Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Black Hole - Part 2

I didn't stay where I left off in My Black Hole (Part 1) but I need to add in some components of that time...
There are several things that spoke to me in this season that helped me feel validated in my agony and despair. One of the first, the broken butterfly cookie. Made by my favorite bakery, damaged while putting it on the shelf, I could see myself in it. I felt "damaged while on the shelf" in so many ways. I bought it and ate it almost like some kind of communion with my broken self. 

Each night I'd go to bed begging God to release me from this, cranking at Him for making me live in this pain, wanting to take a sleeping pill to force my self-hatred to the far recesses of my mind, or flooded with anxiety about what the next day would hold. 

One morning I woke up thinking about rip currents. I grew up close to the beach in Southern California and we were there at least once a week. I learned to body surf and boogie board by trial and error and had been caught in many of them over the years. As a teen, I got to the point where I wasn't worried if I ended up in one because I knew how to get out. But now, in 2013, I didn't remember that. So I looked it up.

So many handy tips about depression in there. 
I found nothing about fighting it, resenting being stuck in it, freaking out about it, or forcing yourself to go beyond what you are capable of! Only solid wisdom about how I should respond to this "rip current" of depression...

Finally I felt like I had permission "If in doubt, don't go out." So I stayed in. Only seeing the psychiatrist to work on finding the best medication to manage my brain chemistry, the counselor to work through the pain and change thought patterns, and my small group. Most of the time I went to church. I cried a lot there, but it was a safe place. 

When I look at the pictures of this season - this one taken of a fresh hair cut and color, I can't help but see the sadness in my eyes.
This picture popped up on a friend's Facebook page one day. Again, I felt the need to decide. Am I going to DO life, or DO NOT. Trying wasn't going to get me anywhere. So, I decided to DO.

I had a peaceful sleep filled respite with my aunt in New Mexico. She gifted me with so much in those few days. My favorite though, was this small ceramic circle. I saw it on her wall, loved it, so she gave it to me. Another artifact of this season of pain that turned, slowly, into a blessing.
I left there with a long way to go, but knowing that somehow I'd make it.

One of the major changes I made was having weight loss surgery. I have spent over 20 years at least 100lbs overweight. It was time to do something about it. I had been praying about surgery for over five years. So, six months after the beginning of the "Jennifer Recovery Plan" (JRP) my Love and I decided it was time. 

My medication was balancing out my brain, my thought life, while still challenging, was improving, and my food addiction was still a huge battle that needed focused attention. I knew my family and many of my friends would be there to support me, but without my small group, I would have never had the courage to go through with it. You can see the difference it made in me, physically and emotionally. There were still many times I cried, longing to feel full without getting sick, wanting to order an actual plate of food not just share with my Love, and desperately wanting to stuff down the pain with food as I had in the past. It still happens, just not as often. 
June 2014
I was starting to find courage to live again. Jennifer was not some elusive woman I glimpsed in the mirror for a fleeting second, but one who I began to see regularly. I could start to see beyond the butt size, the lack of makeup, the messiness of life to the woman God designed. I have always been told Jesus loves me. But in this season, I've started to really get a deep heart level sense that He LIKES me.

(By the way, He LIKES you too. He sees the struggle and He definitely loves you, but, He really likes you too. I'm not just saying that. I hear His heart for others sometimes and I felt like He wants you to know that - today - right now - He likes you.)

A few weeks ago I got out of town with a few girlfriends. I felt myself, for the first time in a very long while, resting in the moment. Not trying to imagine what might come next, to try to stay one step ahead driven by the fear of the unknown, but to dream... Imagine the possibilities... Speaking aloud things planted in my heart about who I desire to become... 

These are pictures taken that weekend. Yes, one is a "selfie". I've taken several over the last year, many I deleted, to try to see "me" in the clouds of fog, moments of agony, and on my way out of the Hole. This one, I loved. The real "Me" coming out of the Hole, looking forward to the future...  


Speaking of future... I'm about to go back to writing the blog I started years ago about my pursuit of physical fitness. Stories of all four triathlons I completed are in there. Early on in my triathlon dreams I began considering doing an Ironman race. 

Watching friends do them over the years and vacillating between being sure I could never do it and dreaming of crossing that finish line, this year I took it a step further. August 3, 2014 I stood along the run course cheering on all the exhausted racers jogging or walking by cheering like I knew them. I would think in one moment, I could never do this, and then - I'm not kidding you - a "Jennifer" would jog or walk by. It happened at least five or six times. At one point I looked up to the sky and laughed and asked Him if He was trying to tell me something! Then, later at the finish line, I saw them again. "Jennifer" after "Jennifer" finishing the race. Maybe it was a "sign" maybe it wasn't depending on how skeptical I am at any given moment. 

The next evening, the volunteer thank you dinner was fun. I had never been to one and didn't know what to expect. The best part for me was meeting the 1st place finisher in the women's division. When she spoke I could see my dream of Ironman again as a real possibility. When she said she'd be sticking around after the dinner to sign posters afterwards, I decided to meet her. I shared my story briefly with her. She wrote a note of encouragement and was happy to take a picture with me. 

There will be a Part 3 in another week or two... sharing the current challenges in my healing process and life journey, but for now, I am thankful to say I am super close to being out of the Hole and I am so thankful I lived to share about it. Many thanks to all who have prayed me through this, sent notes & texts of encouragement and phone calls checking in. God has used you in a powerful way. I am blessed to have you in my life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Black Hole - Part 1

When I look back at my life just over a year ago it couldn't be more different than it is today.

This time last year I was submerged in a black hole so deep I honestly didn't care if I ever came out. I had lost the desire to fight for the light. The trigger for this hole is different for everyone so the "reason" is irrelevant... the experience of the pain is real!

It terrified me and comforted me at the same time.

I found solace in the idea of death. After all, everyone would be better without me right? My kids wouldn't have their defective mother and my husband wouldn't have to deal with a wife who couldn't manage to meet the perceived (and real) expectations no matter what or how I tried. The more I considered the idea, the more reasonable it sounded. My friends and family would recover and go on with their lives and I would be out of the head/heart pain I was in. Win/Win right?

Until the psychiatrist said to me: "If a mother kills herself, at least one of her children will want to be with her. Please don't do this to them. Your anger and heart ache is real and needs healing. Please don't give up. Get the help you need, if only for them."

So I did.

Psychiatrist for medication to deal with the physiological misfires in my brain, a counselor for my thought patterns that need changed, and a small group to be instrumental in speaking life, challenging lies I believed and a workbook that we would work through together finding freedom in God's unfailing love for us.

Early on, I had a friend come and pick me up and take me to a meeting where one of my favorite speakers was sharing. I felt like the guy in the Bible who was taken by stretcher to where Jesus was and dropped through the roof to find healing. I walked in the door, but there is no way I would have left the house without her coming to get me, talking to me all the way there, and not minding the fact that I hadn't showered in days.

Later on, I continued to battle multiple panic attacks every day but they were less than five instead of over ten. I rarely left the house, tried to engage with my kids more, let go of aspirations of joining the PTA, and settled in for the JRP (Jennifer Recovery Plan). I attended hardly any school events because I couldn't stop the panic attacks, I tried to keep tabs on my kids behavior at school only by emails with the teachers, and continued to choke down the fact that I was not going to ever be the same again.

More months go by and I am getting better but still not wanting to be seen. I felt like all my flaws, mistakes and malfunctions were hanging off me like warning flags. I was gaining weight, barely sleeping, and while the darkness of the hole was brightening, I still wasn't able to see out.

I had more days that felt better, more days I could "show up" for life, more days that the end of the tunnel was getting closer and even, occasionally, I could see the end of it...