I originally found Marcy via the Tag Surfer if I’m not mistaken-finally finding someone else tagging their posts PPD. While on the outside we don’t have much in common-(she’s a talented musician, seamstress, worshipper, wife and mother, I barely fitting any of those categories 🙂 ) we share one thing-a quest, a thirst to be as we were, to be people who can just act and react as the majority of the world does.
Marcy has gifted us the following entry.
I dreamed once, many years ago, that I was a mental patient. At the time I’d never had that experience.
I was trying to escape the ward — I wanted to go “back to Africa,” which I think represented a quest, some kind of self-searching thing, freedom of development and discovery or something like that. (I’d been in Africa one summer, and it was an important experience in my life.) I was running but it was like running in a pool — too slow, not enough momentum, even kicking off from walls didn’t help. The doors slid shut just before I reached them, and the chasing orderlies got me.
I went limp, sobbing but quietly, I think. They dragged / carried me back to the tv room where other patients were limply munching popcorn and watching some program. The orderlies explained to the other patients that I was upset about the color of the Jell-O. In other words, explained my upset as trivial, meaningless, over-dramatic, ridiculous, hyper-sensitive.
A year and a half ago I became a mental patient. They only let me stay for two days, and the intake interviewer was hostile, but otherwise my experience in the hospital was good. I was one of two patients there for postpartum depression and anxiety. My baby had been born just a week and a half before, home just a week.
I have had forms of depression and anxiety as far back as maybe third grade or further. I still functioned fairly well in a lot of ways. At some of the worst times I’ve sought help, from pastors (pretty ineffective in my case) and finally a professional therapist (probably would never have gone if the referral hadn’t come from a pastor’s assistant I respect and who respects me).
The Africa dream illustrates how I go through these cycles, where there is something I feel is really important to me, but I am hindered in pursuing and reaching it, and at some point I rather suddenly give up, resigned but hopeless. My fear in going into therapy was that I would be (again, still) made to conform to society’s expectations, take care of other people’s needs and not encroach myself on them, and continue to function at a high level. Nothing on the inside of me — nothing important to me — would matter, unless it needed to be changed or destroyed for the sake of better functioning — in other words, for the sake of others.
A few months ago, I was in the garage late at night, yelling at God, feeling just about every basic negative emotion intensely and simultaneously.
I had weaned off the PPD drugs a few months before, and my depressive and anxious symptoms started becoming problematic again — really hindering my functioning, particularly as a mother and wife and friend. I’d tentatively discussed returning to therapy, but it didn’t seem possible financially or absolutely necessary. I tried to manage, but reached low enough that I had to push again to get what I needed.
I couldn’t get a local therapy appointment that day, so I went to my family doctor and at least got back on Zoloft, half the dose I’d been on, and got some Ativan to deal with the long waiting for the Zoloft to start working. I was excited. I had a therapy interview lined up for the following week, I had drugs to take, it would all be fine again.
But after I took the first Ativan that evening, I didn’t feel any positive effect. My reaction escalated until the garage incident, which led to a nurse line call (could it be a reaction against the Ativan? Maybe, but call your doctor), then to the doctor call (No, it can’t be that. If it continues this bad, go to the ER), then to the ER, and finally to sleep at 3 am.
I think the next day I wondered what that was all about.
Another cycle — another tentative push growing more and more intense and desperate but also more fearful of what I might destroy by pushing — and another relapse into apparently normal life.
I was thinking about the garage incident the other night, and about how bewildered I can get trying to separate truth from falsehood, me from my issues, meaningful and important thoughts and ones that can safely be dismissed, and so on. It is terrifying sometimes — to others it doubtless seems so much abstract over thinking, but it doesn’t feel like that to me — to me it feels like figuring all this out is a matter of life or death.
The essence of my mental health struggle is trying to learn what it means to be a self — what I am allowed to be and do, what is healthy, who the essential me is, what I actually want and whether I want it enough to pursue it through opposition, whether anything I think is important really is or if I am really just trivial and ridiculous — how to love me — but without destroying anyone else, or even encroaching too far on anyone else’s needs — and, on the flip side, to learn to love others well without destroying myself.
And in the midst of all that, to stop warring against reality — the reality that I am this hurt despite no one (or very few people) actively trying to harm me, the reality that I can’t completely avoid hurting others or being hurt, the reality that I have all these thoughts and feelings and get so confused and scared and angry and depressed, and so on and so on. Learning that radical acceptance doesn’t mean condoning or excusing what has happened, just accepting that it has.
And, above all, to understand what God is really all about, and what he thinks about all this therapy and self-exploration and all that, what he requires of me, what he offers me, what he allows me, and even what he might be saying to me.
Marcy blogs about her adorable daughter and life at Becoming Three.