The culminating point of pain – the point at which ignoring and denying the pain became in itself too painful, was the night in July 2004. My family were all siting at the table for dinner. At this point I was so self-absorbed I couldn’t tell you what brought the conversation to here. All I know is that my husband said in a stern but caring voice “Patti, you’re sick. You need help.
For the first time in a long, long time, I burst into tears in front of my two girls who were 6 and 4 at the time. When I could get myself enough under control to look up, I saw the fear in their eyes. This was and still is understood by them as the time Daddy made Mommy cry. It broke my heart to see their pain and fear. At that moment I made a pact, for them, to get the help I needed. Me, who never, never asks for help. Never wants to burden others. Never wants to believe I can’t do it myself. Never wants to feel weak.
This pact has been my constant source of motivation throughout the healing process. Because I did not believe I was worth helping. Doing this for myself had no meaningful purpose. Healing so I could be there for my children, because I knew I was good at that – now that was a reason I felt deep in my heart. I love them more than anything. Now that I could see how my suffering was hurting them, I refused to ignore it anymore.
The next day I made an appointment with my Physician. When I met her I could barely hold in the tears. The dam had been broken and there was no amount of patching that could remedy the damage. It was coming down whether I wanted it to or not.
I told my Physician I was having trouble sleeping; waking up with nightmares; having flashbacks during the day (what I liked to call daymares); I was crying alone a lot, feeling nauseous and unable to eat; couldn’t remember anything I was supposed to be doing at home or at work. Her face was full of concern and she said “this is no good, let’s get you sleeping and feeling better.” She was an angel. Someone who understood and could help me. She prescribed some non-addictive sleeping pills and anti-depressants. “You’ve understandably (she knew my history) come to a point where you need treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I’d like you to see a Psychologist.” She gave me the name of a wonderful woman who would, over the next two years, become my irreplaceable advocate in my healing journey.
I left my Physician’s office with a feeling of relief. I’d finally told someone how I was really feeling. I had renewed hope that the medications and psychotherapy would restore some level of normal to my life.
That night, having taken the sleeping pill and the anti-depressant, I slept soundly through the night for the first time in what seemed like forever.
The next four days were a period where something bigger than me came in to help. I cannot explain it. I simply know that I am continually in awe and forever grateful for what happened next.
Day one on anti-depressants gave me bowel changes, one of the possible side effects. Day two and three were similar to a shot of caffeine. I felt on the verge of mania, which made me feel almost anxious, but not quite. I thought maybe this was OK, because I wasn’t bursting into tears or feeling like staying in bed all day.
On day four, I entered the dead zone. I felt nothing. Not depressed, not manic, not a thing. Most of all, I realized that I was losing touch with myself. I was losing my ability to feel connected to myself at all, even if that self was a wreck. Sitting at my desk, losing my connection to myself, I decided that feeling dead to myself was worse than feeling like crap. It was frightening in a very different way than terror. If I had felt like a puppet while with my kidnapper, this felt like my entire mind, body and soul were the puppet now. At least before, I could still think and feel independently of what was happening to me. On the anti-depressants, I felt like I was being hijacked from the inside out.
Day four was the last day I ever took anti-depressants. I stayed on the sleeping pills for a few weeks, then tapered off them too. I’ve not taken any prescription medications since. That includes antibiotics and pain medications. I thank my inner self that it was so adamant about keeping me connected to that last thread of myself. I can’t imagine how hard this next part of my journey would have been, if I’d had to do it while having my feelings manipulated by a drug. It was hard enough to navigate myself without introducing outside roadblocks.