Let It Be Big

Almost 25 years ago a very dear friend of mine passed away. She was more than a Grandma, different than a mother, she was so special to everyone who knew her. I had never experienced anyone that I was THAT close to dying. My great grandfather had died, a cousin who I knew a little and was my pen pal had passed, but nothing that left a gaping hole and searing pain. I wondered if I would cry forever.

My little brother was 10. He was far closer to her than I was. She was old and he was young and they were the cutest little pair. He spent every moment he could with her and everyone knew he was her special boy. They took care of each other. We all worried how he would face her passing. 75237550_575550279855486_1372923980209455104_n

He was a rock. He never cried, he hardly seemed to notice.  For a little boy he was so good at “controlling his emotions.” She had insisted that he have violin lessons when he asked for them. She even bought the violin herself and paid for lessons. Every day they would sit together and listen to Itsak Perlman play the violin. At her funeral he stood and played her favorite lullaby for her and his expression never changed but tears streamed down his cheeks. When it was all over this 10 year old boy tried Marijuana for the first time to ease the pain he was feeling but not expressing.74632400_10156702074110658_1778550204996255744_n

He became heavily addicted after just one use. More and more it controlled his life until he couldn’t function without it and the other drugs that had followed. 5 years later our grandma and great grandma were hit by a truck as they were attempting to cross the street. A few weeks later another close friend of his passed away. His drug use escalated to cocaine and heroin.

Soon he was homeless, in prisoned, in and out of rehab programs, wasting away in every sense of the word. No one could trust him and no one wanted him around. He tried many times to over come it and failed. One by one his friends died from overdose or suicide.74476302_949229395437421_677341992123891712_n

Then one day at rock bottom he found The Other Side Academy. It changed his life and brought back my baby brother. He was fun again. Witty, so intelligent, motivated and gifted. They were teaching him a lot of life skills that he desperately needed. After almost 4 years of being clean and almost 25 years from the first drug use our Dad passed away. 74692524_10156677868035658_6111927079991771136_nThis was only 3 months after the devastating murder of our brother Paul 67345058_10162107659460344_1553556358920404992_nand just 4 months from the passing of our oldest brother Doug from cancer. 1483058_10152047951465859_505552891_nIt was big…too big. He turned to drugs to dull the pain once again and after so long being clean he overdosed and passed away.

I sat in my living room after hearing the news and sobbed. All I could think was that it was too big and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lose him and yet I had no choice. He was already gone. That night as I prepared for bed all I could think was that I wanted to take some Nyquil. Nyquil is safe. Its legal. It would make me feel numb and help me sleep and that sounded SO good. But a little voice in my head asked is that really different than what he did? Is numbing out the emotion and sleeping through it any healthier of an approach?

Something that I believe about our society in general is that we are not very emotionally mature. We don’t really know much about emotion. Most of us try to “manage” or “control” our emotions.

Before I had kids I was pretty good at controlling my emotions. I almost never cried in public, and I laughed at the sad parts in movies. I DID NOT understand people who stood to give a talk in church and cried. It wasn’t my thing.

Growing up I had a fierce temper and I learned to control that too at least to some extent by shoving those feelings of anger down so deep and dreaming of a revenge that I would never enact.

When I had my third baby, I had an experience that changed me. I had gone to the hospital to have her even though I had planned a home birth, so my midwife was there as a doula to help me through it. I was on pitocin and things were moving slowly. As labor progressed a little at a time I started to have some feelings. At first I felt frustrated at the hospital and the doctors for trying to pigeon hole me into doing things the way they always did them, then I felt angry at men for not bearing the brunt of the difficulty of pregnancy and child birth, then I felt annoyed at God for the overall plan and my limited understanding of his role for women. Next I felt a primal urge to seclude myself in preparation for what was coming, then I felt fear at something that was too big for me to accomplish and finally I felt overwhelming joy at bringing a new life into the world.

At each stage I acknowledged to my midwife what I was feeling. It felt more like an observation. As I observed each feeling it would come into focus, and then grow small and pass from my body, finished, complete, and without leaving anything behind. Later when the baby was finally coming and I started feeling the urge to push I was so afraid that I would tear and I buried my face in the mattress, I felt the need to hide the fact that I was pushing, the pain became intense and I began begging for an epidural.

Later I realized that the minute I stopped communicating my feelings those feelings became too big for me to handle. Pain and fear surpassed my abilities and the only apparent way out was to medically remove my ability to feel anything.

For 17 months I pondered that experience, learning from it, applying it to other aspects of my life and it wasn’t until I was preparing for my next birth that the full impact of what I had discovered hit me.

I was carrying twins and the pregnancy was uncomfortable. My midwife suggested doing a body code session to help. I did and enjoyed it so much I did one each week for the rest of the pregnancy. Body code is essentially finding imbalances in the energies of your body that are cause by trapped emotions and releasing them. Those imbalances can cause physical pain and discomfort. Each week I was releasing a dozen or more trapped emotions that had been cluttering up my life and my body with undo stress.  Each session left me feeling like I had cleaned out my overpacked closet. I felt fresh and free. As each emotion would come up the practitioner would ask me if I was ready to release it. Sometimes it was easy to release, other times it felt too big and I would ask myself has holding on to this pain served me in anyway. When I realized that it had only caused pain and stress I would take a deep breath and let it go. Each time I felt relief.

When it came time to birth the twins I had opted for a natural birth at home. In moments of the birth where the pain felt too big, where fear entered my heart, where the babies crowning felt more than I could do, I said what I was feeling, I allowed that feeling to enter my body and my mind and I let myself feel it, endure its purpose and let it go. As I did it all fell into place and became manageable. Or rather I realized that i didn’t have to manage it, My job was just to experience it.

Since then I have thought a lot about the words we use to describe emotions. Emotions feel to me more fluid. Love is directly tied to sadness. The more you love the greater the potential for sadness. There can not be one without the other, and both are ok.

I wish that I had spent more time learning to just experience the emotion and let it pass through me rather than trying to control it. I think my emotional closet would be a lot less cluttered. So here I am with yet another experience to teach me how to experience emotions in a more healthy way. My brothers passing feels just too big. My already raw, bleeding heart can’t handle this much pain. So just like the birthing of my babies I’m trying to allow myself to feel the pain and acknowledge it and let it pass. I’m not good at it yet. But I CAN do this. I CAN move forward and even thrive. I CAN do hard things. I can let it be big.

The worst swear word ever is the D word.

For some reason lately I have been really feeling the need to write about an intensely personal topic that I really haven’t written much about, anywhere. And then today I read this blog post and that need just increased.

http://www.designmom.com/2014/03/mental-health-update/#more-45245

I have had family members suffer with various mental health issues before and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of it. I knew that depression wasn’t about mood. It wasn’t about “trying to be happy” I thought that I understood enough that I wouldn’t feel shame associated with a physical disease no different from Diabetes.

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But in the last couple of weeks as I have contemplated sharing my story I have felt all kinds of shame. I have wondered about who might possibly read it if I wrote about my experience and what they might think of me. I thought maybe if only strangers read it I would be ok with that. Or other times maybe if only family read it I would be ok with that, perhaps they would judge me less.

In the end I realized that I still feel shame in it. Which means that I still don’t fully “get” the significance of the illness that I suffered from.

Looking back I can see that I was depressed a good portion of my life. As I kid I thought about dying quite a lot. I thought about what a relief it would be to finish this life, I thought about lots of different way to die, to kill myself, and yes let’s be honest even on occasion killing others. Not that I ever wanted to but I thought about it more than is “normal.” I thought about how one might go about killing someone, or where you would hide the body etc.

About the time I was 15 something changed, the fog lifted and I felt differently. I felt alive.

Later when I was enrolling at UVU an instructor gave me a survey to fill out. One of the questions was how often do you think about suicide, sometimes, often or never. I chose sometimes. The instructor was shocked, she took me aside and explained that, that is not an ok answer. I thought it was normal. I told her that I hadn’t thought about it recently but that I had quite a lot as a kid. She made me promise that if I ever found myself thinking that way again that I would contact her.

Then in 2008 it came back. It started slowly at first. Little things like just feeling anxious and foggy. Then I started to feel like it would be a really nice feeling to die. Then one day I was at work, I was playing around with a razor blade and remembered that old lotion commercial from the 80’s where the woman writes the word dry on her arm with her fingernail.

I wrote it with the tip of the blade, thinking I was just lightly scratching, the same as I would if it was my finger nail. Then I went back to work and had the most peaceful productive couple of hours I had experienced in a long time. I was focused and driven, calm and my head seemed quiet. It wasn’t until several hours into it that I noticed something sticky on my arms and hands. It was blood. I didn’t even know that I had cut myself deep enough to bleed.

About a week later I was running across a parking lot in the rain. I slipped and fell and scratched my knee. It started to bleed. I was surprised that instead of feeling pain I felt an intense desire to see it continue to bleed, I wanted to keep bleeding until all the blood was drained from my body. I felt sad when it clotted and the bleeding stopped.

Thats when I discovered that one little slice, anywhere on my body would make the internal pain go away. I knew it was crazy. I was a psychology major! Just the last semester I had taken abnormal psychology and I knew what I was doing. And yet somehow it seemed different. The fact that it physically made me feel better somehow made it seem ok and even rational to me.

The cuts mostly stayed little and just deep enough to bleed enough to calm my head. I always cut where it wouldn’t show. But each cut helped less than the one before and soon I found myself crying hysterically each time I cut because I couldn’t get the same quick fix.

Then one day I was home alone. All my room mates were gone. I was eating an orange and I choked on it. Really truly choked where I couldn’t breathe at all. At one point I thought, this is it, this is how I am going to die. My reaction to that thought was relief and a little excitement. Then I suddenly coughed it up. I was so disappointed I tried not to let it happen but my body was fighting to breathe.

When I realized I wasn’t going to die I decided that if the disappointment that I felt was so deep and if it wouldn’t have been evil or wrong for me to die from choking and being happy about that would it be so wrong for me to make something happen that would cause me to die? At the time I couldn’t see the difference. And I thought even if it’s wrong I don’t think Heavenly Father would really punish me for wanting to stop feeling the way I was feeling. That night I tried to cut deep and in ways and places that I knew would end my life. But nothing seemed able to penetrate my skin that night.

Finally I gave up took a couple of sleeping pills and went to bed.

In the morning, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that it wasn’t normal or ok the way I was feeling and that I needed help. I remembered the promise I had made to my instructor. That day I tracked her down, told her what I was experiencing and she went with me that day to see a doctor.

The doctor started me on Lexepro and told me to expect at least two weeks before I noticed a difference. About a week later I noticed that I seemed calmer and that the noise in my head was quieting. Within another week the thoughts and desires for death were gone. I couldn’t believe that one little pill could change my thoughts completely. I started living again, paying bills, working, doing homework, all the things that I had let go.

Three glorious months went by before I crashed hard. This time the symptoms were far more intense, much more difficult to hide. I lost my job, and my family and many of my friends found out what I was going through. I went back to the doctor and she upped my dosage and added Abilify.

After that things went from bad to worse. The noise in my head went from utter chaos to loud distinguishable voices and personalities. My own voice, thoughts and opinions became almost non existant. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation because I didn’t know what I thought about what the other person was saying. All I wanted to do was sleep and I hoped that if I slept long enough I would sink down and just become a part of the mattress.

depression

When I started having seizures from the medication my mom got involved and she helped me get off all the medication. I moved to a quiet vacation home that my parents had, and spent my time doing yard work and painting and decorating the house. We focused on eating properly, drinking water, and getting the best nutritional supplements we could find.

Things started to get better. I started to feel more like myself. I still had panic attacks that felt like heart attacks occasionally. I still felt the need to cut, although I could distinguish between good ideas and bad ones now and resisted the urges.

One day out of no where I got a distinct impression. Just a thought really that came so clearly into my head that I knew I had to follow it. It said to revisit a cleansing diet that I had done for 6 weeks when I was 14 years old. I followed that impression within the week and was religious about my diet for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks I felt like I had climbed up out of a deep dark hole.

As time went on I felt more and more distance between me and that hole and every year I take six weeks out of the year and do my special diet. It just sort of jump-start for my body. It’s been a good three years, since I have even felt frightened by that black hole. Every so often I feel myself approach it, and I know that I need to eliminate some stress and do whatever it takes to move away from it again.

I feel so blessed that I found something that worked for me. It’s a struggle that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and yet, in spite of the struggle that I know that it is, in spite of the fact that I certainly did not choose to experience that, I still feel shame, deep humiliating shame that tells me that there must be something “wrong” with me and if people only knew they would shut me up like a “crazy person.”

Medication works for some. It didn’t for me. But I found something that did and that’s what is important. Everyone needs a solution. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. So I would love to know…

What was your solution?