My biggest fault is being late. Often. Maybe always. Ten minutes is my sweet spot. Hours late has happened. And there was that one time I was weeks late. My sad truth.
I blame my mother. She carried me nearly a month after my due date until I finally decided to burst into this world on September 18, 1954, so I was late from the get-go. Exactly 63 years ago today. And I’ve been late ever since.
The ten-minutes-late habit is breakable. It’s the result of me finding one more thing to get done before I rush out the door to be somewhere. It’s a bad habit. It’s OCD in a nutshell. It’s ridiculous.
The hours late behavior was a result of having 6 kids, while at the same time actively being on a local school board, traveling regularly to Sacramento to serve on a state school board organization’s board of directors, running a regional church children’s organization and a small business, and entertaining nearly every weekend. It’s called overload.
It’s also called disrespectful. I was so caught up in MY busy life, I had little regard for anyone else’s equally busy life. Inexcusable. And embarrassing.
And then there’s that one time I didn’t show for weeks. This one took me years to figure out. It’s a bit different than the other two.
It’s called DEPRESSION.
I’ve never been officially diagnosed with depression, but it’s really not necessary. There is no question that for many years my life was severely affected by it. I couldn’t get out of bed. I barely functioned. But when I did function, I was stellar – that’s the OCD, overachiever side of me. It’s still alive and well, by the way.
I was late everywhere, my kids were late too, because of me. I feel so bad about that. (they hate being late to this day)
And then there was the time I was traveling to visit a friend about 4 hours away, and planned to swing by my daughter’s too, and never made it to either. I never called to tell them, I didn’t answer their calls, nothing….for several weeks…(this was before Facebook when they could find me easily).
This several-weeks-late experience is still talked about (they won’t let me forget it, and I don’t blame them), but it doesn’t need to be for me to remember. It took years, but when I finally climbed out from the pit of depression, the memory of that terrible no-show was a real wake up call for me.
At that time, when I didn’t make the trip, didn’t call to say I wasn’t coming….I simply couldn’t handle another call, another explanation, another conversation. I couldn’t handle another human being. I was maxed out. I wasn’t coming as planned. I had to delay my trip. I had work to do. I was divorcing a person who had been added into my life for all the wrong reasons. I had to arrange for the kids to stay with their Dad so I could go anywhere. There were lots of things going on, but mostly, I was on overload. I literally couldn’t take on one more thing, not even a simple phone call.
I was a single Mom working very hard, trying to maintain the lifestyle of the past (back when I was married to my kids Dad). I was struggling to make ends meet, but still trying to live as if I had oodles of money. And I was doing it by myself after experiencing several years of emotional struggles due to the short 2nd marriage I was leaving. My self-esteem was shot. I wasn’t making sense to myself or anyone. And I had maxed out. It was a dark time in my life.
When that happened, and when I feel that darkness approaching today, I go into stealth mode. I withdraw to figure out what’s going on and how to get back to the lighter side of life. Self-imposed isolation is another term for it.
I don’t use and have never used drugs or alcohol to get through the tough times, self-medicate, get high, party, or avoid reality. I was never tempted, never curious enough or enticed by that world.
I’ve never been an addict.
My M.O. is to simply retreat into my shell, close out the world, and take time to think, and hopefully, get some answers. I turn off my phone, ignore calls, emails, doorbells, appointments, and cogitate. Alone. It’s what I call my survival mode. I’ve retreated many, many times over the years, but in 63 years, never have I been as depressed as I was in the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of this century. (you can tell I’m feeling my age today, why else would I be talking in “century-speak”?)
When I come out of my self-induced isolation, I’m a new person. Rejuvenated, ready to jump back into life, cheerfully calling friends and family (who are angry and worried), as if nothing is wrong. And then I am astounded when they don’t respond with the joyous energy the newly rejuvenated me is offering them.
But again, I’m late. My cheeriness is ill-timed and inappropriate. They’ve been worried. They’ve been pushed away. They aren’t cheery.
And so, yes, I want to thank my Mom.
I want to thank my Mom for always being there when I finally did call. For putting up with my moods. For loving me even when I wasn’t lovable. For understanding those mood swings better than I did, since she lived most of her life with my Dad’s depression and mood swings.
I want to thank my Mom for walking up and down the hills of Ontario and Upland, California way back in September 1954 in an effort to induce delivery of her very, very late first child. Me. She loved me even when she was miserable because for my very first time, I was late.
I want to thank my Mom for giving me life. For carrying me around inside her for weeks longer than normal. For carrying me in spirit over those darkest years. I’m not sure she knew how much I loved her. I’m not sure I knew how much I loved her. I know now. And I miss her every single day. I want to tell her today how much I loved her then, how much I love her now, but again, I’m late.
And I want to thank everyone who waited for me…
Every single person who waited…when I was late, when I was hiding, when I was lost. Thank you to my friends, my family, my husband and my colleagues. I’m sorry I kept you waiting, for minutes or longer. And I’m so sorry I made my kids late, so many times.
Depression, undiagnosed, untreated, and out of control, is debilitating. Sunny on the outside, but stormy on the inside. That was my life. I’m lucky I survived. I’m lucky they waited.
Being habitually late is a weakness. It’s a flaw. It’s selfish and unacceptable. And for me, it was a result of depression. Thank God those dark moments are rare now. Thank God I never felt the need to self-medicate, or the desire to take my life, or the loss of ALL motivation. There was always some light in my darkness. My children. My hope. My love of life. My desire to succeed and help others do the same. And later, my husband Hal, my saving grace. The one who waited the longest. I don’t deserve him, but I try to every single day.
So, am I still late? Not nearly as often as I used to be. Do I still hibernate? Rarely, but I do ignore the phone most of the time. And I take time to myself on a regular basis. It’s what I’ve learned keeps me sane. (Bathtubs can be miraculous, long drives even more so)
I’m not depressed and haven’t been for years. I’m lucky and I know it. And I’m grateful.
Bottom line? 1) Mom’s rock. Reach out to your Mom before it’s too late. 2) Take time for yourself. You deserve it and probably need it, 3) Depression is real. Don’t pretend it isn’t. Find out what works for you. Get help., and 4) Reach out to me anytime by text, email, or FB and I’ll be right there.
But call me and you might have to wait awhile. I just might be cogitating.
Jean Krisle is the CEO/Founder of 10,000 Beds, Inc. a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Our mission is recovery. We are currently #OnTheRoad4Recovery through 2018 to elevate awareness, change perceptions around addiction and recovery, and connect with partners new and old. You can connect with Jean at the 2017 ETHOS conferences in Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and New Orleans. You can support 10,000 Beds by making a contribution today to help provide scholarships for those without resources seeking help for addiction.