I’m about to use the word cocoon in this post which of course made me think of steve guttenberg and this movie…You’re welcome.
I abandoned my post for a few months…but I think it was a necessary evil. There is a season for everything and this past season was all about acclimation and recalibration. It was also a season for insane work for me and frankly, depression for Justin. I won’t say anything more about what was going on for Justin because there’s really no way for me to know the inner workings of his universe, but I will talk about what it was like for me on the other side of it all.
I haven’t wanted to write because I was afraid I would do it wrong. Do you know what I mean? There’s this person that I love who’s been through a lot and while I am well aware that every day is battle to remain sober, I’m also well aware that it sucks to be the person trying to keep it all together… but I’m also well aware that it makes things worse when I say what I’m actually thinking… and I’m also well aware that what I’m thinking might be shitty and wrong (sorry for the swear, but also not sorry).
When I was a missionary for my church in West Virginia, I experienced what I can only describe as the darkest, saddest, scariest time in my life. It started about 2 months into my mission (a period of 18 months where you are away from friends and family serving and proselytizing) – terrible crying, massive anxiety, insomnia, self-abuse, flat affect and finally, suicidal ideation. I didn’t know what to call it, but I knew the day that I slapped myself in the face while yelling berating things at the mirror, something was not right and I needed help.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression and while I feel like I could fill an entire blog with my thoughts and experiences from that period of time (I did fill 5 journals), it’s easiest if I sum it up with the mantra my therapist and I came up with for me: I am enthusiastic, but with a laid back attitude toward success. I so desperately wanted to be good at being a missionary, but the reality was that I had developed some serious coping mechanisms over the years to deal with my anxiety and mild depression (and perfectionism) and the structure of a mission ripped those tools away from me unceremoniously. I needed hours to write in my journal…I had 20 minutes. I needed social interaction and time to verbally process…I felt guilty if I didn’t speak ONLY about the gospel. I needed flexibility and freedom to create in order to express myself…I was given goals to knock on a certain number of doors every day and told to report back about whether I did it or not every night. It was uncomfortable and actually, for me, it was toxic on some level.
Luckily, I had an amazing therapist who taught me truths about myself and about the Savior and the atonement of Christ. He taught me about grace and about mercy and about revelation and about self-trust. He taught me to believe what the Spirit dictated for me and to follow that inner guide even at risk of looking stupid to other people. He started me on my journey of true testimony and for that reason, I believe I was sent to West Virginia to work hard at being a missionary and to work even harder at being a true disciple of Christ who can testify of His healing power. EVERY DAY WAS A MIRACLE,
So why? Why has it been so hard to have empathy for Justin as he struggles through those dark days? I will forever be grateful to my mission companions who were forced to sit with me in our little apartments while I rolled myself in a blanket like a burrito and rolled myself under the bed crying in anguish and a true desire to cease to exist. I will never forget the safety they created in a time when nothing felt safe. Why can I not be that friend to my husband? And before you start saying,”Oh KaRyn…I’m sure you were better than you think!” I want you know that I wasn’t. I was victimized by his inertia. I was resentful. I was petty. I was insensitive and selfish. No really. I was.
From what I understand, it’s totally normal to go through a period of elation and then depression after treatment. Makes sense, right? You’re in a cocoon. Surrounded by people who can think a little like you. YOu don’t have to worry about the normal things of life because you’re just trying to stabilize. Then you get out and BAM…life is really… real and you don’t have your old coping mechanism. Talk about uncomfortable. I’m sure it’s like 10000 West Virginias for him. I feel some regret that I was so angry when I came home to find the dishes still sitting in the sink and the couch with a seemingly permanent butt mark in it. It has been really hard not to believe that I know what is best for Justin. And I feel truly sorry for the times when I was self-righteous and imperfect in my practice of mindfulness because I know it didn’t actually help ANYONE.
But, I’m also aware that neither of us is going to get this right right out of the gate. Today, Justin came home from “guesting” at his treatment facility. We’re 8 months sober around here and though life and marriage is far from complete, it’s a million and 10 times better than it was this time last year. My goal for this week is to simply recognize the moments that make up the days and notice what the calm feels like. I take it for granted these days, but I’m thinking that’s the biggest mistake I’m making. There is something healing in gratitude and recognition that EVERY DAY IS A MIRACLE. And I am actually enthusiastic, but with a laid back attitude toward success.
Step 1 is to start writing again, whether I do it right or not.