Treading Water

I am not me.

Well, I am. I think.

But I’m not.

Treading in swamp water

It's thick and green and clings to my skin as I fight to stay above.

Life hopped onto the emotional roller coaster last October, zooming upside down, through twists and turns, before releasing the safety harness and dumping me into the murky swampy area beneath.

I’m still treading water.

My sleep patterns are wrong. One night my body sleeps ten hours as though beaten into exhaustion. Another my brain whirls just enough I almost see the dawn rise. I read one sentence about zombies and they haunt every dream that night, tormenting me. Why does the same not happen when reading about Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) or Matt Bomer (aka Neal Caffrey in White Collar)?

Who would you rather dream about?

Who would you rather have in your dreams? (side note: I just realized creating this collage will likely give me nightmares tonight.)

I tried to focus on the humor. The silly. Even when I wanted to scream to the world.

I failed on much of it, many posts never seeing the light of day. The only amusing writing came courtesy of my children.

It’s a good thing four and half year olds and two year olds are funny.

What I really wanted to write stayed mostly hidden.

Not anymore.

I was a bystander, suffocating in helplessness as I tried to pull a friend from the icy emptiness of depression and keep them from committing suicide. The fear of failure. The worry if the phone went unanswered. The inability to show depression lied and it would get better, no matter how many conversations we had. The nausea pooling in my gut as I crept downstairs in the middle of the night to make sure my friend still breathed. Sharing the couch until sleep cast its protective blanket. Not a day passed I didn’t want to scream, “I’m useless! What do I do?” Except for sharing it with two close friends, I stayed silent. It wasn’t my story to tell.

Toss in a serious family health issues threatening to end our planned Christmas trip to Colorado. Tests were done. Then more, the plan changing with each result. I spent each day not knowing if the four of us would be alone or with the rest of family in Colorado, or if we’d have to cancel plans and try to find a flight to Iowa. Until the day we were finally together in the mountains.

Mix in the croup cough for a two year old girl and multiple nights of exhaustion as any attempt to lay Lil Diva down results in wheezing, coughing, and pitiful cries.

Chase it with a wave of tragedy as my brother gets a phone call with the news one of his best friends (Marcus) was in an accident. Marcus was okay and left his car (along with a good Samaritan) to help the other driver, whose car had flipped. An intoxicated driver then struck them all, killing Marcus instantly and putting the other two in critical condition.

Marcus was 21 years old.

End with the drops of tears, as my cousin and his wife say good-bye to Beckham Nathanial, just hours after Christmas ended. He was one pound and ten inches long, leaving to be with God just two weeks shy of being able to breathe in this world.

Joy is peppered in between the sorrow, anxiety, depression, and loss.

I find I cannot write about it with the weight of reality trapping me, even when I do find the time.

When I am mad, I yell.

When I am sad, I cry.

When the lows hit, I have to talk about them to break free of their hold.

I haven’t been talking.

I have always said I will share the truth here. The good. The bad. The stinky.

This writing block prevented me from speaking words of comfort, choosing instead to pretend they weren’t needed.

For my brother. For my cousin. Everything seemed too…. trite. It wasn’t enough. It was wrong.

I’m sharing my words now, whether right, wrong, or not enough.

For my friend: Never forget you are strong, smart, and above all human. It is okay to fail. It is okay to not be perfect. It okay to ask for help whenever you need it. You enrich this world and I selfishly do not ever want to think of how it would be without you in it. I love you too much.

For my brother: Remember Marcus’s words and live each day to the fullest. For you. For him. And know I am always here to listen, even though years and miles separate us. Your niece and nephew miss you, as do I.

For my cousin: I cannot even fathom the loss you feel. Your faith is strong, and while we all wish Beckham could have shared our lives for much longer, you know he is wrapped in God’s loving arms, watching over you, his mommy, and his brothers.

For my husband: Thank you for your understanding as I slept late, your compassion in opening our home, and your mad-Tetris skills.

For my whole family: I love you all and miss you. You know, Texas is much warmer than Iowa in winter…

For my readers: Thank you for listening. For commenting. I have been lax in sharing the love because much of my free time has been spent simply coping. Know even if life prevents me from replying to your comment, or visiting your blog in kind, the time you took to read and let me know you read means everything.

Thanks for hanging around.

Hopefully this post will give me the strength to swim.

Maybe I can bring the funny back. Or at least, what has happened the last three weeks before it is lost into the mommy brain black hole…..

Let's BEE Friends

Edited to add these lyrics my cousin’s wife shared of a song sung at Beckham’s Celebration of Life ceremony, which I missed due to the long distance:

“And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm”
(Casting Crowns)

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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61 Responses to Treading Water

  1. Katie says:

    You made me cry. Sorry you’ve had so much sadness recently and I hope things start to look up soon.

    • There have been many good things too, wonderful moments.

      If I fail to mention the lows to go with the highs, it bothers me – as though I’m spinning life into a fairy tale, which it is not.

      I was afraid to write about the depression, because my friend reads my blog and I feared any hint of the stress I was under might push her over – even though I made it clear it was my choice to be there and the alternative was not acceptable.

      I didn’t want to bring down the holidays, or write about problems that might never come to fruition.

      I don’t like writing when I don’t know the outcome or ending.

      And I still don’t know what to do for someone else’s grief. Words fail me. I just want to give them a hug and hold them tight.

      Things are getting better, which is why I can write about it.

      Thank you for being there. I can’t believe how big Lil sis is now!

  2. Oh, girl. You’ve really been put through the ringer lately. Sending prayers. xo

    • I feel unworthy of prayers. I am not the one truly in pain – I am the bystander helpless to help others.

      If that makes sense.

      But good thoughts are always welcomed, even if I am not the deserving recipient.

      I just had to… well… pour my heart out. 🙂

      • But being a bystander to the pain of those whom you love is so very difficult. And you do deserve the prayers and support around you. Because that’s what gives you the strength to be what they need you to be.

        So I hope you know that the support is there. It is here.
        Please know it.

  3. Dear Kelly, I don’t know you in person but I don’t think you really are a “helpless bystander”, as you wrote. Being the one who usually needs help, I know how important it is to have someone who’s always there (or at least does his/her best to be), even if they don’t seem to do anything. Your blog has shown me your strength (not to mention humor) in coping with everyday life. I hope things will get better soon.

    • My friend assures me (after reading this) I did help and I am why they are alive.

      But at the time, all I felt was nothing I did was enough. I worried even more I would do the wrong thing.

      Humor is usually how I cope, but it failed me this time.

      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment! It means so much.

  4. visitingmissouri says:

    The like indicates goozebumps, as I want to point out.

  5. Lori dyan says:

    Funny can be overrated and has its time/place. Keep writing with honesty-we are reading and your words matter to us.

    • Thanks Lori.

      I am always honest, but try to revisit the low points using humor as a way to cope.

      Somethings… like your post about the creepy pedophile… you just can twist. This was one of them.

      Honestly – I had no idea you read my blog, minus a few offhand ones. I still get yours via email, though I admit I rarely make it to a laptop to comment.

      Thank you. For listening.

  6. Janet says:

    Please don’t feel “unworthy of prayers”. We are all worthy of prayers. And you are going through a great deal.

    I, personally, am helped more by reading blogs which are honest and open about the hard times than a blog which tries to be “entertaining”. Please write about whatever you feel you need to write in order to express your true feelings.

    I’ve never been suicidal, but when I had a very severe post-partum illness (both physical and emotional), I would tell my husband and friends that the best thing they could do for me was to put their arms around me and tell me that it would “be OK”. I’m writing this because I think you are hard on yourself for not knowing the “right” thing to do for your friend. Saying, “I’m here for you -it’ll be OK” is very simple, but extremely comforting. I don’t know your friend, but maybe this will help her. She must know you love her, and sometimes just the touch of a caring person and compassionate words can be much, much more than enough.

    I never felt like my husband or my friends were not being honest when they told me “It’ll be OK”, because things were so bad, I knew they had to get better to some extent.

    Your friends and family are very blessed to have you in their lives.

    • It just didn’t feel right to have prayers “for me”. I was not the one suffering from depression. I was not the one who lost a close a friend or child.

      I feared this post would translate into nothing more than whining about things I could not control.

      After reading the responses, I no longer feel that way.

      So thank you.

  7. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    My friend, I am crying for all the stress and darkness you’ve been through lately. I know you’re going to say others have gone through worse, but as someone else already pointed out. You are a helper of others.
    I’m glad you wrote off your troubles. It always helps to talk. Know that we are always listening. And you are not alone. Reach out to us. I wish you and yours many great things this year.

  8. lexy3587 says:

    A very long-distance hug. Glad to hear you’re still treading water, and hoping you get a boat-ride back to shore soon

  9. hanelene says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the awful time you’ve been having. You are a fabulous writer – funny or not, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Hang in there, and remember to ask for help. You deserve it too.

  10. Leigh Ann says:

    That’s a huge burden to carry, and I’m sorry for all that you’ve been going through and the losses that your friends and family have suffered. I can’t imagine.

    • I wish I could do more.

      Sometimes I wish everyone was a toddler, where you could kiss the boo-boo and magically everything is all better.

      Then I remember temper tantrums go with it and reconsider.

      Thank you for your words. Your daily life amazes me.

  11. My Kel. You know I love you. Such beautiful words through such pain. Your funny is not lost; it is merely resting and building as more important emotions need to air. I’ve been in that place where I could not be funny. I could not even answer the phone.

    This is a huge burden, and yet you manage to write about it poetically. That is a gift. You are a gift.

    • Lee – You are one who listened to me rage and cry in frustration when I had to scream. I can never thank you enough.

      Know if you can’t answer the phone again, I will be here. Or if you need someone to stomp out the evil inner critic.

      I’m great at stomping.

      And your words, calling me a gift…

      I love you too, my friend.

  12. alycianeighbours says:

    Sometimes we have to get the tears out to release the laughter that was blocked by pain. You’ve been through it, but you will come through it!

    • During much of this, you were on my mind. Your journey. Your pain. How you pulled through.

      I don’t comment much but your writing always pulls me in – whether funny or serious.

      Thank you so much for writing honestly. And for your comment.

  13. Holly Baker says:

    You don’t always have to be funny. This post was one of my favorites. Just keep being You, that’s enough!

  14. Elena Aitken says:

    Big hugs to you. Sometimes life throws us curve balls, sometimes it throws us a s***storm. The true test is how you handle it. You, my friend, have handled it with grace, dignity and a strength that is a true gift.
    It’s okay to reach out, it’s okay to not be funny, it’s okay to be real and know that you have friends who love and support you through it all.
    I’m glad to hear the clouds are clearing a little now. And as long as you know it will get better, it will.
    Hang in there.

    • Thank you Elena.

      I vividly recall hearing of a writing weekend in November and even though it’s winter there and nice here, at that moment I wanted nothing more than to run away for two days and write at your cabin.

      But I was needed here. And honestly, if I’d had tickets to come, I don’t think I could have at that critical point.

      My friend sees the light again. The fear of losing her to depression is gone.

      And now I’m wondering how to get there for another girls weekend…. Because it was the best medicine.

  15. Piper Bayard says:

    To everything there is a season. Some day you will wake up, and it won’t be the first thing you think about.

    I’m so sorry you and your loved ones are suffering. Thank you for the “real” you bring to the world. Real is the other side of the funny coin.

    Many prayers.

    • Thank you, Piper.

      I try to always be real, just real while peeping through the humor goggles. I find laughter the best way to deal with two very active young children.

      But this… I couldn’t.

      Thank you for listening. These comments have made the world of difference to helping me move forward.

  16. skwerl58 says:

    One day at a time, that’s all any of us can do. You have to trust that it will get better, because it will with time.
    I can relate all to well to the feelings of inadequacy in times of tragedy and grief. Trite is exactly the word I use to describe what I hear coming from my mouth, but with time I have learned that the words don’t matter. There aren’t any magic words that will heal the wounds, so anything seems to fall short of the mark. The simple fact that you show that you care is the best you can do, and it is all the grieving loved one wants from you.

  17. Ellie says:

    Just speaking it is important. I hope you get rest, I hope your horrible nightmares go away and your kids stay healthy.
    What you are doing…loving and caring about those around you….wow, so eternal and important.

  18. First off, I wish I was there to hug you even though you don’t know me from anyone and I might totally freak you out if I did! Secondly I have known depression far too intimately and having a friend like you is what has put me back on the right path. Your friend just needs to know that you aren’t judging her and that she is needed in your life. My heart goes out to both your brother and cousin. As hard as it is to cope with, when things as random as Marcus’s death happens, you just have to believe that when your time is up, it is up. He and the baby both are in a better place. Hang in there and don’t hold back your writing. It always feels better to get it out, even if in the end you decide not to post it. I hope for you that you have seen the darkest hour and that now you will be able to sit back and enjoy the sunrise.

  19. Diana Stevan says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I’ve had a lot to cry about myself this past year, and sleepless nights to go along with it. Your sharing reminded me that I’m not alone in my grief. No matter where and how, life does give us lemons at times. Some unfortunately get more than others. Thank you for sharing, and may God bless you and your family for your caring.

  20. Kelly:

    I am so sorry that you have felt alone. I, too, have my blogging secrets: the things I haven’t dared to share. I am really glad that you wrote this. And if we’re being honest, I could tell something was awry. Because you were showing so many pictures of the kids. And everything looked all perfect-ishy. And I know that’s what I do when the world is not so perfect. I try to pretend. I write about flowers and rainbows and elves. So I’m glad that this piece is a bit of the Kelly that I first met. Because this is the writing that drew me in.

    I understand that you have been too drained to do it, but I’d rather read a few of these — from the heart than view post after post of pictures. Because then I just don’t know what to say.

    My heart aches for your loss. For your fear. I have been in these places, and I am remembering. I am so glad you got to the mountains. Hold onto your children. They are borrowed. We all are. Nothing is permanent, and I’ve been realizing this more than ever since I seem to lose more friends to cancer each year.

    But I can’t write much about it. Not yet.

    Thank you for finally sharing what has been in your heart. I am so sorry that I haven’t been here for you. I am now.

  21. Thinking of you, sending ((HUGS)) and look forward to reading all the words that come (the good, the bad, the sorrow).


  22. I can almost feel in detail what you felt as you wrote this. So much pain.

  23. Amazing. Heartfelt. I could almost feel what you were feeling. *shivers*

  24. educlaytion says:

    Kelly, I know how you feel about the dark times of life taking your funny away. I’m sorry that you’ve been surrounded by so much of it. It’s hard to be the light when those around you can’t come alongside and help. Know that you are loved. Lean on your husband and see your kid’s faces as a reminder that there is still hope and goodness.

  25. Renee says:

    I give you great big hugs of love!

    Perhaps invite one of those studly zombie hunters to your dreams…

  26. ocdtalk says:

    This heartfelt post reminds me how important it is for us all to be real……because, if we’re not, then really, what is the point? It is obvious from how much the events you mention have affected you that you care deeply about your family and friends…..I am so sorry you have been burdened and hope that writing has helped lift some of the sadness. I wish you brighter days ahead.

  27. Kristina says:

    I have missed you but was hoping the quiet was for good reasons. I’m so sorry. {hugs}

  28. Hang in there. You’re carrying such a heavy burden, but what you’ve written is uplifting and beautiful. Do keep treading and you’ll find yourself out of the water soon.

  29. I love that song and it has brought me through a LOT. 🙂

  30. Kiddothings says:

    I’m so sorry for what you’re going through and for all the tragedies that you mentioned. I can only hope and pray that there will be better times ahead for you. Take care.

  31. Annie says:

    I feel for you. You have been dealing with so much. Wish I could give you a hug. Life stresses always seem to come in layered waves like that. I understand why you couldn’t write about it sooner.
    My prayers go out to you, and yes, you are worthy of them. :).

  32. Such a powerful post. My heart goes out to you and all the people in your life who have suffered tragedy and loss and stress. I feel for you. It’s good to write about it. It’s good to get it all off your chest. My prayers go out to you and your friend and your family. *Hugs*

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  34. Leighann says:

    Hold on.
    You will make it through this storm.
    It feel disastorous now but will be soon followed by calm.
    Keep fighting.
    You have it in you.

  35. Liz McLennan says:

    A season of loss…and found, my darling friend. So thankful that you’ve written and released some of that which haunts you. Know that you are not alone in this, you never were, never will be.

    The holidays add an extra measure of melancholy to even the happiest moments – I don’t know why that is, exactly – but when tradgedy strikes on top and one has already been treading water, well….it’s a wonder you can write this at all. THAT my friend, is the strength that will get you through. And love, from those of us out here, who adore you from afar.

  36. It sounds like a lot of people have needed your strength and support lately. Everyone needs a friend like you. Take care of yourself.

  37. I am glad that you eventually found a space to share this. I’m sorry you carried it all on your own for so long.

    I hope you’re okay.


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  41. Thank you for sharing this – and for reaching out to me last night. If there’s anything, ANYTHING I can do to help, please let me know. xoxoxo

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