Tuesday, December 31, 2013
2013: a year of change.
What a year.
Can I just say that for starters?...
A seizure in February after almost five years seizure-free...
Multiple changes in seizure meds and dosages...
Turning 40 in June - not much needs to be said about that...
And then the shock of a lifetime of finding out I was pregnant three days after turning 40.
They weren't all bad things by any means. But it was enough big events to send me to the tipping point.
I won't lie - this year was a doozy. I don't say any of this for the sake of getting "oh poor Andrea" comments or pity. I'm not fishing for your sympathy.
But I am going to tell you the story of this life changing year. It's not easy to talk about but I think it's necessary to tell my story. If it gets to one person and something I say speaks to him or her, then it's worth telling.
Change was my big word for the year. I was going to be in charge of some major changes in my life - eating better, getting in shape, change my parenting and my thinking. Little did I know the changes that would happen to me both physically and emotionally. The biggest change that rocked my world and sent me to that edge, so to speak - finding out I was pregnant.
Here's the thing. I found out and I panicked. I freaked-out. And when I was done freaking-out I denied it to the moon and back. My husband knew where I was coming from. He got it - for the most part - I think. I was mentally all prepared to go back to school and then work and get my life back once Max started first grade and was in school all day, everyday. I had come to terms with having an only child. I had convinced myself of all the benefits of an only - college tuition taken care of, easy and cheap travel with one child, not having to go back and revisit the newborn, sleepless nights, or the tantrum-filled toddler years, or all the first colds and stomach bugs (that I never could seem to avoid). I had grand plans that I was super excited about. I mean, really, after trying to having a second child for four years you come to terms with it and look for all the positives about having an only child. You may disagree, but just trust me - you do. It's part of the healing process that allows you to let go of that dream and move on with you life.
But on July 1st my brain was trying like mad to not have to do a 180 on my plans, as I looked at that positive pregnancy test.
Give up going back to school and getting a little bit of my life back after all this time?
What? Sleepless nights?... Terrible twos and threes?... I'll be HOW old when this baby graduates from high school? Will I be around to see grandkids from this child of mine?...
My mind raced, non-stop for a couple of months. I wasn't just over-thinking, I was having obsessive thoughts that were interfering with daily life. I had a hard time sleeping. I wasn't eating. I lost weight. I didn't care about anything. I was deep in a pit and didn't see a way out. And quite frankly, I was so deep down in that pit I wasn't even thinking about how to get out. I was more than okay with just sitting there. As far as I was concerned there was no way out.
I experienced a depression of depths I have never experienced before.
Besides not taking good care of myself, I started withdrawing from social situations. If I told people I was pregnant I would have to be excited about it all and I just wasn't. So I didn't tell people. I told one close friend and thankfully - she got it. She understood my fear and concerns. Her telling me that was a small blessing. I didn't feel quite so guilty and shameful about it all. Social situations I did have to face made me terribly anxious - not just your garden variety nervousness, but full-on anxiety.
Things progressively got worse. I saw that a few people (rightfully) didn't know how to "be" around the "in a deep dark pit" Andrea - so they quietly bowed out of the picture. This only added to the depression. It left me thinking I wasn't lovable or worthy of help from people I thought I could count on. And if that was the case - if the people I thought I could lean on just left - then maybe there really was something wrong with me. It became a vicious cycle of thoughts of unloveableness, pushing people away before they had a chance to let me down or walk away, and being disappointed all at the same time. The more I was convinced that people who undergo emotional distress (or "mental health issues" - let's call it what it really is, folks) don't really get the help they need, and people just don't want anything to do with it - period.
I was spiraling out of control. I didn't really want to admit it, but the tiny bit of me that was still logically functioning knew what was happening. And I had to hold on to that little bit of logic to fight for help on the days I wanted help and wanted to stop feeling so bad. They were few and far between, but logic stepped-in on occasion.
During this time I began seeing my counselor more often. It really was the only way out. It took months of me sitting there on the couch crying, and re-hashing all the same things, while the counselor patiently listened and talked and then listened some more and handed me the box of tissues. It was an awful process. I'd often leave feeling just as bad, or even feeling like the counselor who was supposed to help me didn't even really want to help me. It was all a farce. I told her on more than one occasion that I didn't want to do counseling anymore. She found some way to reel me back in - thank God.
I doubted everything in my life. Big time. The sun was not coming up tomorrow and there was no way this could end in a happily ever after.
But then one day a tiny little something clicked.
The counselor said to me "Andrea, I will let you down. Eric will let you down. Your family and friends will let you down. You son will let you down. Everyone in life will let you down if you put your dependence in them. They can't save you or fix you. Only you can do that." (paraphrasing)
It was like the heavens parted just a bit.
Logically I knew it all along. My logical side was saying "Well, duh! I know that!"
But my emotional being and heart and soul - Oh this was such big news that I'd been denying for 40 years... For years I had leaned on others. And for years those others had failed me at some point in my life. It was bound to happen. I had spent years seeking approval and loving and liking and worthiness from others. And now I had finally really realized that all of those things could only be found in myself.
But here's the thing that came of all of this inner turmoil...
I learned to let things go.
The anxious thoughts...(this is a work in progress)
The obsessive worry that kept me awake at night...
The people who didn't want to stick around for the real life stuff that we all suffer...
The belief that people - even friends - didn't really like me...
The harsh voices telling me I wasn't good enough, or loveable, or a good person/friend/wife/mom...
I gave it all up.
And here's the other really cool thing - some people surprised me and showed-up - I mean really showed-up - and we talked about the hard stuff, and they were okay with hearing the hard stuff. They didn't expect me to talk rainbows and unicorns - because really that's not what real life is all about. They sent notes to say they were thinking about me and praying. The unexpected joys that come out of the suffering - who knew?! What a blessing those people have become in my life. A total gift.
We all suffer.
What we suffer through may be different, but there's no ranking the suffering.
It's all the same.
It's all painful.
It all creates feelings of guilt and shame and unworthiness.
It can feel all-consuming.
I've been in that deep, dark pit.
And in the end with the help of doctors and counselors and medication and loved ones, I was able to fight my way up and out.
There is a lot more work to be done - this I know. But I have begun the hard work.
I am committed - for the sake of my health, and the love for my husband and son and baby-to-come and family. I am still here and I am doing the work.
So, yes, I guess 2013 was a year all about change for me.
Some amazing, gift-from-God changes like being pregnant at 40 after years of trying...
Living to see 40...
Time spent with friends and family...
And some amazing, gift-from-God changes like wading through the muck and mire to other side.
I spent years waiting to be delivered from my emotional distress, only to finally realize I had to live through it.
I had to live through it.
I lived through it.