Friday, November 21, 2014

Day 104: Personality Shift

I have to begin this with a bit of a disclaimer:  I am manic today.  I've been in what's called a "mixed state" for over a week now.  That means I'm both manic and depressed at the same time.  Which means it's just the miserable parts of mania going on.  I feel miserably down, hate myself, and can't sit still or calm down.  And I'm really angry and irritable.

Pretty much all things awesome.

But, today, I've left the depression behind and I've just got the mania.  Before you go feeling all sorry for me--Don't.

Being manic has its upsides.  Today I just feel really happy.  And excited.  About life.  About my future.  About my date with HH tonight.  It is really easy to get angry when I'm manic though, so I've had to reign myself in when my kids were not listening and obeying this morning.

But, I did.  For the most part.

And now, I'm back to being happy.

The problem with being manic and attempting a post, however, is that my mind is kind of all over the place and it's difficult to follow one train of thought to its completion.  But, you were all very kind in overlooking the numerous typos in my last post, so I'm trusting you will do the same if this post is a bit jumpy.

I just hope it makes sense.

The thing is, I think I've noticed some fairly significant positive changes in myself as I've started to "come back to life" since ending my ECT treatments.

You know I've always been a perfectionist.  To the extreme.  How I would go to any lengths to be perfectly in shape, have a perfectly clean house, be the perfect wife and mom, live my religion perfectly, and so on.  Or, at least to appear to be perfect in each of those areas.

And then I'd hate myself for falling short.  And for being a fake and a hypocrite.

So, a friend gave me an audio book just before I moved, called Daring Greatly.  I'd only just begun listening to it shortly before ECT began.  Which of course means that I completely forgot everything I'd read.

So, I picked it up again this past week and just started over at the beginning.  While I don't really remember having read it before, I do remember the feeling I had while listening to it.  Mostly, I just remember cringing with shame and fear as I listened to it the first time.

The author talks all about the value of being vulnerable.  And of letting go of the feeling of "not being _____ enough".

It was like she had been watching me go about my life and she was talking straight to me.

What she said made sense.  I knew she was right.  And that my life would be better if I made the changes she was talking about.

And it terrified me.

And then I went through ECT and completely forgot everything.  But, as I've been listening to it over again this week, I'm remembering those feelings and discovering that they aren't there this time.

Last week, while I was out for a run, I had a little epiphany.  It was as cars were driving past me while I ran at my current about-45-seconds-slower-than-before pace and I realized that I didn't feel the desperate need to speed up, so they would know how fast I can be.  I mean, the thought to do so briefly popped into my head, but then I had this little conversation with myself:

"If they stopped and I told them what I've been through over the last month and a half, they would not only not judge me for being slow, but they would think I am totally awesome for all that I am doing."

A little conceited?  Perhaps.  But, it's actually a conversation I've had with myself numerous times before and since that moment.

But, it was while I was running that I gave pause to acknowledge how incredibly out of character that is for me, and then to ponder why it's happening and why I am okay with all of this.  And the truth is, I haven't really come up with a satisfactory answer yet.

But, I think a part of it is this--for one reason or another, I've found myself opening up and being honest about how I'm doing and what's going on with me since we decided to do ECT.  I think that is in part because we had to tell so many people what was happening because it required so much help.  And then my friend asked me to write this post for her website, and suddenly, it seemed like everyone knew.

And not one person judged me poorly.

No one came to me with any negative feedback.  No one questioned why I was so messed up.  No one told me I was wrong in any way.  No one was mean.

Not one person.

Instead, I received this overwhelming outpouring of love and kindness and support.  And, this is something that still baffles me, I received an overwhelming expression of admiration and even appreciation.


And I think that (plus, the epiphany shared in my last post) is a big part of why I'm finding it easier to be kind to myself.  And to let go of the need to constantly impress everyone.

And now that I've begun being honest and everyone knows that my life is not perfect, I feel like I have to continue being honest.  Because no one is going to believe that all of the sudden my life is magically okay and I am doing everything perfectly again.  So, it's kind of like I'm being forced into this vulnerability.  And I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that being vulnerable is awesome all of the time.  It's still scary.  I still come away from most social situations questioning much of what I said and did.  But then the feedback comes in, and it's still positive.

So, my plan is to just keep on keeping on.  Because, even though it's still scary (I'm hopeful that it won't always be), it's also still easier.  I get to spend my time focusing on the things that I need to be doing, that are most important in my recovery, or for my family.  I used to have to spend my time working on all of those surface issues, so that it would appear to everyone else that everything was perfect with perfect me.

I have to tell you that this way of living is so much more comfortable.  And I am pretty sure it also leaves a lot more room for finding happiness and for sharing that happiness with the people I love the most.

I like this personality shift.  Wherever it came from, I'm grateful for it.  Maybe ECT didn't work the way it's supposed to, but it would appear that it's made a difference in my life for the better anyway.

A difference that is good enough, it's even worth losing the last several months of my life to amnesia.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 103: Reluctantly

I'm not sure where to begin today.  I feel like I have been going through a very personal experience and broadcasting it to the world all along the way.  For the most part, that has been because I have felt prompted too, or because many people have been asking questions.  Sometimes though, I think it's just because my new meds are making me a little manic, and I don't have much of a filter when I'm in this state.

So, I am frequently worrying that I have shared too much.  That I am making some people uncomfortable and sharing things that no one really wants to know.  But then, someone approaches me to thank me for being courageous and honest and expresses some way in which it has helped them.  Honestly, this surprises me every time and I don't really understand how it is helping, but I am grateful for the opportunity to help anyone else going through a hard time.

That being said, what I am about to share is something that feels very personal.  I shared it with HH this morning, bawling the entire time, and then oddly enough, which actually discussed my sharing this with someone else.  I told him I couldn't.  It's just too close to the heart.

And then I was sitting in church a couple hours later and I felt so strongly that I need to share it.  However, I think I can do that without sharing the part that is most personal that I think actually would be too much.  We'll see how my filter does. :)

I have really been struggling the past couple months with the issue of faith.  Not in the way I typically would.  Usually, under my current circumstances I would be doubting everything.  Thinking that God might exist, but He can't possibly love me or He would never allow me to wade through so much struggle, or make HH be stuck with so much misery and stress.

But, I have surprised myself by remaining faithful.  I know that God exists and I know that He loves me.  I know that He has a plan for me and that this is a part of it.  I know that I am learning and growing things that there must be no better way for me to learn than to go through all of this mess.

The problem arises when I feel that no progress is being made.  That in a lot of ways, things are actually getting worse.  So, my conclusion has been that I must be lacking in someway.  I felt that my even though my faith is intact, it must still be incomplete because I have had so many blessings (in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in Priesthood blessings just like those given by the Savior and His disciples, and His prophets throughout the scriptures), prayed so many prayers, and had so many prayers prayed on my behalf--and yet, things are not improving.

So, I have been praying the past couple of months, asking what more I can/should be doing.  How I can increase my faith and what actions I can be taking to make things better.

But, the answer hasn't really come.  I've just felt confused and frustrated and inadequate.  And discouraged.  So discouraged.

Fast forward to this morning.  HH and I teach the 12-year old Sunday School class at church.  Normally, we prepare well in advance.  But, lately HH has been so busy taking care of me and everything else, he doesn't always remember.  And I just plain don't remember, plus this week I've been manic, so every time I think about preparing our lesson, my mind has moved on to something else within about 45 seconds.  So, we were doing our last minute preparations of putting it all together, this morning.  This paragraph was me trying to assuage my guilt--can you tell?

Anyway, as a part of it, I was reading Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk from October 2013 General Conference, "Lord, I Believe".  I strongly encourage you to click on that link and either listen to or read his address.  It hit me profoundly the day he first delivered it and it hit me profoundly today.

It was the answer to my months of pleading and praying.  He shares the account found in St. Mark, about the father of a young boy who I am convinced has a mental illness of some sort.  He is constantly putting himself in danger and it is terrifyingly stressful for his parents.  His father pleads with the Lord to heal his son, or to at least help them in any small way.  (I was reading this talk out loud to HH, and I was bawling already by this point, as I have prayed the same prayer so many times.)

“If thou canst do any thing,” he said, “have compassion on us, and help us.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”1
And that was my answer.  Elder Holland goes on to use this example to teach us how we should handle our faith and our questions.  He teaches that it is completely okay to have limited faith.  I could seriously just quote his whole talk here.  I'll just share the quotes that helped me the most this morning.

 "In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited...When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”6 The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know."

"...Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle."

"...So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. "

And in that moment I knew that what I am doing is enough.  My faith is enough.  I don't need to feel frantic, or stressed that I am somehow failing the Lord in His expectations of me.  I am so far from perfect.  And my efforts to live the gospel the way I normally strive to and to serve others have fallen very very short of what I would like, or even what I have managed in the past.  But the Lord is satisfied with where I am at right now.  The fact that my struggles are not finding a resolution is not a reflection on lacking on my part.  He knows that things are hard and all He wants right now is to comfort and carry me through this.  But He can't do that when I am keeping a distance because I feel inadequate and undeserving.

The truth is, I will always be inadequate and undeserving.  Even if I was capable of living the way I would like to be right now, I would still fall hopelessly short.  But that is irrelevant.  He loves me and He offers His love and acceptance and approval, regardless of whether I deserve it, or not.

I am enough.  My worth is 100% separate from the status of my mental health and the progress (or lack thereof) at finding wellness again.

And I can have peace in the midst of the most awful and horrifying circumstances.  I can wade through darkness I could have never imagined possible and know that somehow, someday, somewhere it will be okay.  His hand is outstretched, waiting to take mine, and to walk with me through it all, even at the scariest of times.

And my faith is enough that I can take His hand.  I can turn to Him when I feel confused and hopeless and scared.  I can say to Him, "If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on [me], and help [me]...Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."  And I know that He will.

The answer to this prayer was painfully long in coming.  But I'm so grateful for it.  I was reaching a point where I didn't know how I would be able to continue.  But now I have what I need to keep pressing on.  And it is enough.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 102: Remember Me?

Because I don't.

Not really.

I've forgotten just about everything that has happened since we moved back in May.  For real.  I keep discovering new things in my house.  And I have to re-meet people who live around here.  And the kids have to keep reminding me of things that have happened in our life.

Yesterday, I discovered that we have a swing set in our backyard.

So fun.

And we're not sure how well the ECT worked.  We think it still needs to clear out of my head a bit and then we'll notice more benefit from it.  But, I haven't made the drastic turn around that some people get.

It has been a neat experience in that I have never felt so cared for and connected to the rest of society.  Everywhere I go people are asking how I'm doing and telling me they are praying for me.  And I truly have felt all of the prayers.  So, to those who have been a part of that, thank you.

It's also been nice because we've just kept being honest and open about everything.  No more secrets. And as awkward and uncomfortable as that can be, it's also nice to just be open.  It's easier to laugh at where I'm at that to cover up the pain and pretend that my life is perfect.

But, I am really looking forward to getting all of this anesthesia out of my system, so I can tell how much the process worked.  So I can stop forgetting everything the moment after it happens.  And so I can stop needing a long nap in the middle of every day.

I am just really ready to be a capable person again!  At least somewhat.  I want to not be totally overwhelmed by the prospect of being a mom to my kids.  Or making dinner.  Or laundry soap.  Or grocery shopping.

But mostly, I just want to be happy.  So, I'm trying really hard to practice patience.  With my life and myself.  I'm trying hard to tell myself that it is okay to be this new me.  To be flawed and to not get everything done.  And this is all going to be just fine, right?  I am going to get through this okay.  Because I have this amazing support group behind me every step of the way and, miraculously, they don't appear to have any intentions of giving up on me.

How did I get to be so very blessed?