Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Crediting myself

Yesterday I wrote something that isn't really true. I wrote that I don't deserve much credit for what has happened to me, because mainly I was along for the ride.

There is degree to which that's true. But it's not true to not say I'm immensely proud of myself. In the last 18 months since I started responding to meds I have done some extremely hard work in therapy. I have spoken words aloud that I've never spoken, just written. I have faced fears and hurts and gotten stronger each time I did so. I've talked about the hardest parts of my life. I've gotten comfortable enough that I'm even at least able to answer specific questions about the sexual abuse, even if I can't just talk about what precisely happened without that impetus. I've come to accept that I have limitations, some from illness, some from what happened, and I'm finally speaking out when I reach those limits. Wednesday I see a urologist about a test I've needed done for 4 years. I've refused because any region the urologist looks at is a region that I can't tolerate having examined. But now I was able to say "I can't do this test the normal way because of my past. However, promise me that I will have NO memory of it and I'll do it" and suddenly it's being set up rapidly with total agreement that this is possible.

I've had to make some hard decisions over the course of the last 10 years. I've had to give up jobs I loved, give up full-time work for a long time, start seeing psychiatrists and therapists, decide a clinical trial was my best option for hope, decide to accept what was wrong with me, decide to talk about things that were so painful they caused tears from the moment the words started until the end of the session and then immediately upon starting the next one. Even before that I've made some hard decisions. I decided that my father was too poisonous to have a relationship with. I decided that I needed time far from my family and that I would move 10 hours away for grad school to a state I'd never been in. I decided to move back when I was done. I decided to cut off friendships that were hurting me, including one that essentially had become abusive, making me feel terrible about myself and my illness, even though ending these relationships essentially meant having few ties and a limited support system.

But what I know I deserve credit for, what may be my biggest accomplishment in life in some ways, is what I did this summer/fall. I accepted without fighting that my antidepressant wasn't effective anymore and a dose I could manage, and that this meant that within months I would be seriously ill. I knew what accepting that meant and I decided to do it. And I survived several weeks of anxiety hoping against hope Dr. Brain was going to tell me I'd be fine while knowing what was coming. I survived the point where she asked "well, how are you doing?" and I had to answer "we have a problem, and outline the entire "70 mgs doesn't work, 80 mgs means I don't poop no matter how much other meds I take and it only sort of works and 90 mgs makes me manic, and since we're creating those doses I know perfectly well that there is no other possible way to take this stuff, and SAD season is approaching and I know I can't go into it with no options with my antidepressant, and I know that this means switching to Emsam, so let's do it". I had truly thought she's let me go off the other med fairly cold turkey, so being told to wean was really tough. And the wean itself, well, that was the hardest thing I've ever stuck to doing. Deciding also (Ok, more like accepting that she wasn't really giving me a choice) about the hospital was incredibly hard because I have had hospital phobia for many years. I know longer remember what I felt like during those dreadful weeks in October. My memory of that time has gotten pretty vague. I know though the courage it took to say to Dr. Mind that I needed to be in the hospital, ASAP. I know what it felt like when my email to tell Dr. Brain, who had been oddly and uncharacteristically unhelpful all month, that I needed to go to the hospital within the week was met by an out of office auto-reply. I know how hard waiting to hear if they would accept me was, especially when it took longer than usual. That weekend I had to dump out a bottle of my most dangerous pills, and I wasn't totally sure that I wouldn't be dumping more as I went. I will never forget how much courage it took that sunny, gorgeous fall day of Oct. 27 to put my suitcases in the car and drive to Cleveland. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to get to where I was hospitalized, and I kept having stop to pee because I was nervous. That kept making my GPS agitated because I was off-track. I also took a wrong turn onto the wrong interstate because I listened too carefully to the GPS and not to my own brain which makes that part of the drive ever single month. I remember walking into the hospital, going to the bathroom, saying a brief prayer and then finding registration. I know the courage it took to sign that green voluntary commitment form that indicated that if I chose to leave I had to stay 3 days, which I knew meant that I was agreeing the dr. could get the court to force me to stay. There was one moment after I had signed that form that I wanted nothing but to leave and I had just said I couldn't. Then there was the eternally long admission process, and then the crying I did for most the rest of that day. There was the anger at not seeing a doctor for 24 hours and then having to wait another 24 hours before anything could be done. There was the point during that week when I had to go down the hall and find a nurse and say "I can't stop crying". There was the point where I had to throw away into the radiator a simple paperclip out of fear I'd use it to hurt myself. There were many, many rough moments that week. And there was the next week, when I had no psychiatric follow-up and had to have my family doctor take on responsibility for things that weren't his expertise. And the week after that when I went back to work and had to start taking valium on top of my other 2 drugs and high dose of Seroquel just so I could survive the terrible anxiety.

And now I am in a whole other place, and it makes it easy to forget how hard it was to make those decisions to care for myself. It's true I didn't do it alone, and if I didn't have Dr. Mind forcing me to face new things constantly I probably would have had this happen in a whole other way, a way that didn't leave me feeling empowered and finally in control of my health.

So I was wrong yesterday. I did a lot to make this happen. The more that the memories blur of those awful months the harder it is to remember that because soon I'll remember nothing of the pain. I know God designs us that way and nothing makes me more grateful, but I do deserve to be proud of myself. And I am, in many ways for the first time since before I got sick.


Michal Ann said...

I'm so proud that you're proud and you're giving yourself deserved credit for the bravery and effort you've demonstrated.

You make your team proud and I know they're so very gratified.
Congratulations, dear Jen. I love your bravery and wisdom in "coming out." I'm happy that I can publicly acknowledge the woman I've come to know through your public journal.

Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.

Ps. 31:24

Julia said...

You most certainly did ALL of it, sure you had help along the way - because you let people help you - but YOU did it. And you should be proud and you should brag.

I hope one day Gage chooses his future like you have yours.