From Under the Waves–On the Occasion that You Feel Alone

Dear Lily June,

I am tempted not to tell you about days like today.

Is there a way to say there are days my heart feels exposed and every nerve inside achingly raw without being frightening? And, my darling little one, don’t I have to confess in hushed tones that on days like today–when it feels as if I am drowning inside a sea of myself, that I, too, am frightened?

Can there be anything more frightening to a child than knowing your own mother is afraid? Can there be anything more frightening to a mother than knowing your fear might scare your no-matter-their-age baby?

And yet, someday, you could be here, and if I never told you “here” was “there” as a place you could someday be, what then? Will you believe you invented depression, and that you are trapped, alive and alone, in your own invention?

I cannot let this be. I have to tell you, even if it scares us both, I’ve been there. I’m there presently.


For me, when the depression gets B-A-D, as it is right as I write this, it hooks my ear by its bony finger and pours such poison in as, “These days, life holds more pain than it doesn’t.”

There is a rational part of my mind–just like there is a skeleton inside of my body–that holds my sanity upright, that says, “How can this be? Your daughter does a dance we call the ‘noodle’ that looks makes her look like a hula dancer made of rubber. In a world with something so adorably unique, can there but anything but joy?”

And, you, dear, who wrap your arms around me as tightly as I might wrap my fingers around a doorknob–you almost open the door of pain in me to let me escape myself. To let the darker waters come pouring from my heartbeat.


But then I don’t sleep and then I don’t sleep and then I eat badly and I eat even more badly and I stop being diligent with taking my medication and I stop following my routines and the story I tell myself inside my head about who I am changes.

I become not your mother, but your captor, the one who ties steel rods to the balloons of your childhood to keep them from floating off into eternity.

I become not your father’s wife, but a backpack of bricks he slings over his shoulder and has to carry the memory around of all day.

And when I believe those things about myself, I get heavier and heavier until it’s harder to lift any part of my body. I start to fill up with an ocean, and I start to throw stones inside of it, only I am the ocean and I am the stones and I am the room filled with both, and I can’t get out of me.


For a long time, I’ve sat along the shoreline looking into the water. The ocean never recedes entirely, but it ebbs and flows continuously.

From a safe distance, if you can watch the waters move in and out of your life, the waves become less frightening, and you’re provided with views that are spectacular–like the sun setting over the water until it seems as if each pain you’ve felt, from the tiniest prick to the deepest heartbreak–has been set on fire. And each wave is another color, part of a moving painting aflame. And life feels meaningfully alive, and lovely.

Sometimes, you’re able to wade in a little, just to experience the memory of times that were darker. Like the invitation on sosadtoday’s Twitter, “meet you at the corner of insomnia and difficulty living in the world,” it feels sad but temporary. The trouble is, you have to remind yourself you’re in the water.

If you forget, you stop being vigilant, and you wade so far into yourself you forget there ever was a shore, or loved ones waiting for you there. If you don’t acknowledge the water is filling in the spaces where your eyes should be open, that you’re blinking blind and flailing wetly, you could drown without ever letting yourself admit you were in the water.


Lily June, there is no easy way to say this, but I am going under. I can hear the good things all around me–like love, your beauty, our family–but with a foggy echo that feels unreal. The really-real things feel like our debts and the fight your dad and I had and the way my job is shifting out from under me and the way my pain has cracked me back into a frail shell of myself.

I sat in an office bathroom stall and cried today. I went for a walk on my lunch break and tried to reach out to various people by phone to tell them I’m forgetting what the sand feels like under my feet, but no one answered. Some people I couldn’t bother because they are at their own jobs, and others are in their own pain, but the ones I could reach out to, I did, and they weren’t there.

And when you’re both alone and lonely, the latter cuts even deeper. I’m telling you this now because if you’re ever here, you need to remember this, right here right now in the middle of the moment of your darkest darkness.

I’m there, even if I’m not there there.

I’m there with you like this letter were a message in a bottle I cast from the past into your present where you keep an ocean in the room inside of yourself that you’re throwing stones into, only, you are the ocean, and you are the stones, and you are the bottle, too.

But Lily June, I am the love inside it.


I am terrified I will teach you to drown by drowning around you, but sometimes the pain gets too big for me to deny it.

I’m there, dear, but some part of me is on the shoreline, too, with you, watching me go down again and again, rooting for me to resurface this time and stay up, to be able to take a large, freeing gasp of air. To keep breathing.


Picture Credits:

18 thoughts on “From Under the Waves–On the Occasion that You Feel Alone

  1. joyroses13 says:

    OH my I want to give you one of the biggest hugs right now!! I want to “yell” at the people that didn’t help you when you reached out to them. I want to let you know that when the waves are crashing over you, that you are STRONG, encouraging you to keep breathing!! Keep swimming! Remember Broken Crayons still color! Broken glass lets the light shine through. Sending virtual hugs and real prayers your way! Feel free to message me anytime. I know what it is like to feel the sand slipping from under your feet.I just wrote a blog post yesterday about Healing Tears. Let yourself cry, but know when you look at Lilly June that she loves you so much and that for her you can be strong. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. orchidblueblog says:

    “Liking”this seems cold because I hate that you feel this way. Clicking the button hoping you know that I like the writing but not the truth behind it. I feel your pain. I understand. I wish there was anything I could do to help bring you out of what feels like quicksand to you. If I could throw out a life saver from here I will do it without question. You are loved! You are amazing! And you are not alone! 😘

    Liked by 2 people

  3. lindalanger6 says:

    I have to ask this. Are you thinking of harming yourself? If you ever do, think of all who love you. Think of how broken their lives would be without you. And when you feel you are going under the waves, remember that you know how to swim. Remember that if you are too tired to swim, you can float on your back. Remember that you have been here before, and have made it back to shore. You will make it back to shore, Alyssa, because you can see Lily June playing in the sand. And all of us, your readers, are there, too, loving you and holding you in their hearts. Remember that I, too, have been lost in the waves, so I know where you are.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Shameful Narcissist says:

    I’m crying as I type this, because while loneliness can never be truly shared, the understanding of loneliness can be (if that makes any sense). The ocean and the undertow that pull you under contain an infinite number of souls all floundering and solitary. I wish I had better words to say, but I can at least offer my understanding and respect for your strength in sharing this and never wanting your daughter to have such need.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lonna Hill says:

    A couple weeks ago I started writing a blog post about a near-drowning incident I had as a child. I couldn’t finish it. I put it aside and haven’t picked it up since. The memory was too scary, the feelings too strong, and I just didn’t have the words to express the thoughts in my head.

    Your metaphor for how you feel right now–the ocean, the current, gasping for air–it all makes me understand how exactly it is you’re feeling–how scary and alone it is. Your words are so beautiful even when they are so sad.

    Several years ago, I had what I refer to as my “year from hell”. It was a dark, dark time in my life when I wished to hurt myself. (One other thing I still can’t bring myself to write about.) Looking back at some of the thoughts I had then, it scares me to think I ever felt that way.

    The things people would say to me only made me feel worse. “You can choose your attitude. Why can’t you decide to be happy” they’d say or, “Peter and Paul were in prison and could still rejoice. Why can’t you see the joy in your life?” It seemed like everything anyone said to try to make me feel better only made me feel worse. And so I’d end up sobbing in the shower so that no one would know I was crying yet again. I felt so completely alone.

    Back then I would pray and cry out to God in frustration and ask why He wouldn’t take the pain away. I just couldn’t understand why he’d let me hurt so much.

    I know you don’t want me to tell my own story here. I couldn’t anyway. I still don’t understand everything that was going on in my heart back then. But I can say that I made it out of the ocean of self and back to shore.

    For me, when my own feet found the sand, exhausted and rejoicing, I collapsed on the shore and prayed to God that He’d never let me forget the pain. (Ironic, isn’t it?) I had to remember the pain to remember all that I had learned. And I wanted to remember the pain because when someone else I loved was going through the same thing, I didn’t want to say the same asinine things that were said to me. I would have the right words because I would know what it was like to feel like you’re drowning.

    But now I understand that the people around me back then…they really did love me, they just didn’t know how to help or what to say. And I find myself in the same scenario they were in. My story is not your story and as much as I want to say something that would take away your pain and make things all better, I just don’t have the words. But I do know this…..I know that you are loved. You are, Alyssa. You are deeply loved. And you will reach the shore again. And when you do, you’ll look back at the ocean and the sand and the sky and understand it all so much better than you ever had before.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Free Bird says:

    It takes a lot of courage to reach out and share what you just did. Your daughter is so lucky to have you THERE for her. I know there are no words that anyone could say that can save you from the depths you are feeling, so I will say a prayer for you in hopes that these crashing waves will not last long. Thank you for the beautiful post.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. shelie27 says:

    If you find yourself in need of someone to talk to again, let me know. You can *67 the phone call, if you would feel comfortable. In the meantime, I will sit here on your shoreline, and wait for you to roll out from underneath the waves.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. fancypaperblog says:

    I hope so desperately that blogging has helped you through this terrible day x you are strong and brave and talented. You know yourself you can get through. I hope the people that weren’t around have gotten in touch and you have support. You are going to feel positive again -just like you have before.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Allie P. says:

    I wish I could offer words of comfort. I hope that you can find your way to shore. All I know is that time moves forward whether we want it to or not and this time too will pass. Stay strong. Lily will love you no matter what.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jesska says:

    *huge hugs* Oh Dearlilyjune, How can you write so clearly about a place so dark? I have never been out as far and as deep as you, but even paddling in the shallows of that beach is no fun. I hope you find a new beach soon, one with glittering sand and sunshine and warm, clear water with just enough waves to be fun and a tiny bit unpredictable, but without the currents that can pull you under.
    Teaching your daughter how to swim is a much better tactic than telling her to avoid the water – sometimes it can’t be avoided and that’s a dangerous place to be with neither swimming/floating skills nor guilt/shame-free calls for help. I think you’re doing a great job with your daughter 🙂 (Also, do you know the Blogess?)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. deconstructingdoctor says:

    Your words help me understand my own mother’s struggle with depression. I wish I could throw you a life preserver. I wish I could show you how my own soul was filled up not with the waters to drown me, but the air and breath of spirit. It’s what I cling to so I won’t lose site of the shore.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Debbie Diljak says:

    Lack of sleep and depression can be a vicious circle. You sound like you may need a bit of a break. Can you take a sick day (or two) and try and catch up on rest? I know I sound like a bit of a Mama here – guilty. Virtual hugs and actual prayers. Feel better!


  13. Hannah Garner says:

    I think that so many can relate to this post, at one time in their life, or another. It is beautifully written and so raw and honest. I’m sending you the BIGGEST virtual hug right now. If only you yourself could see how truly cool and amazing you are, to us (and I’m SURE to your family and friends, as well.)

    Liked by 1 person

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