May 11, 2017

Well, it’s May 11. The second year anniversary since The Day.

And I have to say, I feel pretty great.

I have done it, friends. I have scratched and crawled and screamed and cried myself to the other side and it took me two years, but I did it.

That’s not to say that there won’t be moments of sadness. Sometimes, I miss the people I’ve had to excise from my life, but I know that my life is better without them in it. It’s a paradox, to be sure, but I know my decisions are the right ones.

There are moments when I still panic a little, like when I come home and the house is silent and I worry that something terrible has happened to the kids. (The reality is that Cooper is playing video games and Emma is watching TV on the iPad, just FYI.) But I still have those moments–echoes of my own childhood laced with fear of something terrible happening to me. Now I have moments where I fear it for my own children, but those moments are fleeting.

And the anxiety is different than it was before, because now I can own it. I can name it when it happens, briefly feel the feeling, acknowledge it, and then let it go. It is so freeing.

You guys, I FEEL JOY. I never thought it would be so exciting to be able to say that. I laugh for real. I recognize how good life is and how lucky I am to be living this life.

I am happy.

I am okay. I am fantastic, even.

a494c4a44e5b5985557a68d1016f4a80

I have to compare what has happened to me over the last year as the feeling you get when you’ve been in extreme physical pain and then suddenly it is gone. Like the moment the epidural takes effect during labor.

Or, when you are having a gall bladder attack and it’s so bad you have to go to the emergency room and when they finally, finally push the morphine and your whole body relaxes and you can’t stop thanking the nurse for making your life so much better. (Why yes, that is a true story and I am thankful to say that the offending gall bladder with its godforsaken gallstones is getting removed next week.)

If you’ve had an experience like this, you know the sheer exhilaration that comes with NOT being in pain anymore. The joy that comes with just feeling normal again. That is how I’ve been feeling. Normal, like a real person living her life, not a sad zombie stumbling through her days listlessly. And it is amazing.

I am so very grateful to be back on the shore with the people I love instead of drowning in the murky depths, or trying to swim in against the current.

I am so very grateful to no longer be thinking about my past every waking moment. To have it haunting and torturing me. To feel like it was the only thing I could talk or write about. I have made peace with it, and it is no longer my present…it is only the past.

A year ago, I couldn’t wait to go into therapy and verbally vomit all the bitterness inside of me. I had so much to say and get out of my soul that I thought I would never be able to stop talking about it.

These days, I may spend a half hour trying to figure out what I am going to talk to my therapist about in my next appointment. My gall bladder? My annoyance that my son plays too many video games? My daughter’s seeming inability to clean up after herself? These things are so trivial, so I mostly talk about the kids and my husband and how proud I am that they are my family, my rocks, the loves of my life.

And I’m proud of what I’ve overcome. Dealing with these kinds of issues is not for the faint of heart, and it would have been so much easier for me to drown it all in alcohol, drugs, or whatever other unhealthy coping mechanism I could find. I could have kept using food as my comfort source, as I have done for most of my life.

But I just had a gut feeling that there was something better on the other side that would be worth the pain and the grueling work.

AND THERE IS.

There is love and happiness and laughter and joy and friendship, and I am so very grateful for all of it.

I am grateful for the people who have stood by me through this, who have helped pull me out, and who have loved me through it.

Life is good.

Advertisements

Chug, chug, chug.

You guys, I’m good. Not great, not fantastic, not awesome…yet. But I’m working.

I can see that people have been peeking at my Facebook page–I can only guess they are looking for a new post and I have wanted to write so many times but haven’t been sure if I have much to say besides telling you that I’m chugging along. I feel better every day.

Well, maybe not every day but most days.

I’m working out again with all my friends over at Tuff Girl, and I love it. I mean, I hate it while I’m doing it because who really LIKES grueling workouts while they’re panting and sweating but afterwards I feel great. I always have a better day on the days I work out.

Showing up at the gym was a real hurdle for me. I’ve predictably gained a ton of weight (as if I needed to gain even more) and that makes everything harder in my workouts. I was scared to go back, afraid people would judge me and wonder how I could have let myself go so badly.

Instead I found love, acceptance and encouragement from friends and people who care about me. For this, I am incredibly grateful.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will likely have to be medicated for awhile, and this is not a failure. It is simply me being smart and using all the tools available to me to feel better and be the best version of myself I can be right now. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to recognize that this is part of the help I need to keep feeling better every day.

And I need a lot of help, guys. I mean, don’t we all? Why is there such a stigma about saying, “I can’t do this alone. I need help.”?

There shouldn’t be. We should all be able to be the perfectly imperfect humans we are, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses and being able to freely ask for help when we are weak, and freely give our help when others need it.

This took me a long time to learn. I am finally reaching a point where I can start to give something back to the people that have propped me up during my dark times. A point where I could maybe do the propping for them if they need it.

I’ve also poignantly felt the passing of time, and I am trying not to feel as though I am losing this time, trying not to regret the dark months when I felt like I was missing out on my life.

Instead, I am realizing that these dark months were an important part of my life, like a painfully tight chrysalis that I had to break out of to bring me to the next phase. I am not sure I’m ready to fly yet, though. I’m just now pushing my way out and feeling the sun on my face.

And where will I fly to once I’m ready? I’m not sure yet, but I am thinking hard about it.

You see, I lost a dear friend recently to breast cancer. She lived with stage four breast cancer for three and a half years before it claimed her life, and she lived more in those three and a half years than I have in my whole 42 (okay, nearly 43) years of life. (If you want to read about her amazing adventures, you can read some of her blog.)

We had some intense conversations about life and depression and dark thoughts that sometimes came into our heads. She battled the dark thoughts so hard and lived the hell out of the time she had. She was a huge inspiration to me and I think of her often when I imagine what kind of living I want to do next. What kind of adventures I would like to have with the time I have on this earth.

She had a favorite quote:

tell-me-what-is-it-you-plan-to-do-with-your-one-wild-and-precious-life

This is my one precious life. What I have gone through has been difficult, but my life goes on, and it IS a beautiful and precious life. How can I live it well? What do I want to do with it next?

For now, I want to love hard, most especially love the people who have stood next to me through these hard times, the people who have helped me keep going, the people who have held me up and sometimes dragged me to places I didn’t want to go to keep me moving forward, up and out.

For now, I want to feel happiness, and though it may sound funny, this is something I have to work at. It’s hard work, but I am determined to recognize and be present in the moments that are joyful and not let them pass me by. I appreciate them so much more now.

For now, I will keep chugging along and deciding what my next adventure will be. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

(P.S. If you are one of the people peeking at my FB page for a new post, did you know you can sign up to get new blog posts right into your email inbox? Look for the email signup on the upper right hand side of the blog page, sign up, and then you’ll know as soon as a new post comes out.)

 

Dubious return…but showing up.

So about three months ago I took a Facebook hiatus. I mean, the hiatus was from a lot more than Facebook, but FB became sort of representative of me stepping away from life because I was so NOT FINE. (The post I just linked to was written on June 7 and up for a short time before I unpublished it. Being “out there” with my not fine-ness was just not something I was capable of at the time.)

Three days after that, June 10, I went out of work on medical leave.

I was in bad shape, guys. But more on that later.

Yesterday I decided to return to Facebook and just see. I’m feeling so much better and so I thought I could be virtually social as I start to be social IRL again.

As I scrolled through my feed I saw a post that hit me so hard I questioned my return and almost immediately deactivated my account. Again.

The post was a gut-wrenching one from an amazing friend who lost her brother to suicide years ago, and she was telling her story about losing him in honor of Suicide Prevention Week (happening this week, of which I was not aware).

Friends, I don’t know how to tell you this in the right way, but I was there. I was in that place of “suicidal ideation,” as they call it, and I teetered on the brink of executing a plan. I have been medicated since mid-July and the full bottle of Clonazepam above my kitchen sink beckoned to me, bidding me come, take me all in and just fall into the abyss.

You see, despair is a liar. It tells you things that are not true or even logical, but in the throes of severe depression, you believe them. You believe you are worth more to your family dead than alive. You believe that in your current state, you are not fit to be called “Mom” by anyone and should end yourself to save the kids. You believe that yes, they would be sad for awhile, but eventually  your husband would find love again and your children would heal because they are better off without such a broken excuse for a parent in the first place.

I believed all of these things. I believed them as I fantasized about swallowing the entire bottle’s worth and just drifting off…as Hamlet said, to sleep, perchance to dream, and this time without the nightmares that plagued me nightly so that not even sleep was a respite from my pain.

Part of this downward spiral had to do with a medication, and I somehow managed to convey to my husband how serious my condition was. The thoughts I was having. What I was contemplating. I saw his terror and then saw him bravely battle through it as he got me in to see my doctor the same day and say to her WE NEED HELP.

We talked about hospitalization but I knew that would make me worse. The presence of people I loved was what was keeping me alive, by a hair. The doctor’s first order was a medication change (from Zoloft to Abilify, for those to whom it is of interest) and the second and third orders were to hide all medications and never leave me alone until we saw how the new meds might help. My doctor looked me right in the eye and wouldn’t let me look away when she said, “Suicide ALWAYS ruins the lives of the loved ones. It never fixes anything.” I flinched.

Drew took a day off work, showing me so much radical acceptance and love that I wished so fervently I could feel in my heart. But even though I was too dead inside to feel anything at all, he stayed by my side.

A dear friend came and “babysat” me for a day with no judgments or expectations. Just love and good company on my couch with the TV on all day. I was too far gone to even be embarrassed that she had to be there to make sure I didn’t hurt myself, even though I can now say I know that with this friend, there was no need for embarrassment at all.

I felt somewhat better in a matter of days so we came off high alert. I didn’t fantasize about swallowing the pills anymore but I did have moments of such deep despair that my only release was forcibly purging anything I’d eaten. One day, that wasn’t enough and I desperately raked at my forearms and hands with my fingernails.

The scratches have finally healed.

Through all this, I was 100% honest with my husband and it is what has saved me. Honesty. The ability to step forward and say, even though the medication change has made a huge difference, I need help. I need MORE help. I need so much more help or I am literally going to die. I made a promise to tell him on days when I purged, to have him sit with me while I cried and he held an ice pack on the scratches on my arms to keep them from raising up into welts.

Three months ago when I left work, I simply could not function anymore. I had played my role for over a year–hey everyone! Look at me, healing from my trauma and working my little fanny off!

What I was really doing was drowning myself in work as a numbing practice and ignoring sign after sign from my body that I was NOT OKAY. Insomnia. Panic attacks. Chronic diarrhea. Horrible headaches. Permanent dark circles under my eyes. Strange aches and pains that had me believing I was dying…but that I still tried to ignore.

On June 9, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t focus on work calls. I could hear people’s voices but couldn’t tell you what they were talking about. I would stare at my computer for hours, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be working on. And for those of you that know me well, you know this is so completely out of character.

In late July, once my doctors stabilized me after the medication issues that caused my suicidal downward spiral, I had the courage to say, I still need more help.

I entered an intensive outpatient program through Yale and am entering my fourth and final week in this program where I have learned so much, first and foremost that I am not alone. I have learned about mindfulness and self-validation, and I have learned how to use real coping skills that work for me as an adult…because the ones I developed as a kid, when I just had to survive, were so unhealthy and obviously don’t work for me anymore. I did what I had to do then, and I am doing what I have to do to be healthy for me and for my family now.

After all this, I have not and will not deactivate my FB account again. At least, not because of my friend’s post and the emotions it stirred up in me.

I’ll stay on FB because I have decided to return to my life and be present. I may not be awesome, hell I may not even be functional all the time, but I am going to start showing up…for friends, for family, for this blog, and, soon enough, for work.

Right now, that’s the best I can do is show up and be 100% honest. And since it is Suicide Prevention Week, I ask you to think about me in whatever context you’ve known me before and ask yourself if you ever would have considered me a person who would be suicidal. I’m guessing most answers would be “nope, never.”

I do love my life, but guys, this shit is real.

It is like a monster tearing at your heart and whispering evil things in your ear to make you believe you don’t belong in the world. And in those moments, I believed.

Today, I know I belong in the world. What the future holds for me, I can’t be sure but for today, I want to be a voice for those without one to say, suicide is real, even for people you think are fine. Even for people you think are doing great, sometimes especially those people.

Awareness is so important, and the sister of the friend I mentioned earlier is fundraising on behalf of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are so inclined to donate to this worthy cause, you can find her page here.

As for me, I’m here. Present. Not perfect, not healed, still medicated, still struggling, but here–willing to share my not-fine-ness, and so very grateful to be able to show up for my life.

 

 

 

 

Fine.

You ask how I am and you probably don’t know that this is a hard question. Possibly the hardest.

So I say I’m fine.

Fine I say, fine. I’m fine the kids are fine everything’s fine.

This is not the truth but how do I say the truth, which is that I am so acutely not fine? That the pain is back and it feels almost worse now because why is the pain back after all this time? The pain and the shame and the sadness and the grief, all of these things are supposed to be going away.

It’s been too long and I should be fine and who wants to even hear that I am not fine? I certainly don’t. I am so sick of not being fine.

Because I SHOULD be fine. I want to be done with this and I want to be fine.

I shouldn’t have hit another wall and I shouldn’t be having so much trouble getting out of bed every morning and I shouldn’t be preferring dark rooms to sun again and I shouldn’t have to take NyQuil to fall asleep every night and then struggle to wake up every morning while my husband gets the kids off to school and they come and kiss me goodbye in my bed like I’m some kind of invalid.

I shouldn’t be holding back tears for so many moments of the day.

I shouldn’t have to view getting dressed as a major life accomplishment for which I congratulate myself daily.

I should be fine. And I don’t know why I’m not.

But yes I’m fine, I say to you when you ask how I am, fine.

1dbeaedace6db31860ad2485f7f13a59

But no I am not really fine.

Instead of fine I feel crazy, bipolar, one week feeling the joy of summer and light and laughter and the next week struggling to keep up with all the commitments a normal person might make and look like a normal person while doing them even though nearly every moment there is anxiety and dread and fear and I am struggling.

Struggling to be a functional mom, wife, employee, friend, human.

Every moment feels like a struggle and the work is so hard.

I work hard to use my regular voice, not the flat dead voice that I had for three months last summer. That voice, that voice of despair wants to come back and be heard again.

But it shouldn’t be around anymore, that voice. It’s been too long and I am sure everyone is just sick of hearing that voice and what it has to say and I shouldn’t feel this awful again so there must be something terribly wrong with me so I am fine, I tell you, fine.

I can fake my regular voice now and I couldn’t fake it this time last year so that’s good right?

See, I told you I am fine. I smiled at you too and that wasn’t so hard, now was it? You made a joke and I laughed and so that is good because it’s not too hard to behave like a normal person, right?

Yes, yes it is so hard and it takes so much energy. And now I have to sit down again, retreat to one of my safe places.

It shouldn’t be such hard work to smile at you.

It shouldn’t feel, every minute, that I am fighting to break the surface of the water while I have a cinder block chained to my ankle, and the struggle is mighty to just stay where I am and not be dragged down deeper. Even though I want, so very desperately, to come to shore.

There are people on shore, you know. Smiling, laughing people. They look a little distorted through the water but I think some of them are waving at me. One or two of them might have said something like, “Gosh, that looks hard. That cinder block seems heavy. I’m sorry it’s so hard for you.”

It shouldn’t be such hard work to just stay where I am and not be dragged down further toward the murky depths. I should actually be able to unchain the cinder block and come on shore and be smiling and laughing with the normal people while I dry off in the sun.

I must not be doing this right.

I must not be doing this right because when I look back to two or three years ago (thanks, Facebook Memories) I see that I wasn’t always drowning.

I was on the shore with the people then! I was laughing with friends and being fit and having fun with my family and I just felt like a normal person and I was happy, wasn’t I?

So why this, now, still?

I want to go back to being that person again because she really was fine and this new person, this not-fine-but-pretend-fine-me feels wrong.

Being pretend fine is not what I am supposed to be. I have been fighting against being pretend fine, because that’s what I was for so many years and I know it is wrong.

It is wrong to be drowning and at the same time waving back at people and smiling and say, I’m fine! Hope the party is fun! I’ll be there soon, just give me a hot minute!

But this is too hard and I don’t even really have a good reason to be not fine anymore because it’s been too long and I should be fine for real by now and pretend fine is something I’m good at and I definitely should be way beyond not fine by now, right?

I should have been able to unburden myself of this cinder block by now.

Isn’t there an expression that says fake it til you make it? I have the faking it part down. So why isn’t the make it part happening?

It’s me, it’s definitely me. I am doing something wrong.

So you ask how I am and I smile and say fine, I am fine.