The Reckoning

I was looking for something else when I found it: the journal I didn’t remember keeping in my Google Docs. The journal that described, with unflinching honesty, how I felt while depressed. I have kept a journal off and on for years–ever since I was a preteen–and so the fact that I kept a journal while depressed didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me is that I forgot how bad it really was, how much I felt despair and how much I wanted to stop existing. I forgot how dark the darkness really was. Reading each entry was like reopening a wound–painful and delicate and raw. But I couldn’t help myself. I kept on picking at that wound, and before I knew it I was crying. I came so close to choosing death for myself. I came so close to leaving everything I love. I came so close to giving up, to giving in to the deadly thoughts that left me worn and weary. I came SO. CLOSE.

But I did not give up. I did not give in. I am still here. Praise God, I am still here. And I want to sing it from the rooftops, “I am STILL HERE. God is STILL GOOD.”

I think the forgetting is a gift. So much of the past two and a half years was spent in the fog of depression, and I think if I were haunted by its memories every day I would come undone. So instead of wishing I remembered more, I am glad that I don’t. I am glad I have the luxury of forgetting even a little of the pain I went through. I know that is not a luxury all have, and I am not going to waste it. I know too that tomorrow I could wake up and the happiness I feel could be gone.

I am not foolish enough to think myself immune from future calamity, and I am wise enough to be thankful for the present calm.

It has been hard these past few days to live with the awful truth that I wanted to end my life. It has been hard to confront the fact that I missed out on weeks and weeks with my family because I was in treatment. It has been hard reckoning with the toll my illness took on my marriage, on my family, on my friends. I could get lost in a haze of guilt if I tried. But instead I offer up thanks for my marriage, for my family, for my friends. I give my life to God, open-handed but fearful and trembling. I speak the prayer I know to be true, the one that has saved me all along: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

This is the song I sing.

Far from Home, Part 3: The Wounds I Carried

This is part 3 in a series describing my time spent at Timberline Knolls receiving treatment for depression. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

As I mentioned in my last post, my days were filled with activity. Group therapy took up the largest chunk of the day, and some groups resonated with me more than others, but all of them had something that I could use if I looked hard enough. Here’s a list of some of the groups I attended on a weekly basis:

DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) Skills: DBT is the theoretical framework out of which everything at TK operates. Several groups were dedicated to various aspects of DBT. The goal behind DBT is to create a meaningful life, and DBT teaches people how to do this through a variety of practices.
Body Image
Self Image
Mood/Trauma
Art
Family Dynamics
Soul Making
Mood Regulation
Process of Addiction
Process Group
Reflective Journaling

One group I attended was called “Grief and Loss,” and after hearing part of my story, my therapist assured me it would be a good group for me. I didn’t know why she said that since I have not experienced the loss of a loved one. I felt like an intruder just being in the room, since I knew that several of the women present had experienced deep loss. We started the group by listening to this TED talk by a woman named Nora McInerny. In it she talks about losing her husband and that she doesn’t think you “move on” from grief but instead “move forward” with it. It’s a very moving, poignant talk that I highly recommend listening to. As I was listening to the talk, I found myself becoming emotional. Tears sprung to my eyes, and I was hit with the hard truth that had I made different choices, I would be putting my husband and family and friends through the very grief that Nora talked about. Depression and suicidal ideation is a thief and a liar, and it almost cost me everything. The reality of that thought struck me with an almost palpable force in that group therapy room. After the video, several women shared their stories of loss, including two who lost parents from suicide, and it was an incredibly intense but important session.

After that group, I met with my individual therapist. One advantage of attending TK was being able to take part in their Christian track of therapeutic programming. This basically entailed attending certain groups specifically geared towards believers and being provided with a therapist who is a Christian. I was assigned to a therapist named Cynthia. Cynthia and I hit it off pretty much immediately, which was fortunate since I met with her 3 times a week the whole time I was there. Initially, it was daunting once again having to start all over with someone and fill her in on all that had been going on, but she was an excellent listener and had good recall, and I was instantly put at ease when sharing with her.

That day after the grief and loss group I found myself essentially sobbing through the entire session. Not only did I realize the gravity of the situation in which I found myself, but I also saw with clear eyes how much I have lost over the years. The losses for me haven’t been people but instead have been related primarily to my health: being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis; being sick for 3 years before getting to remission; not getting to run my 2nd half marathon due to chronic hip pain; giving myself shots on a biweekly basis; being told I needed to be in remission for a year before getting pregnant; gaining weight on prednisone; having hip surgeries and being on crutches; enduring weeks of physical therapy; continuing to have pain; eventually gaining back all of the 90 pounds I once had worked so hard to lose; having an unplanned C-section and a child in the NICU, etc. I cried for the pain of all of the unmet expectations, dreams, hopes, and desires those losses represented. I cried for the pain of having endured all of those things. I cried for the pain of having hoped that I had “done my time” with suffering and wouldn’t have to suffer like I presently was. I cried, and my therapist listened kindly while I somehow managed to express all of this to her. I cried, and I felt heard and seen, not just by Cynthia, but by God. I knew He had been there with me through all of those trials, and He was with me in that therapy room while I opened a door of my heart that I had stubbornly kept locked.

For the first time in a long time I allowed myself to admit that all of those experiences had wounded me, and I allowed myself the space to grieve what might have been. For the first time in a long time I didn’t minimize my struggles by saying, “It could have been worse,” or “Other people have suffered more.” I just let myself grieve, and it was freeing in a way I can’t express. For too long I have not let myself feel sad about the sad things that have happened to me because I have compared my pain with that of others and felt like mine was lacking in significance. But what Cynthia helped me see is that pain is pain and pain is painful, no matter how it comes, no matter the degree it is felt or experienced. All of the times I had pushed my pain aside resulted in me absorbing the message that my pain was not important, that I was not important, and so instead of making the wounds smaller, this denial just made them deeper and larger. I was hurt and hurting, and it was acceptable to admit that. Not only was it acceptable to admit it, but it was necessary so that I could move forward. 

I wish I could say I have moved past all of the painful experiences I have had, but I’m still a work in progress. That’s what therapy is for–to continue to heal the wounds that I let fester unseen for too long. If there are things in your life that were painful but that you swept aside out of fear that they were too insignificant, I encourage you to bring those wounds into the light and let the healing begin.

 

FAI Surgery #2: Early Recovery

I’m now 10 days post-op from surgery to correct hip impingement. In some ways this recovery has been better than the first one. I don’t feel like my pain is nearly as bad, which makes a huge difference and I assume is due to the fact that I didn’t have a labral tear in this hip. Stephen also said he thinks I’m moving around much better this time than I was last time. I don’t know that I have felt that way, but honestly the first few days after both surgeries are kind of a blur, so I will take his word on that. What’s been strange is that even though the recovery hasn’t been so bad, I haven’t wanted to be up and about as much as I did last time. I managed to go to Wal-Mart with my parents on post-op day 4 last time, and there was no way that was happening this time because of the nausea and fatigue I felt. I still don’t really feel like going to the trouble of making myself presentable enough for public, but I did go to lunch with my mom yesterday, and it was great to be out and also great to spend time with her. What wasn’t so great was being seated at the very back of the restaurant and having people look at me as I hobbled by them, but it won’t be the first or last time I’ll be stared at!

For the first few days after my surgery, the biggest challenges were not the pain in my hip but sleeplessness, fatigue, and a persistent sore throat. The sore throat was the biggest surprise to me, even though the anesthesiologist told me it would be possible, because I didn’t have that issue at all the first time around. My sleep quality has been less than ideal but is improving, and I’m thankful that I have the rest of this week off work so I can still sleep whenever I need to. Initially I had a really hard time getting around on my crutches because my body felt so weak and unstable. I have a walker with wheels that I borrowed last time and hardly used, but I have ended up using it quite a bit because it was easier to use than the crutches. Recently I have started using the crutches more, and while I thought it would be a piece of cake to use them again, it wasn’t quite as smooth a transition as I thought it would be. Of course, I’m also not the most graceful and coordinated person alive, so I don’t know why I was surprised to struggle with them again. I dealt with terrible nausea and loss of appetite for about 3 days, which was really difficult. I’m not sure what exactly caused the nausea, as I did not have that problem at all with the first surgery, but I suspect that I wasn’t taking my pain medication with enough food. I finally started seeing improvement from that on Saturday and now don’t have any nausea. I’ve also had my share of terrible nightmares the past few nights (including one so vivid that I woke Stephen up because I was convinced it was real) and hope those go away soon.

I am planning to go back to work part-time on Monday, and I’m both ready and not ready for that. I’ve been pretty bored at home (it turns out there’s only so much reading and watching of TV one can do before being tired of it), so it will be nice to get back into more of a routine. Sitting upright in a chair all day doesn’t excite me, as sitting is the most uncomfortable position for me (I have spent the majority of my time at home either lying down or reclining), but I’m hoping that easing into it by working reduced hours the first week will help.

Stephen and I will make another trip to Nashville on Friday for my first follow-up appointment. I’m hoping Dr. P. will clear me to drive then, since there’s really no reason I can’t drive because I don’t use my left leg at all while driving. I also expect to get my orders for physical therapy and will be ready to begin that and see my great therapist again.

Even though this whole process is an ordeal that can be draining sometimes, I am trying to remember that I am closer to healing with each passing day. I long for the day when I can write that I am pain-free, and I pray that day comes so that you all can share in my joy at seeing what the Lord has done! And even if that day doesn’t come, I still will be joyful about what He has done, for the work He has wrought in my heart is far more important than any work done on my hips.

Hips Don’t Lie: 8 Weeks Post-Op

My hips were achier than usual all day today, and I told Stephen tonight at dinner that I bet rain was coming. My hips always seem to hurt more right before it rains. Sure enough, earlier this evening rain began to fall. Just call me Shakira because my hips don’t lie!

I’m happy to be at eight weeks post-op. It somehow feels like a big milestone, although the true milestone was last Tuesday, when I was FINALLY able to ditch the crutches after almost 7 weeks! I was so nervous those first few days without my crutch, scared that the slightest misstep would send me right back on it, but so far I have been fine. My physical therapist says I still have a slight problem with my gait, but she feels that it will correct itself overtime as I strengthen my muscles. One of the biggest issues I’ve seen with therapy is the fact that I have zero muscle tone due to being completely sedentary for a year before my surgery. It took me so long to get the right diagnosis and treatment for  my hip, and while I was seeking that out, I wasn’t doing anything physical because I was in pain all the time. Obviously, being so inactive took a huge toll on my body, in more ways than one, but I see it the most when I am at physical therapy. At first, just doing a simple thing like extending my leg and holding it made my thigh quiver with exertion. It’s gotten better thanks to all of the sessions I’ve had and the home exercises I’ve been doing, but I can’t help but wonder if my therapy would have been easier if my muscles had been stronger. I know there’s really no point in worrying about that at this point since I can’t change the past, though. And on the positive side, my left hip will hopefully be stronger going into surgery since it’s had to work harder these past few months (and boy have I felt it!).

I had a follow-up visit with my orthopedic doctor last Wednesday, and he was very pleased with my progress. He took x-rays and showed me the area of bone he had shaved away and showed how that should help the movement in my hip joint. He said my joint space looks great and also thought my gait looked good. I was concerned before the appointment about the amount of pain I’m still having, but he said it’s normal at this stage and that I should see a decrease within 2-3 weeks, so I’m hoping that by week 10 I will be doing much better. It’s been hard for me when people have asked me if I’m pain-free now and I have to say no. I feel as though I’m letting them down with that answer, which I know is ridiculous, but we all know I’m good at being ridiculous. I am ready for the day when I can say that I’m pain-free. I hope and pray that day comes, but sometimes I am afraid it won’t. I still have a long road ahead of me since I still have to take care of my left hip, too, but I can’t dwell on that right now. I’m only guaranteed today, so I will focus on that and be thankful, achy hips and rainy day and all. 🙂