This one’s tough to write, believe it or not. But I’ve never felt more strongly about my desire to share and so, I’ll run with it and let the pieces fall where they may. Let me preface by saying this is more for me as a form of therapy than for my faithful readers, but maybe you can glean some tidbit of useful info in here somewhere. It’s actually hard to admit this. For a girl with no filter and an odd affection for brutal honesty in all circumstances, I’ve been a bit of a “liar, liar, pants on fire” for quite some time now and it’s time to come clean. I have a sneaking suspicion there is a distinct possibility, a slight chance - okay, I’m 99.99999999% certain - that I like to whine (that’s whine, with an ‘h’ kids, though the other might be addressed a bit later). Particularly when it comes to my relationship with the man upstairs, I tend to be a bit of a victim, always the martyr, certain my perfect devotion and commitment to His cause is worthy of reward, right? I’ve been so faithful for so long and so full of His grace. I’ve been so forgiving, so generous, so loyal despite my suffering. Doesn’t He owe me SOMEthing? An easier path? Help with my intimacy issues? A good night’s sleep? A hot cup of coffee and a shower free of tantrums, Spongebob shampoo and headless mermaids, at the very least?! Nope, not a thing. He does not owe me a thing. But He does desire to give me a thing or two or maybe ten thousand. And this is where it stings and where the rubber meets the road in my present circumstances. I’ve done some stuff and been a lot of things as I’ve tried to define my role as His daughter, but what I haven’t been is real. I haven’t been authentic. And I’ve certainly not been honest with myself or with Him.
The first week of my withdrawal from anti-depressants brought a lot of agitation, very little patience and a mountain of frustration and anger hurled on anyone within a 10-mile radius. I wasn’t much fun on the road, in parking lots, at home, or in the presence of anyone with a heartbeat and vocal chords. I was a bear to live with and God-willing, the little people have short memories on this one. But I expected this phase and tried my hardest to survive it. I even expected the second phase. Week two brought millions and millions of tears and if it’s true that our Heavenly Father bottles and keeps them, I’m pretty sure he had to clean out the glass aisle of every IKEA, Michaels and dollar store for miles and miles and miles. Talk about letting the river flow! Good Lord, everything made me cry (and still does). Commercials, movies, a kind word, a sad story, a mistake, a joke, the Chargers finally winning a playoff game, even the pretty, pretty Christmas lights caused the flood gates to open. There wasn’t enough Kleenex in the world that week and yes, I chose the holidays to kick the pills so that was a wise decision I might have done differently if given a chance. But I survived and I knew it was coming. What I didn’t expect was what came in week three...like a wrecking ball, for you pop culture gurus. I didn’t expect that the insomnia that plagued me from the sixth month of my first pregnancy would magnify tenfold. I didn’t expect the severe headaches that made my head feel like it was in a vice all day long. I didn’t anticipate twenty-four-seven chills, terrifying nightmares (the kind that are particularly excruciating because they involve people you know and love), constant nausea, intense panic attacks, gripping feelings of terror in the middle of the night, and feeling like I was climbing the walls, crawling out of my skin all.night.long. I was the star of a really bad Lifetime movie. You see, my dosage wasn’t terribly high and I really thought the withdrawal symptoms would be fairly mild and that is exactly what my doctor informed me when I called him on the verge of tears certain I was having a nervous breakdown. I filled him in on just how fun the previous three weeks had been and he politely, but more-or-less dismissed me as “having underlying issues” that may require medication and attention beyond his frame of reference. Awesome. So it wasn’t just post-partum. I am 100%, absolutely indisputably, certifiably crazy (ok, he didn’t say that, but that’s how I felt when the phone call ended) and need medication and a really good therapist to function properly. I had a good cry under a super cozy blanket and then made a decision that I am hoping will alter my relationship with my babies and with a holy, faithful and Heavenly Father for as long as I shall live.
I decided, right at that moment, that medication is not for me. I didn’t need it before I became a mother and I will learn to be a mother without it, facing these little people and their 4 and 6-year old fury (and sweetness) armed with nothing but my humor, my love for them, my Bible, my pen (or laptop), a community of selfless, extraordinary friends (who have shown up so big for me this time, I can never thank them enough), maybe a good Zinfandel, and a resolve to never, ever stop trying to be the best mommy I can be for them for the rest of my life. You see, it occurred to me that my life was fairly simple before I was diagnosed. I was a newlywed, free to come and go as I pleased. I made my own money and answered to very few people. Life was good and quite honestly, pretty easy. I was diagnosed with post-partum and prescribed anti-depressants immediately after the birth of the boy and have been on them literally, the entire time I’ve been a mommy. Life is not the same now and I am tasked with learning to parent, function and find happiness of my own accord. I’ve had a sidekick doing the driving for six years and now it’s time for little ole me to take the wheel and hit the road. I am learning to cope with life while my brain is learning to function again on its own. So fun! Please let me state, for the record, that I am more than keenly aware of the necessity of medication in the lives of many, many people and I would never dare to address those cases and I feel an enormous amount of empathy and admiration for their courage. I can only speak for myself, my experience with anti-depressants, and my journey. This is where the story begins.
The mental and physical state I’ve been in recently is immensely indescribable. I’ve been in an incredibly dark place. And at the heart of the matter, I’ve learned, are a thousand insecurities and fears that I am only beginning to address. I’m afraid to share because I don’t want to be a bummer all the time. I’m usually the sarcastic, funny one. I’m afraid I won’t be funny anymore. Will my friends get tired of hanging out with someone who’s down a lot and cries when the sun sneaks behind a cloud, when a stranger looks at me the wrong way, and when my DVR doesn’t record Parenthood because there were too many Phineas & Ferb recordings scheduled? What if I have a serious chemical imbalance and really do need to be on medication forever? What if my husband gets tired of dealing with my issues? It was on my couch at 1:00 in the morning for the third night in a row, sobbing uncontrollably and praying with every fiber of my being when it really hit me hard - so hard that I said it out loud. “I feel like I’m being broken down to nothing and torn to shreds from the inside out.” And then I heard it, the still, small voice in my head (and for once, in my heart). “I will tear this church down to its cornerstone and build it up again.” And that was a moment I will not soon forget. He.Has.Not.Abandoned.Me.
I’ve been distinctly aware of the enemy’s plans to ensure this little journey I’m on does not end well. He’s been awesome at keeping me busy, superb at filling my heart with doubt and near perfect with the fear factor. And I’ve been trying to remind myself of his presence around every corner. I quit my motherhood group at the church, feeling that it was another weekly commitment to fill another morning without filling my soul. I joined a Bible Study, feeling it was time to dust the cobwebs off my Bible yet again and listen to what my God has to say. I am profusely aware of the likelihood that I will have to withdraw from certain things in my life to draw nearer to Him. And I’ve been talking, man, have I been talking...to anyone who will listen. One thing stands out with perfect clarity to me these days, I cannot stop talking. I am so afraid that if I do, I might slip into a much darker place. I am keenly aware of the need to keep myself accountable to the people I trust, and ensure that I am keeping a watchful eye on my mental state, where my thoughts are, and that hope is always at the forefront. I am a born pessimist, after all. And though it pains me to say, I would love to respond frankly to the daily, “How are yous?” with a polite, “Fine.” But the reality is that I’m not fine and I cannot forget that, not even for a moment. But I will be. And so, I am currently taking every thought captive. I am searching the scriptures. I am trying to do more than feed and clothe my children. I am trying to show up for them, in any way I can muster on any given day. And in return, God, has shown up for me in ways I cannot comprehend, cannot repay and cannot say I have ever been a party to (or at least have never been willing to admit. I do so love to whine!). He has met me where I’m at every step of the way. I have never felt more loved than I do at this moment. I stopped counting the text messages today somewhere around nineteen. There were flowers, hand-delivered, a casserole, super yummy, and an influx of prayers and well-wishes from old and new friends. He has opened my eyes to the most beautiful, two-sided friendships that bless my heart so much I can hardly stand it. He has not forsaken me, as I so love to cry out whenever possible. And I, in my frail, crippled state, am finally ready to admit that I’ve been really far away, unwilling to let go of many things that don’t serve His purposes, unable to see how truly wondrous and abundant are the blessings He’s given me, uncertain that I can trust His promises, unruly, undisciplined, and unlovable. And still, He waits, unable to be anyone other than who He is, loving, pure and perfect.
There are a lot of cliches in the Christian community. Jesus, take the wheel. Let go and let God. Yada yada yada! Maybe some are not without some merit. But here is the moral in the midst of the madness. God does not walk ahead of us clearing a path. He comes alongside us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He is our help in times of trouble, not our escape from it.
I have far, far to go. I have good days and bad and I always will. This journey called life is not an easy pilgrimage. It’s the road less traveled, for sure and the bumps and bends just keep coming. It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be ugly at times. It’s going to hurt and it’s going to wound. But it’s going to get better. And for now, I am so lucky to be loved, so lucky to be found, so lucky to be called His daughter. Love you, daddy. Hold me close, as only you can.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...
a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
My time to dance is just beyond the horizon.