June 9, 2014

The thief who steals precious time

As I watched foamy white fingers dance across the dark green waves at the beach recently, all I could think about was time.

It’s the one thing we all share. It’s the one thing we can’t control. And it’s the one thing we can never get back. As orderly and predictable as time is, none of us can predict how much we have.

Toes pressed into the sand, I watched my children, so big and grown, play in the surf. Memories that made me smile and made me cry flashed through my racing mind.

I could see myself sitting in the sand with my daughter—a toddler at the time—building sand castles in that perfect spot on the beach, the smooth place where the waves slowly run out and then retreat to the water. She’s 15 now.

I could see my middle child, who didn’t like the sand much, sitting in a chair for hours with his finger in his mouth, soaking it all in while never complaining. He’s too big to sit in my lap now, and probably wouldn’t want to anyway.

I could see our baby the first time we took him to the beach, when he fearlessly crawled so far into the water waves were crashing into his face before I scooped him into my arms. He starts his last year of elementary school in two months.

Time. My relationship with time is stormy and complicated. I resent time because I’ve lost so much of it to my disease. There are things I can’t remember. There are life experiences that run together, tormenting me because I can’t remember each precious day I’ve had with my family.

Even our most recent trip to the beach is a blur in some ways, maybe because I was distracted with unexpected work and spent too much time staring at this laptop.

Time is hard for those with serious mental illness. Our days of suffering feel interminable, our good days fleeting and few. Maybe that’s normal, but I suspect it isn’t. My disease has caused me to miss much of life. What I would do to have every one of those really bad days back to do over again when I’m feeling healthy.

They say you should live with no regrets, never looking back. I don’t know why that’s so hard for me to do, but it is.

Mental illness distorts one’s thinking, so I guess it only makes sense it would distort our sense of time. We worry about the time in front of us, regret the time behind us and fail to appreciate the time passing by at every moment.

I hope those who read this don’t take it as whiny discontent or juvenile bitterness. I write about mental illness to help me cope, to give others hope and to help the “normal” among us understand what life is like inside a troubled mind.

I haven’t written in a while, partly because I’ve had longer periods of good mental health—but also because I’ve secretly been hoping the dragon has been slayed, never to return. I fear speaking his name might rouse him from his slumber.

The truth is I know the dragon is out there somewhere, still waiting for me.  He might even be just beyond those green waves.


  1. I have just begun to realize the memory loss associated with the disease. I have said things to my wife while manic and I have even been having normal conversation with her and I swore up and down that I went to McDonalds a month ago and that I wasn't eating unhealthy and I wasn't manic spending. She showed me the credit card statement and I was shocked. I feel like you do. I feel good right now, and yet these kind of things happen. My regret is that I don't know that it can be better than normal for me is.

  2. I greatly appreciate and treasure your insight. I couldn't help thinking today of Leviathan - the monster from the deep. Isaiah 27:1-6 offers some hope on the spiritual battle with this dragon.

    On another note, I think of you when I watch Scott Pelley. His skillful writing style and his physical appearance remind me of my friend. Blessings to you!

  3. I guess as much as living an unhealthy life can lead to physical illness. Twisted thinking can lead to poor decision making and ultimately mental illness. With a physical illness, it's treated and there then follows a period of rest and exercise while the body recovers. With mental illness I think the rest period is where we also need to look at our thinking patterns and processes. I have/had a tendancy to think of the future and not the present. That lead/leads to the future not happening the way I would of wanted because I wasn't taking care of the present. Or indeed living in the present. So that's where I am. Working on living in the present and filling my time with something useful and rewarding.
    I think time is a little like the weather. We do remember the odd wonderful summer or a terrible winter but in the main it's the current weather that interests us the most. If it's good it cheers us up. Be bright and sunny and cheer up those around you.

  4. Hi Jack,

    I googled "war with depression" today and came upon your blog.

    I have been blogging recently about my own battle, and it struck me this morning how this metaphor can be used in our own journeys to recovery.

    This is so much more than a "struggle" - this is truly a war. A very complex but winnable war.

    If you can, please read my latest entry http://thatwastheriver.blogspot.com/

    I have come to the conclusion that a sort of "thermonuclear" option must be used, and that for me is an attempt to fully embrace positivity in my writing, and hopefully in my thinking. This, in addition to traditional methods (the ground war), hopefully holds the key to my own victory.

    I wish you health and happiness, and hope to hear back,


    1. Hi Paul,

      I would love to read you blog, as well. I've battled depression and anxiety nearly all my life and reading the work of others who suffer similar issues helps me pick up on possible remedies. Would you be willing to share your blog with me? If you need to reach me by e-mail, it is mlaw13rolltide@gmail.com.

      Take care,


    2. http://thatwastheriver.blogspot.com/

  5. Jack,
    I don't know that you'll get this message but it's worth a shot.

    You and I are in the same foxhole though we haven't met. I'm 53 now...married with two adult daughters. I've been enduring depression and anxiety for what seems like most of my life. I've tried it all and some things most never heard of. At this point I feel like I'm losing the battle and all options have been exhausted.

    I've been keeping a blog for a few years now. I too had hoped it would be a source of comfort or therapy for me as well as possible hope for others in our same foxhole. It really hasn't helped me much but I have heard from a couple of people that they have been touched by my experiences. I welcome you to view it from the beginning though it's not a happy read.

    Anyway, continue the battle even though you have no idea why or what you're fighting for anymore. Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

    Take care,

  6. Jack:

    Thank you for another insightful addition to your blog. Again, I can relate to your experience and regret at time lost. I literally lost 11 or so years of my life struggling with this disease. When my disease began to spiral most out of control, my youngest was five. He is 16 now and I have missed out on most of his life. Sure, there are some good memories and I cling to those nuggets of gold, but so much is lost. It's comforting, to me, to hear the experiences of others and for that I thank you.


  7. I came across your blog after having a google for mental health based blogs and I must say, I'm glad I did. (: I suffer with severe depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety so it's nice to see someone speaking so openly. I've recently created my own blog based on mental health and it just feels nice to be able to talk about it. Good luck with your journey.


  8. Thank you for writing this blog. You are able to put in to words what I feel, but I somehow don't have the capability anymore of expressing. Your words are a source of comfort to me.