A few years ago my world crashed down. Everything hurt as I questioned every door that I had walked through and everything that I thought I was supposed to be doing. I still managed to go to work every day, and keep working on my dissertation. But at night, when the checklist was done, I would curl up into a ball on one half of the couch, and will the night to last forever so that I did not have to do it all again. I did not want to fake the smiles, exchange the pleasantries, or accomplish anything. I was fine to just exist and be as numb as I possibly could.
I started seeing a counselor, and that was helpful. Talking through my struggles with a person who was separate from everything else, and who I didn’t have to take turns listening to their story, gave me an hour a week to just crack open. Then on the drive back to work or wherever, I would duct tape back together as well as I could to get through the rest of daylight.
I went on that way for a few months. Existing, barely. After a Christmas Party with dear friends, where I barely spoke, a friend called to check in. I didn’t answer. She texted several times. I didn’t answer. She called again and was on her way, with princess fruit snacks. We talked in my living room about nothing for a while. Then she asked one of those hard questions that only a dear friend can: Did I need medication? I had been silencing that question in my own mind for weeks, maybe months, as nothing seemed to get better inside. But to hear it out loud was to realize that my faking it had not worked on those closest to me.
A few days later I asked that same friend to take me to the doctor to get help. That process turned out to be harder and longer than I expected, so it was nearly a month before my primary provider was able to see me and prescribe something. She went through all of the warnings and scheduled follow-ups to see how things were. Nothing was going to happen for a few weeks she said, and it was possible I would need a different dosage or medication. It was a process and I should be in contact with her throughout.
For the first few weeks, the only impact was some dry mouth (the feeling like I wanted to use chapstick inside my mouth) and desperate hope that I had done the right thing. Then one afternoon I was doing some stretched on a ball in my living room. I slipped off one side and was just a little bit stuck between the ball and my couch, with legs and arms flapping in the air. Basically I was like a turtle stuck on its back. A quote from a movie I have never seen (The Master of Disguise) came in my head: “Turtle Turtle.” And I giggled. Getting unstuck was pretty easy since the ball was light and nothing was broken from my pathetic little fall. Sitting up, I realized that I had not giggled in months. As someone who has lived alone most of adulthood, I had gotten pretty good at entertaining myself (if I do say so myself), including making myself laugh. Talking to my doctor a week later, it was that giggle that told me this medication was working.
Years later I am still seeing that counselor and still on that medication. For a while this past fall and winter I considered cutting back on both. A voice inside said to stay the course; all was steady and there was no reason to change things. Then Concordia announced its closure. Then the world announced its closure. Really glad I didn’t cut back.
I anticipate that I will be seeing a counselor and taking some form of medication for a long while, perhaps the rest of my life. Not because I am not smart enough or faithful enough or good enough or any other enough. But because I accept my brokenness and am grateful for healing. I am grateful that a dragon that matches my rainbow pants makes me laugh. I am grateful that although I’ve cried in this shelter-in-place, I have also laughed, danced, run, cleaned, written, read, slept, gotten angry, bought something I didn’t need, drawn, and done a lot of other things. And I have tried really hard to be kind to myself through all of it. And kind to the dragon who keeps me company during naps.