As much as writing is my main outlet, lately it’s been tough to write. Not only because it’s been snowing and finding time around school closures to work and write has been hard to find, but it’s been tough to share the feelings I’ve been experiencing in a public forum. It’s awkward to figure out both how to share and how to keep my boundaries. Because, as people who know me know, it’s hard for me to keep my feelings to myself. And the more I read Joan Didion, and lately, Cheryl Strayed, the message I keep hearing is, “Cut yourself open and let your heart be exposed.” The reason I do write in a public forum is because of how much I rely on other people’s writings, hoping to find people who might share this island with me. And in this public forum, I feel an obligation to be honest. But I also know that people are looking for hope, not despair, and reaching for hope has been tough for me lately. I’ve shut down instead of reaching beyond my comfort zone to pull myself out of this purgatory I’ve landed in.
I decided that it might be time to try to pull myself out of this grieving, nihilistic funk, artificially. I talked to my amazingly compassionate general practitioner (one of the last doctors left with a real bedside manner – last year she played Beyonce on her phone for me while conducting the rather uncomfortable procedure of IUD removal and re-insertion), and asked her about anti-depressants. Me, who used to be fanatically opposed to anything that would give pharmaceutical companies money, the person who would try every herbal supplement before resorting to chemical options. I asked and she agreed, the way my mid-wife prompted me to take the epidural after 40 hours of labor, the way she asked me not to be a martyr for a useless cause, my GP assured me, these are the times when people need to lean on extra help the most. And she promptly wrote me a prescription both for an anti-depressent and for Ativan. My first experience with Ativan was this summer. Knowing I would be on twelve flights between July and November, and after more than 10 years of suffering minor heart attacks the week leading up to each flight and through the entire duration (sometimes over 10 hours), I decided to ask, for the first time, for help. Experiencing traveling without panic retrained my brain. I was able to get through the last three flights, one International flight, without drugs and without issue. For me, someone who travels A LOT, this is huge. Really huge.
I’m not advocating pharmaceuticals, but I’m trying to take the shame away from asking for extra help. I’ve been a mess since my mom died. I’ve pushed through, as I always do, trying not to let the grief slow me down, but I finally hit a wall. I lost motivation and my endless goal setting and future planning screeched to a stop. Everything overwhelmed me. Even the simplest things, like doing the dishes. Of course doing the dishes is when I hear my mom’s voice the loudest, telling me to give the dishes a better rinse before putting them in the dishwasher. And when the kids needed my extra attention, I couldn’t handle it. I just couldn’t give. And I started hating myself for being so short and impatient with the people I loved the most.
So I asked for help. And it’s helped. It’s not a silver bullet. I’m still human and I still need to put in the effort. I need to exercise, I need to eat well, sleep for at least seven hours each night, and I need to give hugs when I’d rather run away. The drugs haven’t made me into a different, happier person, but they have provided the ladder that will get me out of the dark pit. It’s not an elevator, it’s still up to me to climb up the ladder. And it’s not a modern ladder, it’s a long, creaky ladder that will require concentration, determination and motivation to climb, but I see the light up there and I’m ready to bask in it.
Allowing myself to ask for the ladder was a big step. I’ve struggled with moments like this in the past and have always pushed away the help. Not this time. Why the fuck wouldn’t I ask? This is not a battle worth fighting alone. In fact, no battle is worth fighting alone.
That’s why I’m writing again. Because we’re all in this together, we all deserve a ladder, and no one should be afraid to ask.