I’ve never been ashamed or quiet about my grab bag of neuroses. I don’t exactly sport them like club scout badges, but at the same time I find the human brain fascinating, and ‘normalcy’ somewhat like the Loch Ness monster: keep looking for it people, and good luck with that.
I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was 12. My parents were pretty quick to realize that their generation was out of touch with their emotions and not really equipped to handle the various dramatic surges of the tween brain. At first I remember feeling caught between a kind of trendy, elite, inclusion, and embarrassment. I was in therapy. How sophisticated...kind of like having a headgear or a training bra. I think. Wait. Why did I have to go? Didn’t they get me?
But they did. And the gift of talking to someone about my grey matter rollercoaster was one of the best they could have ever given me.
Therapy—regardless of therapist or style—can force you to examine your reactions and put you into the spotlight that you consciously evade or that you don’t even know you’re running from. It can challenge your self-told histories and myths. It can break a passive resistance to driving your life, and help you understand others. Some will disagree and that’s totally fine. It took me a while to warm up to it but after 20 years, I can say I’m a fan.
After I had Baby Girl, I had a mean case of the ‘baby blues’ that lingered. Pretty soon it was an unwanted guest that kept me crying, sleepless, and lackluster 24/7. I honestly thought that this was just what ‘motherhood’ was; a dismal place reminiscent of Hellraiser, except with a cuter Pinhead, severe episodes of guilt over anything and everything, and of course, panic attacks. It wasn’t full-fledged post-partum depression, but it was enough to make me raise my hand and ask for help.
After my first miscarriage, I felt the same violent emotional drain. This time it was more pronounced. I couldn’t move out of bed. I had aches and pains. For a while I couldn’t figure out if it was my Crohn’s, depression, hormones, or all of the above. I was disinterested in the things that made me happy and connected. I had stopped socializing and didn’t realize it until my Klout dropped. (So it appears it is actually good for something. Ha.)
I reached out again.
After miscarriage number 2, however, I hit the depression jackpot.
I was so confident that I could monitor myself, check in with my symptoms, stay on top and in control of my sadness and anxiety. I was such a therapy veteran that I’d know what was going on, and why. Right?
20 years of therapy and I didn’t click this time.
I didn’t click when my smile took so much energy to put on that I’d scream-cry into a pillow when I had a minute to myself. Not when I’d stare at my husband and feel anger, or worse, absolutely nothing.
I didn’t click when after my umpteenth panic attack I thought to myself “Well, it’s probably either a heart attack or another anxiety thing.” Not even when I just sat there not caring what happened next, with just a brief thought to who was listed as my insurance beneficiary in case, you know, it was a coronary.
It hit me this week when I woke up and actually wanted to go outside into the sun. When I wanted to sniff my baby’s sticky maple face after breakfast; hold my husband’s lovely, calloused hand; and just sit for a while with my imperfect thoughts.
‘Where have I been?’ I thought, all of a sudden.
I don’t know.
If I had an answer there would be a spectacular ending to this post. I would say something about my journey back to reality, or the lightening-bolt epiphany that zapped my course and my life. The thing is, that’s not how things tend to happen. It takes conscious work, applied effort, patience, time, and lots of breathing to make a change in your life. And it takes even more to live that change.
For me, that means more therapy.
So go to it. Make your change, and I will too. And we’ll see what happens next in this beautiful mess called Life.