A Resurrection Story

Let me make one thing clear: I’m in no way claiming to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  That said, I do have my own resurrection story. The world was darkness, as if I were in a tomb, physically alive but wanting the relief of death.

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Let me make one thing clear: I’m in no way claiming to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  That said, I do have my own resurrection story.

Journey with me back to September 2006. I had seen a well-known reproductive psychiatrist for a consultation, as Bigfoot and I were talking kids and knew I’d probably need to stay on meds.  This doctor, during my one appointment, decided I actually had Bipolar II- with periods of anxiety replacing the mania common to the more extreme poles of Bipolar I- and not major depressive disorder, as I’d previously been diagnosed. After convincing my (then) psychiatrist that I must, in fact, have Bipolar II, because “Dr. Famous said so,” I began taking different medications.  Meds that messed with my body, causing me to move robotically (I am told- like, turning my whole entire body to speak to someone instead of just my head).  And my anxiety, rather than subsiding, mounted.

Anxiety.  That can be a catch-all kind of word, right?  Sure, we’ve all felt anxious from time to time- worrying about that upcoming calc exam, or performance review at work, or visit to the doctor.    And that can, in actuality, be productive anxiety- we study harder, we review our work, we make sure our symptoms have been tracked.  In most cases, once the source of that anxiety passes, the feeling fades.  Not so with my anxiety.  I had no idea why I felt that way.  You know when you’re watching a horror film- or at a haunted house attraction- and you know something is going to jump out from behind a wall, out of the darkness, but you don’t know when?  So you’re on the edge of your seat, body tense, breath held, nervous energy coursing through your veins?  Feeling it now?  That’s how I felt.  All. The. Time.

I could not run, I could not escape this feeling of panic.  My doctor prescribed Klonopin, a benzodiazepine, to calm me, but my body built up a tolerance to it.  By November, I was taking 4mg a day- enough to knock a person out, I’d say- with no effect.  All I wanted was to escape this anxiety that felt like a death threat.  I clung to my bed like it was a sinking life raft, my blanket becoming my burial shroud.  The world was darkness, as if I were in a tomb, physically alive but wanting the welcome relief of death.

Well, I’m writing this blog, so obviously, I didn’t die.  At least, not physically.  But inside, my Self was six feet under, hidden by the foot-shaking, mind-numbing dread I felt every waking moment, by the meds I was taking.  Before I could do anything to translate that to my physical self, Bigfoot and fam made the painful decision to have me admitted to a residential psych facility.  And slowly, I was raised up.

It took a lot longer than three days.  It took medicine, electroconvulsive therapy, and TIME.  It took group and individual therapy, and TIME.  It took the love and support of my family, friends, and faith community, and TIME.  Seeing a pattern here?  Even after I was released and headed home, I had a long journey back into the light of the living.  My Self died again five months after Boopie was born, and once again, I entered inpatient treatment- twice.  And, like before, it took a lot of time until I felt truly alive.

This post began as a reflection on Easter, and then I learned that this past Monday, April 16th, was Project Semicolon Day.  For those who aren’t familiar with it, Project Semicolon is an organization dedicated to preventing suicide, founded by Amy Bleuel.  Amy noted that a semicolon is used to indicate there’s more to a story, that one’s “story isn’t over yet.”  People are encouraged to tattoo or draw a semicolon on their skin to indicate that they have survived to continue their stories.  Sadly, Amy lost her struggle with depression earlier this Spring, but her legacy lives on through her organization.  I for one am grateful that I am able to wear a hand-drawn semicolon in honor of my own resurrections.  And to those who also wear semicolons, welcome back to life.

 

***If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

In honor of my journey back to life, I made the song “I’m Alive” (by the Electric Light Orchestra and from my guilty pleasure, Xanadu) my ringtone.  Each time I heard it, I was reminded of how far I’d come.    What song(s) have you used in honor of your own journeys?

 

 

12 thoughts on “A Resurrection Story”

  1. Thank you for being so honest and out there. Most people suffer in silence so that others are unaware of the struggles their friends and family wrestle with. It is also important to learn what we can do to help. Some of us suffer mild anxiety and can’t imagine how much worse it could be. I can organize the heck out of a party but would rather hide in my room and read a book than attend. My problems are so mild, and I consider you to be so brave. You have a lot more strength than you give yourself credit for.

    I’ll have to think about my song – could be “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I. The lyrics speak to me – “for when I fool the people, I think, I fool myself as well.”

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    1. Hey, Leslie- thanks for stopping by, and for sharing. One of the reasons I’m so vocal about my experiences is so others might not feel alone, as they suffer in silence (as you said). It’s funny to be considered brave for sharing my story, since I’m not scared to do so. What would be brave for me is to go skydiving or something equally scary! Thanks for sharing your song- there’s definitely something to whistling a happy tune and acting more secure than we feel inside. If the anxiety’s not too strong, then I find that works. But sometimes it’s hard to whistle that tune, to pretend. I love performing but when I’m in the darkness, I just can’t.

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  2. You are so inspiring yo all who know you and now with this blog you will reach so many more..I have seen you blossom and take on challenges that at one time would have been impossible.I am proud yo call you my friend.

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  3. Thanks, Mariah, for your bravery in being “out” with your struggles. I also spent a long time in the tomb, and managed to rise, thanks to the very same supports you mention: TIME, doctors, meds, family, friends, faith and its nurturing community. And while I did have a mix tape with various inspiring show tunes, and that did help, I would also add sitcoms to my list of meds–laugh therapy has kept me alive at times. For some reason, even at my most depressed, I could still laugh when I escaped into a good comedy. Here’s to Amy and Project Semi-colon. I think I’ll give my self a temporary tat with a Sharpie to celebrate new life.

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    1. Thank you, Martin, for your openness and your friendship. I didn’t rely much on sitcoms, but tried to quell the tides of anxiety with many doses of “Austin Powers.” Even if I couldn’t laugh, the silliness at least distracted me for a while.

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  4. My dear friend Mariah’s story is truly one that shows us how to live Christ’s Resurrection today. The journey out of extreme anxiety and depression is like his forty days in the wilderness. TIME to heal is key, but Love makes it bearable. And I know that the smiles on Bigfoot and boopies faces today make all the time spent suffering worth the challenge. God Will Never Let You Suffer unnecessarily. Just keep loving your human-ness and remember that God is with us (Emmanuel) through the challenges. Love you, sista in Christ!

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  5. I loved this post, Mariah!
    I especially appreciated how you emphasized that it took TIME to be raised up again.
    Your honesty and bravery about what you’ve endured are deeply inspiring. It takes a special kind of courage to share that one has had ECT (there are still so many against it who have no idea what they’re talking about) & you know I get it.

    Your song pick “I’m Alive” is awesome – that’s such a great one! “Xanadu” is one of my favorite films too, LOL! 😉
    There are all kinds of songs I could pick, but today I choose Crowded House’s “Love This Life” because I can honestly say that I love life again. Even though many (MANY!) moments it remains hard, terrifying, heartbreaking, painful etc., I can love it through all that darkness. That says a lot about how far I’ve come. Xo

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    1. Ah, Dyane, I’m so appreciative of your comments. It’s no wonder we connected- besides the mental health bond, there’s the “Magic” of Xanadu! I literally cried and would not leave the theater the first time I saw it (granted, I was just a kid, but still), and staged a lip-sync, skating performance of the album in my basement.
      I’ll definitely check out your song- sounds like it’s beautiful. It’s so great how music can inspire us and carry us through. My last hospitalization, the song “Carry On” by f.u.n. was out, and I clung to the refrain. Didn’t stop my breakdown, but at least I didn’t feel so alone! Love to you!

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