Beware the Undertoad

July 26, 2006

In the book, and the movie, The World According To Garp there is a scene were young T. S. Garp is at the ocean’s edge and his mother yells to him to, “Beware the undertow!” The sound of the waves make it hard to hear so what Garp thinks she said was, “Beware the undertoad!” In his mind’s eye he sees a large menacing toad that lurks just underneath the waves and if you aren’t careful it’ll grab you and pull you under. For the rest of the book whenever bad starts to happen, or potentially could happen, Garp thinks about the undertoad.

In my journey back from depression’s edge I have, quite without being aware of it, wandered too far out and into the clutches of the undertoad. While I seemingly am progressing and functioning, privately I feel like I am spiraling down rather than climbing up. Wanting to put on a good face for the people around me I have managed to hide these little slips backwards even from myself.

Tonight, in a phone call with one of my best friends, that was at times contentious, very emotional, and ultimately uplifting and affirming, I broke free from the grasp of my undertoad and started moving towards shore once again. Talking with him provided the catalyst, the final straw, that enabled me to break down the “story for publication” that I had started to believe.

In truth I’m doing okay – as well as could be expected of someone who lost his wife nine months ago to suicide, and his mother barely two months ago to cancer. It’s okay that I’m not fully functional. It’s okay that I have bad days. It’s okay that I am at times very depressed. What isn’t okay is lying to myself about how I am doing. Pretending to myself that everything is hunky-dory only creates an imbalance in my life, and that imbalance can topple me right back to ground zero.

By exposing the falsehood tonight, by breaking down and raging and crying and finally allowing myself to hear the words of comfort and wisdom from my friend, I freed myself from the undertoad.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.