On Playing Life Like a Beast

“Mom, I just played that game like a BEAST,” said the 7 year old, high on video games and higher on a bone-weary mommy who was just as interested in giving him extra screen time as he was in having it. “Sometimes I win and sometimes I just DIE, Mom, you know? But I played like a BEAST, and that’s the thing that feels good, Mom. That’s the thing.”

And Cael’s right, because sometimes we win, and sometimes we just DIE. But when we play like a beast, that’s the best thing. The best. I feel AWESOME when I play life like a beast and I get the kids to school on time, and I remember to set the coffee timer, and I finish all the laundry, and I scrub the blue frosting and gummy ketchup and petrified boogers off the couch more than, oh, say, every other month. A BEAST. Like, I can do all the things, humans! ALL THE THINGS. BOOM!

Sometimes, though, I don’t play like a beast. Sometimes, I hide my head and my feelings. And sometimes depression and anxiety and lethargy win. They play like a beast, and I… well… don’t. 

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last month trying to rein the depression back in. Earlier this time. Before it got too far out. And I spent time wondering whether I was jumping the gun on calling the doctor and talking to Greg and increasing the meds or whether I was being proactive. Slowing the yo-yo. Shortening the cycle. Learning to listen to my mind and my body and my heart and my family. And giving myself the benefit of the doubt that the lethargy isn’t lazy and the overwhelmed isn’t an inability to deal. 

I keep hearing from depression sufferers that September is Depression Month. That depression often comes with the start of school and the brisk winds of fall and matches our moods to the feeling that winter is coming. That it’s time to wither. But I must be on the Southern Hemisphere Depression Plan where the seasons are upside down, because when spring springs forward, so does my depression, apparently. Like winter took its toll and I’m finally catching up, and even though everything else is coming back to life, I’m busy dying a little. And I’ve felt like I can’t do anything right if I’m depressed in May – I mean, who has the nerve to be numb when the sunshine returns or ragey as the temperatures rise? I’m even doing depression wrong, I think – but I know that’s depression talking, and if I’ve learned anything by now, it’s that Depression is a Lying Liar Who Lies. I’m doing depression just fine, Depression, so back off.

I’ve found myself thinking lately that I have nothing to say, which is one of the lies Depression tells me. Or, rather than nothing to say, (because the truth is I have LOTS of somethings to say – most notably that I wore a rather large thigh hole in my favorite pair of pants, damn it, and why do we sell knee patches for kids’ jeans and not thigh patches for my jeans which need ’em JUST AS BAD??), I’ve thought I ought not bother anyone with my senseless mental blather because, Depression whispers, I have nothing important to say. Nothing different than anyone else. Nothing new. Nothing pressing. Nothing earth shattering. Which is all true. TOTALLY true. I have nothing new or different or earth shattering to say. And so, the temptation when anxiety and depression take over, is to say nothing at all instead of to believe the truth, which is that all of us have overlapping, sometimes stunningly similar stories, and all of our stories are still deeply worth telling, over and over and over again, with whatever words or pictures we can cobble together, because we have all of this – this life, these questions, this doubt, this longing, this angst, these thigh holes – in common.

If there’s one thing the world needs, it’s places to come together. To be ourselves. To bring our depression and our thigh holes and our winning and our losing and lay it all out on the table together. To sort through it all, rummage sale style. To pick up pieces and do show and tell. Because the longer I live, the more I’m convinced that’s it. THAT’s playing life like a beast. To be in it, winning and losing and dying and quitting and coming back to life. To bring it. All of it. And to share.

So I wanted to ask today… how are you? How are you following Mother’s Day? How are you this May? Winning? Just DYING? Playing life like a BEAST? Tell me your story. I’d like to hear it, even – maybe especially – if you think you have nothing to say.


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75 responses to “On Playing Life Like a Beast”

  1. I don’t get depressed in the spring–but I get OVERWHELMED. There is so much that needs to be done, and so much I WANT to do, and there’s only so many weekends in Michigan when the weather is glorious and we can go to the beach or the baseball game or the Nature Trails or work on the garden-and sometimes I get so paralyzed with wanting to do it all that I don’t do any of it. Or I do one thing, but keep thinking that I should be doing something else. And then I get mad at myself for wasting the time and promising that next year will be different.

    I have to remember to take time to just BE. To sit on the porch and read a book without worrying about dishes piled up inside. To go into my little tiny patch of garden and smile at the riots of scents and colors, and admire the giant bumblebees and the grasshoppers, without thinking about the weeds.

  2. Oh, Beth, I love you and what you have to say. Some times I think I am “playing it like a Beast”, but then I start feeling the “shoulds” and the (perceived?) judgement of others who just don’t ‘get’ depression and it starts to eat me again. And then I read one of your insightful posts and do what I need to do so that I can rest up to face another day.

    For Aimee, I found my “mom tribe” in LLL. It is a starting place if you are nursing your little one, but each group is different and some are NOT helpful but judgmental as well.

    Jessica, thank you so much for your words: “Supposed to and should are the Worst words ever.” I often think that I could banish half of the depression and anxiety from my life if I could banish those thoughts from my mind.

    And for all of you, I have raised five kids to adulthood, in spite of chronic depression and other health problems. And though it hurts my heart to see some of them also struggling with depression, they are all great people I am very proud of.

    I find that an “attitude of gratitude” helps immensely, but sometimes I just want some acknowledgement that yes, I am struggling too and the struggle is heroic, even if others may struggle more. I have found a certain perverted usefulness in the fact that others can relate to me -because- I have struggled: through miscarriages, death of my first grandchild at one month, widowhood at 53, permanent disability at 55, anxiety every time I have to leave the house since my accident, undiagnosed health problems, whatever . . . So, to all of you, yes, your struggle is awful and real and we see you and commend you that you still struggle on.

  3. I had so much nothing to say that I have deleted my blog and ended my writing for the time being, to focus on something that makes me feel like less of a writer failure and more like a better… something else… I guess.

    So grateful for your community here. Thanks for your honesty and open heart. It means a lot and I hope you find yourself feeling sunnier, soon! All The Things that you have to say matter so much, regardless of their superfluous “importance” ranking. Your sharing brings people together, whether it’s about bathroom stink or Golden Books or the deepest parts of your heart. Thank you.

  4. Oh honey, I needed this. Spring is when depression rears its ugly head for me too. I love the screen door comment above…it’s so true! Nearly 9 months after baby #5 was born and I’m still heavy in the midst of my third bout of postpartum depression (mixed in with my usual mini-bouts of depression I’ve been having since puberty hit. damn hormones). Not so deeply mired as to have my husband and own mama swoop in to help…just mired enough that I feel like I should be doing All The Things and everyone else kind of thinks I should be doing All The Things, but I just can’t seem to do ANY of The Things.
    It’s just good to know I’m not the only one. Thank heavens for zoloft, right?

  5. Where, oh where to start? I found your blog about a year ago. It has really helped me feel like I’m not alone. Even when life is overwhelming and all that lurks ahead seems dark, like right now, I’m not alone. I’m wife to a loving man that is a great dad but has been awaiting a knee replacement for almost 3 years and isn’t so good at waiting and just lost his mom the day before Easter to a 6 year battle with cancer who was his rock. Things are dark right now. Very dark. We are all sort of dealing with our broken hearts in our own ways but there is still the real life, world isn’t going to stop turning while I get my stuff together stuff that I don’t know if I’m dealing with very well. The running my business 50+ hours a week to make sure the lights stay on and we can all still eat. The school board that has 2 emergency meetings on top of the 2 regular meetings in the last 2 months. All the end of the year Girl Scout co – leader stuff that I should be doing but can’t even start thinking about right now. Oh and a mama cat that decided to abandon a 3 week old kitten in our yard because I needed one more living, breathing thing to try and keep that way. But it will all be okay and everything will work itself out one baby step at a time. At least I have lost my voice for a few days so I have an excuse to take a small break. Thank you for making me feel like it’s okay to not always be okay.

  6. Oh Beth, where to begin?? Thank you feels appropriate.

    When I had my first daughter, Madelyn, in September 2011, I found your blog. I can’t remember how, but I do know that you really helped me get through. Especially your “Open Letter to New Mama Me”. You understood me. I wasn’t alone and you helped remind me that my feelings were normal. I would read your blog daily. Somewhere along the line, I started to fall off and only checked every few weeks. Now it has been a few months. I guess “depression, anxiety, and lethargy” took over somewhere along the line.

    We recently found out we are expecting baby #2. Yay! Right?? We have been trying for months, but suddenly I am overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Over the last few weeks first trimester “crazy” has come out. My husband came home from work last night and I cried to him. I cried hard. I told him I felt scared and alone and was sad that my daughter is more than 2 1/2 years old and I have yet to find my “mama tribe”. My husband is a great man and my best friend, but I need a female. I need a best friend besides him. As I was explaining my feelings, you know what he recommended? Why don’t you go read that blog? She always inspired you. He was right.

    When I checked my email today I had an email waiting for me with your latest blog post. Instead of putting it away in my “5 kids is a lot of kids” folder before even reading it, I decided to read it today. Thank you. Beth, how do you get inside my head each and every time? How do you know exactly what to say? I have suffered with depression ever since I hit puberty. It is something I have, and will always struggle with. For some reason, I feel alone in that battle. Thank you so much for reminding me that I am not alone.

    I feel like you helped me in such a profound way. No words can describe the feeling that came over me as I read your words. You nailed it, Beth. I am done hiding my head in my feelings, instead, I will play like beast. I am not alone.

    • Oh, thank you for this, Aimee. Both your kindness to me and especially the telling of your story. Love to you, mama, and know that we’re here to be your mama tribe, which isn’t the same as a mama BFF in person but is still the Village. x’s and o’s

  7. I HATE thigh holes.

    And also, the feeling overwhelmed. How do you survive twins at 2 who can no longer be contained anywhere and now won’t sleep without my presence?
    I think that Mother’s Day smartphone is my one tenuous thread to sanity for the now hours that I have spent in my girls room this week in the semi-dark. And I have VERY little to show for my time since that was my time to do all the grownup things that need to be done.


    • Ah, yes. Twins at 2. This I remember and the hours of laying in the dark with them. I wish I had magical advice. Instead, I’ll just hold your virtual hand in the dark. Love to you and yours, Krista.

  8. TY!!! YES!!!!! That! What you said!!! And Beth of course 🙂 and everyone who mentioned the sheer HELL that is spring and summer. There’s so much LIGHT. it’s all so LIT. The sun makes me angry and depressed. I can’t stand it. Holy crap I NEVER knew that other people hated spring. Hooray for validation! Thank you all!

  9. For what it’s worth, in Finland we have a term for “spring depression”. What I got from quick googling and some newspaper articles, apparently it may be due to increasing light and changing hormone levels. If you already have depression, spring can easily strengthen the effects. So you’re not alone in feeling depressed in spring, and there’s nothing unnatural about it either. Unfortunately.
    I know it’s probably not possible to take it easy with your crazy life, but at least you can try to give yourself extra breaks for now. You’re not lazy. Your body just needs time to catch up with the light.

  10. You know, I wanted to be a writer when I was younger. The reason I don’t write (even though I think I’m “not that bad” at it) is that I feel I have nothing to say that anyone wants to hear. I could just kick myself for not getting in on all this bloggy action, since the advice blogs – all those money-saving and diy and mom-advice blogs – all that is stuff I KNOW. Stuff I’ve been doing forever. And now I’m a food nazi, and my husband says, “You should blog about this” and I say, no, no, everyone else is already all over it. So you may feel like you’re not winning at the moment, but to me you are a BEAST, because you are DOING IT.

  11. I feel as though you spoke directly to me. Thank you! Thank you for writing even when you weren’t sure you had something worth sharing. Spring and (especially summer) is when my tendency for depression comes swooping in. In winter the early darkness and dim light is better at camoflaging all the things that overwhelm me in the summer.. yard work, home repairs, the dirty sliding door… Spring brings all the things to light that need to be done. I always feel like everyone else springs into action transforming their homes into shoelaces and heading out early this weekend for biking, hiking and golfing adventures with their families. Depression sets in and overwhelms me. I feel as though everyone else is maximizing every glorious second of their evenings and weekends and I am just trying to recover from a grueling work week and just trying to catch up from the laundry and mess incurred during the week. I feel like I am letting my little ones down by not heading out on epic adventures like all the others around us. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone.

  12. You know.. sometimes you just need something. You dont know what it is.. but it feels like you need a little boost. For me, with the world falling down around me, it is the email from you! Thank you for sharing. Thank you for giving me a boost while you are depressed :). And you are right, depression is a lying liar who lies.. I definatly want to hear what you have to say.. I could read all day long.

  13. Yes! It’s March and October for me. I’m a teacher so when we hit October, I have a pretty good idea about which of my students will struggle all year. And my students and I realize we are “stuck” with each other for 8 more months. And then March comes and we have no breaks and the hope we all had that second semester would be better begins to fade.

    And yes! Fighting. Playing like a BEAST.


  14. This morning I got up and did my Bible study like usual, then put my head down on my Bible and cried from discouragement and weariness. I miscarried two weeks ago, we’re without income and in debt up to our eyeballs, and our three wonderful, beautiful, healthy children who I really AM grateful for and DO love more than my own life are driving me crazy–especially the two-year-old, because DEAR LORD, TWO-YEAR-OLDS!!! I prayed “Please, God, just give me something. Please just give me SOMETHING. Something to keep me going. Something to encourage me.” Then I got up, realized the coffee maker had clogged and overflowed, cleaned that up, took a lukewarm shower because the water just wouldn’t heat up for some reason, and made breakfast without being able to pour ANYTHING without spilling half of it. Felt like my prayer had been swiftly answered with a resounding “NO.”

    I’ve never been treated for depression, mostly out of fear that some of the most important people in my life would think less of me because they didn’t believe it was really a thing. (But I know it is.) And maybe it won’t slither out of its dark hole in the back of my mind and try to strangle me this time, though this certainly seems like a prime opportunity. But if it does, I’m not just going to sit on the kitchen floor and cry while the kids look at me in confusion. I mean, I’ll probably do some of that (and may have already recently…) but that’s not all I’ll do. I’ll, like, actually go talk to someone with some counseling and/or medical credentials. How crazy would that be? But hey, if y’all can do it, so can I, right?

    So I guess reading this was encouraging–which is kind of annoying, actually. I was really hoping for some big, dazzling encouragement in the form of check, cash, or free babysitting. (Though my “baby” just came and sat on me, free of charge.) But. I’ll take what I can get.

    • Ha! Your last paragraph cracked me up because YES. RIGHT? Cash or free babysitting – we’re not picky – so COME ON, GOD; get to work! But no. Instead, we have each other to help us muddle through. 😉

      Rachel, I’m so sorry for your recent loss. I’ve miscarried babies, too, and the grief was truly overwhelming. Sending you lots of love and prayers for comfort.

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