For the most part the crazy has receded a bit compared to the fall. It ebbs and flows, you sort of get used to that and are grateful for the less crazy times or are hopeful that the more crazy times won’t last long. Don’t get me wrong, back in the throes of the fancy breakdown I was nowhere near that philosophical about the whole thing. And then when I was finally pretty well again I remember walking home from visiting Z at RISD. I stopped dead in my tracks and realized I couldn’t remember exactly how it felt during the worst of things. And it terrified me. If I couldn’t remember it how could I avoid it in the future? But you learn to look for the signs of things not going so hot. You get back into therapy when you need it, you make your peace with the fact that things might get bad again and there won’t be a damn thing you can do. Because as long as you’re doing the work of trying to stay well you have a better chance of catching it on the long slide down. Because there is a level of this whole thing that is beyond your control and if you focus that lack of control you’re sunk. I could do all the hard work and have another breakdown tomorrow. That’s life with mental illness.
The crazy didn’t hang around too much at the ER, but it was there a bit. The good part is I saw it for what it was. So that is progress. A couple of weeks ago I had an anxiety…moment over C’s sleep, or lack thereof. One evening I became convinced I was causing the sleep problems through my lifestyle choices and breastfeeding. This makes no sense, but bear with me. I have a friend who knows more about breastfeeding than anyone else I know, so I shot her an email. In the email I noted the last time I’d emailed her for advice about breastfeeding was when I was pregnant with the twins I miscarried. And that I was sure something terrible was going to happen in the next few weeks because of that. I included that cheerful line of reasoning because I was pretty far gone on the crazy scale. It was a bad night. But as I sat in the ER with C I thought, “I was right. This is my fault. I did this.” After Z arrived and I told him what I was thinking he wouldn’t even have the discusion. Which was for the best.
Look. I know that sending an email did not cause C’s fontanelle to retain fluid. More specifically, I know that reaching out for help, something that makes me break out in hives, did not cause his illness. It’s not just crazy, it’s superstitious, and absurd. And it’s the same damn tiny little voice that tells me I’m stupid, physically repulsive, worthless. The fact I know that is major progress.
The second piece of crazy unfolded a few days later at our couples therapy session. I had a individual therapy session scheduled for the morning after our hospital visit. I hate canceling appointments, really hate it, especially when I’m giving less than 24 hours notice. But I had to take C to the pediatrician’s office, and obviously that was more important. The receptionist was incredibly understanding. My therapist called the next day to make sure I was ok. It’s a small office, so clearly the story got around. Our therapist actually gave me a hug when he saw me. We spent most of the session talking about what happened. Near the end I told our guy that when stuff like this happens I always think that people are going to assume I’m making it up. You know, to have an excuse when I’m canceling an appointment. To have a woe-is-me story. So I can give in to my anxiety disorder.
I account for every chill pill I take to my therapist because I believe she secretly thinks I’m an addict. I over explain every schedule change because I’m sure people will think I’m bullshitting them. And that’s it-the over explaining. It makes me sound guilty no matter what the truth is. Because I feel guilty almost every second of every day. I feel like a gigantic fuck up, like people look at me and see the kind of person that would make up a medical emergency to have an excuse to get out of an appointment.
I’m getting kind of raw with the crazy in this post. I know it can’t be fun to read, but maybe it will help someone out there understand mental illness is real. An anxiety disorder creates so many twisted layers, the second guessing is so intense reality just sort of slips away. It’s ugly. But seriously, being aware of it means I’m in much better shape than I have been.