The Forgotten Patient: Recovering from Recovery

I co-lead a group called Mental Health Education under the umbrella movement we entitled “Be A Salve” for de-stigmatizing mental illness.  In our curriculum we discuss the stigma of mental illness itself, what is empathy?, how to be self-compassionate, psychological first aid, mental health advocacy, and so forth.  Every week someone shares their story, whether having experienced mental illness themselves or having no connection with mental health awareness at all.  Often, our focus lands on what happens when someone is diagnosed or how to help someone when symptoms appear, and how to get help in general at the beginning.

But what about what happens afterwards?

The news always focuses on the disasters, the victims, the loss, but stories are told by survivors, and yet, even those stories rarely share what happened after the fact.

The Bible is pretty cool in that after Jesus’ ascension, we get a whole book in the story of Acts of what happened after.  Most of the New Testament is a grand epilogue to the marvelous story of Jesus with appendices of letters trying to explain what happened and what it means.  J.R.R. Tolkien provides an endless supply of resources to understand the context, the after story, and basically anything one could ever want to know about Middle Earth in his appendices to the Lord of the Rings and also with all the many many volumes of books he wrote or that his son published.

Sometimes we get the whole story.  Sometimes.

How often do we yearn for a reunion tale?  What happened with Ross and Rachel? or Ted and Robin?

We are left hanging when the story is supposedly over.

I lived in a state of severe deep depression for ten years.  This past February, I woke up.

And loves, when you wake up from depression after ten years, you wake up right when you fell asleep.  I may be 23, but I felt like I was 13.

With my personality, there were spurts here and there during the ten years when I nearly woke up, or I caught a glimpse of the morning, during which period I was able to catch up on a few years rapidly like a mad blur, but then fell back asleep.  Adding all those up, I probably woke up a little older, but the learning curve was still intense… and IS still intense.

Too often I find myself scrambling to grab onto something.  Too often Bulimia allows me a familiar foothold to latch onto and supposedly take a break from the endless free fall of waking and going going going.

But Bulimia is sly and hypnotizes me to sleep… again.

I’ve learned now.  I carry an emergency alarm with me so that when Bulimia calls me into her disguised warm embrace, I can press the button and be pulled out before my eyes turn inward, but ideally, I would find something else to latch onto; another option would be stellar.

What options do I have?

This morning I awoke to a mind racing.  I tried meditating, I tried journaling, I tried stretching, I tried praying, I tried going back to sleep: nothing.

E drove me to the lakeshore beach.  As soon as we reached the sand, I took my shoes off and walked straight to the water, feeling my feet sink into the sand, hot, dry, coarse, to firm, cold, smooth.

The small tides slowly rushed in and out and I stepped in deeper and deeper until the water reached halfway up my thighs and stood there.  Reaching my hands up to the sky I prayed, God, I’m here.

What am I supposed to do?  Please, God, show me that I am going the right way, that you are here.  

The sun beat down upon my head.  The water cool upon my legs. I sunk my head into the water and lifted it back out, drenched, as the water dripped down my back and down my shoulders.  The soft wind blew upon my wet skin; an intimate kiss from something unseen, and I let out a deep sigh.

I’ve been grazing the surface of the water for a long time.  It’s safe there.  I can see the floor, I can reach the floor, and still see land.  I can see where I step, I can breathe the air.  I can walk. I can run.  I can see all the different colors of the transparent forms and look beyond as the blues meet yet remain far and away from me.

Shallow is safe.  Shallow is easier, but sometimes, we need to go deep.

I may be free falling, but I look up and see that I’ve tied a bungee cord to a broken branch that’s still intact and strong enough to pull me back up, but soon will break off and drop me somewhere I don’t want to be.

I have a choice.  I can untie the bungee cord and dive into the water, or continue to graze the surface, jumping back up every time to where I began, but soon, the cord will break.

I’m going to choose now, before the cord breaks, before the choice is no longer mine to choose.  I choose to dive deep.

I don’t know what’s down there, I don’t know where my feet will find landing… but okay.  I will.

hmm… now to pack for the journey?

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