more often than I’d like, and that she’s not crying half as much as I am and what kind of man cries more than a 4-year-old girl every day, and how can I be honest with her that I’m sad for me and happy for Mommy at the same time and no, she won’t be able to join us for dinner because she’s touring a famous crystal factory in Ireland and I miss her, too, sweet pea.
Depression makes me relive all those feelings and conversations at the same time, all jumbled together and without regard to reasonable rest times between rounds, or where I am at the moment. On the phone with my folks wishing me happy birthday? Bam! Can’t speak, eyes are leaking. Ordering a sandwich at Chick-fil-A? I’m sure the nervous teenager won’t mind that I’m crying as I add a large lemonade. Some work needs to get done because people are counting on me, but typing from the fetal position is a challenge, I tell ya.
So depression sucks. It’s sneaky, but not necessarily unanticipated; it’s like a fight that is planned in advanced, but the date keeps shifting so you’re never really rest for it. The fighters prepare as best they can, but even seasoned fighters will tell you plans change when you take that first hit. Well I’ve been getting beat up for three days and it’s time to fight back as best as I can: more meds, more focus, more snuggles, more coffee, more playtime, tea time, and doll time. I may not win the fight this time, but I’ll keep swinging as best as I can. If I’m alive after, I can count that as a win.
In 2002, I became the CIC Officer for the USS Hurricane, a Patrol Coastal ship home ported in Coronado, CA. I had worked with the ship and her crew briefly at my previous command while we were deployed in the same operating area. At that time, she was part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, but when I got there she had taken on a new role: Maritime Homeland Security in support of Operation Noble Eagle. Our job was to patrol the west coast of the US and work to prevent terrorists from attacking vital assets like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in SoCal, and submarines transiting Puget Sound in Washington State.
We deployed twice to Puget Sound that year, with an extra brief “surge” deployment to take part in and protect Fleet Week in Seattle. During one of those deployments, we made a short visit to Esquimalt, BC — an absolutely beautiful place.
I’m not a cowboy. I like cows — medium, please — and I like to ride horses, but that’s as far as it goes. I have friends that are honest-to-goodness cowboys and trick roping wonders, but that’s not me.
So why do I wear boots? Because my dad did.
My dad grew up on a dairy farm, getting up early to milk the cows before school, working the fields during harvest, riding horses and tractors, and doing general farmer/rancher stuff growing up. He wore boots, because that what you do when you do farmer/rancher stuff in the California Central Valley.
I sit (or stand) at a desk and write code. I have no need of boots, but I wear them anyway, because that’s what was modeled for me as I grew up.
I remember the days when I would dig into the shoe shine kit in the closet, grab my dad’s boots, and shine them up. It was fun, and shining my own boots brings back those good memories. I remember putting on those too-big boots and trying to walk around in them, just like my daughter does with my own boots. She’ll often decide to put her own boots on when she sees me wearing mine. I guess it’s a family thing. 🙂
I hope that one day someone will ask Joanna (or she’ll ask herself) “Why do you wear boots?”.
I expect her answer will be “Because my daddy does.”