Peter Andrus: The Cave of My Despair

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These are hard times. Depressing times. Even traumatizing times. And lots of people like Peter Andrus are having a tough time coping.

I’m usually a happy, energetic person. I’ve been accused of having an infinite supply of energy.

But I had a terrible day yesterday. I’ve held myself together through six months of COVID house arrest, societal upheaval, wildfires, oppressive air quality, evacuation alerts, no exercise, online school. Then I heard Butano State Park is burning and my heart broke. An untouchable part of my childhood memory now felt tainted and stolen. I felt a dark, consuming malaise come over me.

During an online work meeting my emotions started flooding out of nowhere. Luckily I wasn’t the focus, so I just turned off my camera. I couldn’t tell, at first, where these were coming from.

Upon reflection, they’re from trying to be a strong dad, from telling my young daughter the fires will never reach our house, but we might have to evacuate. From being locked in the house for three days with an oppressive red haze covering the sun and moon, and from being an extrovert locked in a cage … and on and on

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I reached out to my boss first. I worried she might think I was nuts. I found nothing but compassion and empathy. I reached out to other coworkers, members of my church congregation, and friends. They all offered their love. My wife expressed her undying support and held me tight.

Finally the light returned and I emerged from my visit to the cave of despair. I am so thankful for every word spoken, even the imperfect ones. I realize now that feeling connected pulled me back to the light. I was saved by the people around me. I feel better for now.

To those of you who aren’t struggling, please look around and reach out to friends, family, and neighbors. A quick phone call might mean the world to someone. Lay aside politics, race and religion to love one another so we can get through 2020 together.

If you are struggling like I was, please don’t suffer alone. Reach out to someone, anyone. If that person doesn’t have the mental space to receive your problems, keep looking.

If you have coworkers, a church congregation or a community group you’re a part of, look there. If you have friends or family, try them. Talk to your partner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know you can find it.

With a Perspective, this is Peter Andrus.

Peter Andrus lives with his wife and three children in Livermore.