Sunday, January 29, 2017

1 year.

January 25, 2016.
This picture.  Hard to look at.  I remember taking this picture.  What I didn't know was that it was four days before my whole world would be shaken up and I would walk out the door and leave my family behind.  I didn't know that in four days I would finally have become so broken that I could no longer stand on my own two feet.  Here is the scene:  It was about 3:30pm.  My kids would be off the bus in an hour and I had been in that exact spot since they left 7 hours earlier.  I became fiercely overwhelmed with even the idea of their presence.  I wanted to see them so badly.  I wanted to hold them more than anything.  I needed them.  The problem was, I couldn't let them see me.  I COULD NOT stop crying long enough to eat dinner with them.  I COULD NOT make my voice sound ok when they would bust through the door to tell me about their day and I sure as hell could not rise up and care for them.  I was losing my fight…temporarily, and I knew it.   I remember thinking that I am going to take a picture of this life because one day- I wasn't going to live like this anymore. I knew that every time I looked in the mirror and stared into my own eyes, I could see the pain so vividly.  I also knew somewhere, deep in my soul, that I'd rise and I wanted to remember the pain of the fall.  This picture is a reminder of how far I've come on some pretty hard days.  It will forever remain right in my phone as a reminder of just how far I've begun to rise. 

I'm weird about dates.  Anniversaries of things- good or bad.  Yesterday I felt sick all day.  I'm never sick but yet somehow my whole body ached.  I felt like I was coming down with every illness possible and even though I forced myself to go watch kids sports- thats about all I had to give yesterday.  It also occurred to me what the date was and as I woke up feeling fine today- I know that the anticipation of how today would feel, actually physically took me over.  It is also zero surprise to me that my little Easton, who has been absolutely awesome for over a year- woke up with a fever.  January 29th is  a day now.  It's one that will always have something surrounding it.  

Today its been one year since I boarded that plane all alone and flew to an unknown place in the middle of the night in a state I had never been to  and admitted myself to a program I had only heard of days before.  Today its been one year since my kids got off the bus and I met them at the couch to tell them that I was leaving them for 30 days and I broke their hearts in half.  Today its been one year since I made one of the biggest decisions of my life.  Today marks one year that I decided to take care of myself.  Today is a one year anniversary of ending the private battle that quite possibly could have taken my life.  Today, I no longer feel that I won't survive.  Today, I'm positive I will.

When I arrived in Tucson, Arizona at the Cottonwood De Tucson Treatment center, I told them I was depressed and a little anxious.  I went there and I wanted drugs.  Any drugs they had to make me feel better and send me home.  I wanted something to stop the tears and the pain on my heart- now.  They did nothing.  Not the first day, not the second day, not the third day.  My fight or flight response kicked in and I decided I should leave since they were going to do NOTHING about my crying.   In reality, they were just observing.  To give a little background of what this place was like, I think its important to share that people were there for all different reasons.  We had alcoholics, drug addicts, suicidal people who fortunately had not succeeded in their attempts.  We had wild criminals sent directly from prison and we had Mom's who had just buried their children.  There were people who were depressed and there were people with horribly abusive pasts.  I thought some of these people were so unlike me.  It wasn't until the only chair open for lunch was with the man that had been sent straight here from his 7 year stint in federal prison.  With my makeup free, tear stained, sad self, I took my tray over and sat down.  He looked at me and my eyes looked up and met his.  They were wild eyes but they also had a sadness- I won't forget them.  Next, he asked ME how I was.  He told me about his children and his wife and the stories about why he was in prison.  He told me how afraid he was about doing a life now.  He didn't have a drivers license or a house or a job or really any way to get any of that since most of his adult life was in and out of prison.  On top of that he was addicted to drugs that he somehow had been getting in prison all those years and they were sending him "home" in a few days but he had no idea what address to give the cab.  I learned something right then and there.  We are all the same.  I was not a criminal and addicted to drugs and homeless, BUT I had the exact same type of fear and loneliness and pain as this man.   It was the same for every person in that center that came and went throughout my 30 days.  Its like they say, "Pain demands to be felt," and we all had pain.  What we did with the pain that we carried varied greatly from person to person but we were all there as a result of our pain.  In my eyes- we were all equally the same.

Monday morning FINALLY rolled around and I met my therapist that would be my point person for my stay.  Within the first 5 minutes of meeting her alone in her office she said to me a couple of things I won't forget.  The first was that she said my whole demeanor including my eyes, posture, voice told her that my "cup was empty." She told me that a very important lesson to learn in life was that you cannot give from an empty cup.  I say that to myself daily.  She also said that behind those sad eyes that she could see a spark and in my voice, every so often, an energy snuck through that told her- I was going to be fine.  When she said those things to me, I just cried some more.  All along, Ive known that I'm a fighter.  I will battle my way through anything and part of me had thought I'd lost that but to hear her say that she could still see it, without even really knowing me- gave me all the hope in the world.  I was still in there. 

Next stop was the Psychiatrist.  Finally the man that would give me the drugs to make me feel better.  I sat in his office, crying as usual and told him just how depressed I was.  I gave him my 20 year eating disorder history, my current job that I worked, my family history.  I told him about my kids and the battle we had been through with Easton.  I told him all the things that I am a part of and do and that somehow I am depressed and can't get up anymore.  He didn't say a word.  He looked at me and watched me so intently.  He took some notes, he shook his head and then he said- "I'd like you to come with me and I'd like to give you a little medication to help you calm down and breathe for a moment."  I followed him and took the pill.  As I sat back down, it only took a few minutes to feel my shoulders release just a little and move down away from my ears.  I felt my leg that was kicking so wildly, slow down.  I felt my hands unclinch in my lap and I took a breath that actually didn't hurt. As we sat in his office,  he very matter of factly said to me- depression is not your major issue.  You have more energy leaving your body in this moment alone that anyone would think possible.  Your anxiety is your problem.  I assured him that I laid in bed all day or curled up in a ball on my floor and sobbed all day so I was pretty sure I knew what my problem was.  He politely disagreed and told me his plan.   He referred to my anxiety as a light switch with a dimmer. My switch was all the way up and stuck there.  He wanted to help me bring it down just a bit but not to dim my light at all.  He explained to me exactly what he thought was happening and I actually agreed.  Anxiety is the highest energy expenditure.  My anxiety being so high was sending me into multiple attacks a day.  Those attacks were exhausting and depleting my body and sending me into bed.  Being in bed doing nothing made my feel so bad and my anxiety so high that I would go into another series of attacks as soon as my body recouped some energy.  Again and again and again.  There was no win.  There was no resolve.  There was anxiety and pain and crying.  I was stuck.  He prescribed some medications that we were able to tweak almost daily because I was inpatient.  I attended all the groups, went to all the classes, did all my homework and worked this program with all I had.  Day after day I came out with no makeup and my hair pulled back.  Then one day I wore lip gloss.  Then one day lipgloss and mascara.  One day I actually opened my mouth and spoke to people without being spoken to.  And then one day, I smiled.  A real smile because something actually made me feel ok.  The process of finding my way back to some light wasn't just solved with mediation.  It was hard work.  It was reliving and experiencing hard things and meeting things head on and that you'd prefer to avoid.  It was a journey through darkness and into all the light.

So, its been a year.  A lot more happened in that stay and a ton has happened since Ive gotten home.  I still don't know exactly how I got to that position but I am committed to staying out of it.  I take meds now that I was always against, I never miss an appointment and I still talk to my therapist whenever I need her.  I'm learning to try to just be me.  No matter what that looks like- to be authentically who I feel I am.  I'm making big changes and slow changes and trying to find what makes me happy at the same time that I take care of my family.  I'm learning that you can do both.  You don't have to give yourself up completely because you  have children.  In fact it should be the opposite.  I want to show them that I am not perfect and I don't do things like everyone else- but I show up every day anyway.  That is exactly what I want for them.  I teach them that nobody likes perfect, we like real.  

I take none of what has occurred in my life lightly.  I'm constantly working to better myself and hopefully create a reaction to help other better themselves as well.  Here are some personal changes I have made and some exciting plans I have for my future.

*  I chose happiness over money. And, Nope- I don't think they are synonymous.  I quit my job and gave up a lot of money to have more time to give to my kids.  I didn't want to be grumpy and rushed at the beginning and end of every day anymore and I didn't want to go to a job that my heart wasn't in.  Yes, I miss having extra money but what I don't miss- is all the reasons I gave it up.  I did some

thing different and I'm ok with that.

* I've given back to the NICU in so many ways and Hurley Medical Center as a whole.  I serve on the Foundation Board and a related committee.  I show up anytime they ask Easton to be a part of something and I've raised over $100k for them.  What I haven't done… is figure out how to be OK inside the doors of the actual Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  I used to visit when he was young and then I just stopped because I swear to you that the air is too thick.  I have my own personal trauma inside those walls.  I watched my son almost die for so many days in there.  The machines that saved his life, the monitors that constantly beep always haunt me.  I'm going to fix it.  I've signed up to start volunteering my time to hold babies for three hours a week inside those walls.  Babies who are not fortunate enough for whatever reason to have parents that stayed around the clock like I did.  I am going to give back in a way that isn't monetary and help to bring myself back around to full gratitude instead of fear and to love on babies in need.  I'm terrified for day one and I couldn't be more excited to confront my fear and provide love all at once.  You guys, this is what its all about.

*  Fitness. Let me explain this obsession.  Its all about the mental toughness.  I started out always liking to lift weights.  I had many personal trainers over the years.  Then I ventured into crossfit for 4 years.  I never played sports or was competitive but something about how hard this was- kept me going.  I loved the challenge of your body always wanting to quit but my mind never letting me.  I thought it was a great way to distract from the world and to have personal goals to set that didn't include anyone but me.  I still love CrossFit but have taken a break to try something new.  I am back to being trained by a trainer 5 days a week.  I wanted to put on muscle and was having a hard time doing that with all the cardio involved in Crossfit.  I was in shape for sure, but always so thin.  My body has changed so much in the last 3 months and of course I am all in.  Just like with everything I do- I go all the way or not at all.  I follow a ridiculous diet of SEVEN meals a day and I spend just as much time bitching about that as I do actually eating it.  I'm never going to be 100% satisfied with my body or how I look but that is the part of the chase I love.  Its not a race to win- its like a race for life.  Most of the girls that train with my trainer compete in fitness shows.  I joined but said "Not a chance of a show," for multiple reasons.  I can't walk in heels and I particularly don't want to learn in those clear, high ones.   I don't feel like butt tape is something I want to experience and getting waxed- I'm just not ready for that kind of pain.  However, the more I think about it and the better shape I get in, my mind does tend to think about being 36 years old, in a skimpy suit on a stage and actually winning. Hmmm, it kinda checks a cool box in life that many don't have the discipline to do.  I get asked by lots of people if I will ever do it and I'll tell you the truth.  It's a maybe.   

*  I come from successful people.  I have good role models in that sense.  This is a huge part of the reason that I worked in the family business for 16 years.  Its what I thought I had to do.  Its where I thought my spot was.  Here is what I realized.  I'm different.  I don't act like everyone else and I don't want the same exact things as someone else.  You know what I do love.  Fitness.  Workout Clothes.  Sharing and talking about things I love.  I decided to become a Personal Trainer and am currently studying for the exam to become certified.  I want a job that I can still be at all my kids stuff.  I don't want it to take away from all the reasons I left my job but its something I love and I want really badly to kick peoples asses and show them how much tougher they are than they believe…because that is truly what the gym is to me.  Its all about what you've got to give!   I've wanted to open a gym my whole life and make it just how I want it.  All a representation of how my brain works and what I find motivating and awesome.  Its something I have always wanted to do but never thought possible. I can picture the entire layout in my head. Baby, I'm gonna find a way.  Just watch.

As I finish writing this, a whole year later, I actually feel OK.  I thought I would feel worse today but I don't.  I know one thing for sure- you never ever know what your next year will look like.  What I do know- is I'm tough enough for the ride.

My wish for all of you is that you have the fight and courage that I have found.  The best thing I have ever learned is that I don't have to walk the line.  I don't have to do what is expected and I am OK anyway.  Everyone else's approval of me is just that- what you really need at night when your head hit the pillow- is approval of yourself.  Go fill your cups!

1 comment:

  1. I adore you. Truly. Keep sharing your story girl. You are saving souls. Promise. - Jessica McMican