My Journey With Depression: Let The Healing Begin!
As I walked through those doors of the long term recovery center I knew everything was about to change. My life felt like a blank canvas. I was greeted by one of the inpatients. He offered to make me a cup a tea. He was the sweetest human being. Within moments I was given a tour of the place and was blown away at how clean and organized the facility was. There was a spacious living room, kitchen, gym, library, and outdoor patio. They even had instruments. I attempted to teach myself how to play the guitar, still light years away from Jimi Hendrix. I immediately felt safe and knew things could only go up from here. I was impressed with the staff and how genuine they all were. Not once did I feel emotionally unsafe (expect for one male nurse who I suspect was dipping in the meds but you didn't hear that from me).
There was a maximum of 16 inpatients. Since it was a three week program a few would leave only to be replaced with new faces. For the most part everyone got along well with each other. The beauty about this temporary family was the range of economic and social backgrounds. This experience gave me an opportunity to understand what it is like to be homeless, addicted to drugs, being schizophrenic, and to hear other stories that were similar to mine. During these three weeks I had the opportunity to rest, think, reflect, and more importantly understand what the hell was wrong with me all those years and why. Three days in I sat down with the house psychiatrist. It was during this conversation when I was finally diagnosed. I had been suffering not only from depression but bipolar 2 and PTSD. The first two made sense but the latter was puzzling at first. After he thoroughly explained the symptoms and how it related to me, it began to make sense. PTSD is a condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. PTSD also overstimulates the autonomic nervous system which is also known as the fight or flight responder. Even though I never had flashbacks, nightmares or extreme anxiety throughout my life, I was always filled with energy and practically running on adrenaline. There was always this sensation in my heart and stomach that I could not explain. It was as if I constantly had butterflies. I guess after a while I got accustomed to the sensation. This especially was the case after I graduated from high school and started experimenting with recreational drugs. I was always on the go, moving fast with an ambitious schedule of school, work, and play. This pattern went on for three decades non-stop. It never occurred to me until that moment sitting in front of the psychiatrist at the age of 41 that all the stress I experienced as a child; the moving around, witnessing my dad physically abuse my mom, the yelling, the crying, the slamming doors, would get locked into my nervous system and become part of my unconscious mind.
There’s something bittersweet that happens the moment you break out of denial. You feel a sense of relief for gaining some understanding that caused your suffering and at the same time you feel cheated that you’re just now finding out. It’s as if you've been the butt of a joke all those years without even being aware.
I walked out of his office feeling empowered and ready to do whatever it would take to get myself back to normal. During those three weeks I was on fire. I took all the courses, read books, journaled, and exercised everyday. I always volunteered to help out with chores and even made some friends. My sweet handsome husband came to see me almost everyday. It was during these visits when I would lose my shit and start crying. It broke my heart knowing how hard this was for my husband to see his wife in a mental recovery program. He stayed strong for me and was my wall to lean on. This was part of the fuel that kept my fire burning to get better.
Sometimes you are sent on a journey to meet one person who is only in your life for a brief moment to give you a message that will change the rest of your life. That person for me was one of the faculty members. She was a sweet, kind hearted, and dedicated therapist. One day after a class she pulled me aside and asked if I had ever heard of Adult Children Of Alcoholics. When she sat me down and explained what is was, I felt like I got the keys to a world that had all the answers I was looking for without knowing I was seeking them. She explained the 14 traits also known as the “laundry list”. My mouth dropped as I identified myself in each and every trait, parts about myself that I kept hidden in the dark basement of my mind. I couldn’t believe that such a program like this existed and there were other adults suffering from similar traits. How did I miss this? How did I not know about this while majoring in psychology in college or during my training as a holistic health practitioner? How am I just now hearing about this in my early 40’s? I could have avoided all the suffering if I had access to this knowledge a decade or two ago.
Healing is not linear, healing happens on a divine schedule. As I sit here and reflect on all the events that have unfolded up to this point, I will never again question the sequence of events in my life. I have given all of my control over to a higher source because it knows way more than I do.
In hindsight I believe that everything I went through led up to that moment of learning about ACA. Three days after I was released from the recovery program I attended my first meeting and I haven't looked back.
To be continued…