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?