Wednesday, April 13, 2005

something I want to share

Ya'll are well versed in the story of my life by now, so no need to explain much, but obviously I have been under tremendous pressure the last year, well truthfully since the girls' birth. Frankly, my emotional state was under attack well before that, but the tension, stress, and grief has been sometimes creeping and at other times rapidly ascending in the last few years.
When I went away for thirty days in late August of '03 I was on the brink of suicide. I was desparately bent on self-destruction and every morning when I awoke I was more than just vaguely disappointed. After the hospitalization, I emerged rested for the first time in YEARS (literally) and free from the self-imposed assignment of being able to do everything by myself. In other words, I was no longer bound to the pride that had separated me from God and crippled me in every other relationship in my life. No more room for pretending, all my dirty laundry had been hung out. Was I embarrassed? Not really. More by my stubborn refusal to admit that I was insufficient than anything else. That I was prepared to sacrifice everything that really matters to maintain the illusion that I had my act together. Not that I was fooling many by the end anyway.
It was not too long after that when Abby was dx'd with ASD and ya'll are all familiar with that ride, but what I wasn't entirely open about, mostly out of uncertainty this time, was the tremendous toll the last 15 months plus has taken on me emotionally and psychologically. After she was dx'd people kept hounding me about my grief.
"You need to grieve."
"Have you grieved?"
"Where are you with the grieving?"
I poked around my heart and psyche and couldn't find it, so I figured that God's grace had spared me from all that business. He knew I had stuff to take care of so I got a pass. That's what I thought anyway. Well life got better, but also a whole lot more complicated and demanding. Financial pressure, time constraints, all that driving, and the work load of two difficult children, all the therapies and the meetings and "homework" involved with those, and then also the constant reading and learning and discussing. And the never-ending watchfulness. Also, came the responsibility to educate our family and friends. Some of them were supportive, but most of our local family required me to be on the defense for a long time and that was very hard on me and on Jimmy, since most of the denial and blame came from his side. That added another dimension of difficulty. Thank the Lord for loving us through that and bringing us closer to one another and to Him. He is so amazing. Our difficulties are only opportunities for His awesome power to shape our character and make someting beautiful out of a mess. But that is another thread.
All around me, people kept at it:
"Are you depressed?"
"Have you gotten counseling?"
"Have you spoken to your doctor about the weightloss?"
"What about meds?"
It was beginning to get tiresome. Couldn't they see how great things were going? I must need to talk about God's awesome blessings despite our circumstances more. And there were always people to remind me of how fortunate we were that Abby was doing so well. So many were not so lucky. And all of this was true.
Anyway, even though He did all his awesome stuff, the pressure still continued to build. Now Emma Jean's development was being called into question. More assesments, evaluations, decisions, driving, time and money.
I just kept thinking, "Well, sure you have your challenges, but everyone does and many have it much, much harder. Look at all of God's provision! Aren't our financial requirements being met for Abby's therapies? I need to praise him more. Look at how my family has rallied 'round! And all the amazing people He's brought to us? And what about Abby's progress? Honestly, Susan, just trust Him more. Thank Him more. Don't even think about complaining. You have been BLESSED!!!"
So I just kept on going like some kind of dutiful Christian energizer bunny. Finally though, around the girls' b-day, Abby's transition out of BI, scratching the surface of Emma Jean's deficiencies, Christmas and Jimmy's subsequent departure for Aspen, the thin veneer of competence and "gratitude in all things" began to crack.
I muddled through the holidays and festivities, Jimmy's travel, and the girls' new school transition, then ultimately Emma Jean's ABA placement, but I was beginning to unravel from the inside out. I was irritable, angry, overwhelmed, and tearful. In my obstinancy and obtuseness, I did not recognize it though, and if I did catch a glimpse or even a full on ugly look at the state of my mental health, I quickly dismissed it and ran like hell. Yup, the denial was getting undeniable. I travailed on however, determined to "get it together."
"For heaven's sake Susan. Things are getting better! Why on earth would you feel worse? You must be a real drama queen. Some kind of misery junkie. How obnoxious. Snap out of it!"
Finally, after Valentine's Day, I came clean to Jimmy about how miserable and scared I was. He said some magic words to me, "No one has any idea what the last year has been like for us. No one has any idea how hard it has been. No one." And the floodgates finally opened up. It was like his empathy and kindness gave me permission to be honest and weak and NOT self-sufficient and what I imagined to be appropriately grateful for all that had happened. It was such a relief. Until then, I had felt this unspoken, and unasked for, need to protect him from how difficult it all was everyday while he was at work. And even when he wasn't. And as ASININE as this is, I even felt compelled to protect God from it too. Anyway, I felt some temporary relief, but I couldn't seem to cry enough or "get it all out of my system." I could not rally my mental troops anymore. They had deserted me, gone AWOL.
Left with no other choice, I prayed some more and got honest with God about my feelings. I was sometimes mad at him and disappointed and even felt put upon at times, despite all his blessings and mercy. And you know what? He's a big enough God for that. He could handle me telling him like it was.
When I was finished, I got as quiet as I could and listened.
Then I talked to Jimmy. Then I went to my doctor. And then I got on some medication.
I've been on it for almost four weeks now and I cannot tell you the tremendous difference it has made in my life. No, I am not happy Holly Golightly high, but I have some perspective now. The big things are still big, but the small things are appropriately small. The tunnel that I was living in has open up and I am inhabiting the wide open spaces again. I still experience the full range of emotions, but my responses are in keeping with the situation. I am back in control of myself, as far as that goes. I am not being controlled by some unpredictable inner reactionary.
I am so much the better for this decision. And so is my whole family.
I am not saying that drugs are the answer for everyone in all situations, but there is a bona fide chemical reaction that helps us with our emotional well-being and many things can affect it and send it out of whack: stress, hormones, illness, and just plain growing older. If you are suffering and cannot find relief from all the other ways to help with the daily grind of this crazy life we live as parents, spouses, caregivers, daughters, employees/employers, and simply as women, then please talk to whoever it is in your life that you trust and then go see your doctor. Don't wait. There is no great achievement in unecessary long-suffering. It is not edifying or character building. It is not virtuous at all.
And it is not a defeat to get some help.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


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