Saturday, September 10, 2011

Growing pains...

(Continued from July's post:)

In the weeks that followed my father-in-law's death, my husband and I found ourselves in different worlds. He needed time to grieve, time to sort, and time to think. Of course these are all complicated learning processes - especially for someone who has just experienced a major loss for the first time. My depression was still raging. No matter how hard I tried to push it aside or keep it at bay for the sake of my husband's grief, it still managed to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. I wanted to give my time and attention to my husband during this extreme time of need, but my support wavered in and out as I tried to be available to him while remaining attentive to my own emotions - a direct result of my depression and anxiety. Again, I found myself confused. I was still caught up in the fact that I had tried to do everything "right" for myself and for my healing process. I took my meds, I kept my regular therapy appointments, I constantly journalled through my feelings, and I reached out to my friends more than I ever had. No matter how much I hated to admit it, the hard truth was at the end of the day, I wanted to husband to take care of me - to make me feel better - as he had done for the past three years. My disease did not want to allow him the time he needed to tend to his own wounds. We were totally and completely unavailable to each other. 

As a result, the weeks that followed were some of the most trying and difficult times in our infant marriage. Some days we could not hold a normal conversation that did not lead to arguing and screaming. Doors slamming. Hurtful words dropping like bombs. Various things flying across the room. It was terrible. We later admitted to each other that it was during these times we both considered leaving the relationship. Maybe our marriage had been a mistake. Maybe we would become a stereotype of our generation by continuing to prove that marriage just does not last. In my heart, this was the last thing I wanted, but I was too sick and he was in too much pain and no longer able to fulfill the role of caretaker that I had come to depend on. What was harder was for me to accept this fact and figure out how to finally do something about it. 

My therapist was a great help and trustworthy advocate to me during these times. We began to meet frequently - once a week. I remember feeling so reassured and empowered after our visits. It was as if for a few moments I was able to access the real me again. Even if people close to me did not understand what I was going through or told me I could not change, I was still shedding a skin - still making positive changes in my life despite the fact that I was still very ill. The process was painful. I had to face harsh realities about myself, my self-worth, and my issues with dependency. I had to relearn and rediscover who I am. The real Me. I had to learn that I was never only one thing at any given time - never only a wife, never only a student, etc. The only thing I could ever wholly be at any given time is myself. This is what my therapist helped me to discover. 

I had to do some re-evaluating: What were my goals? (With and without my husband). What did my progress look like so far? Where was this progression going? What new cognitive tools did I now have? What were the warning signs that would alert me that old habits and behaviors might be setting in? She also taught me to remain hopeful and proud of the fact that I had already come so far! That those undermining, self-deprecating, negative thought-processes were slowly being chipped away and replaced with affirmations: "I am a good person. I have done good work. I am capable of change. I am capable of healing. I take responsibility for my health. I am allowed to fail and learn from my mistakes." This is at the heart of cognitive behavioral therapy. At the time, these statements were - and still are - the stepping stones that allowed me to walk towards my goal of stability and sound mental health. 

There was still one thing that did not add up. In the midst of all of my progress, I still experienced profound bouts of depression, or what I sometimes call episodes. I had little motivation to do anything. Even my music was unsatisfying most of the time. If I was out of the apartment, I was usually social and active, but most of my remaining time was spent in front of the TV or in bed asleep. My husband and I still argued and fought frequently, which over a period of time added to my already high anxiety about the future of our relationship. In our couples' counselling sessions, I vowed to work on this and that, but in my head I still wondered if I could really trust my husband to stay by my side. What if I had another horrendous episode? Would he tire of me? Of my depression? Would he leave? Or would he stay out of duty or guilt and end up angry and resentful toward me? I did not know which was worse! I was torn, and these destructive thoughts flooded my mind every time I found myself alone. And since my husband was still teaching classes in the next state over, I had a lot of alone time - especially in the evenings. It wasn't long before this way of thinking became unbearable. I had anxiety attack and anxiety attack. I tried to busy myself and distract myself with the larger world, but I could not stand being by myself and fighting with my own mind. Days were hard; nights were harder. 

I needed help.

(to be continued...)