Everyone, at some point in their lives has gone (or will go) through something that has changed them. Changes that are good or maybe not-so-great, some temporary, some permanent… My point isn’t really focused on the day to day “crises” that happen. Those, most times, come and go, you deal with them, you adjust, and you move on. I’m talking about a change so huge that it actually takes your breath away, literally hurts -mentally, physically, & emotionally-, day after day with no end in sight. A change so huge that you can’t wait to go to sleep at night so that your mind is temporarily unaware of what has happened, yet you dread the thought of waking up the next morning to the agonizing pain again. Pain so deep, that you feel it will NEVER go away and never get easier. Yes, I am speaking from experience; and yes, I have undoubtedly lived through a change like that…
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I was 25 at the time, living life to the fullest, had my own place and the best friends a girl could ask for. Life was pretty much perfect and [I thought] I had it all figured out. Then June 18, 2009 happened. I had faced death before, just not of the same nature. This was unexpected, tragic, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I was numb and in shock. I questioned reality. I felt unbelievable pain and guilt. The tears were uncontrollable. My life had been turned upside down, and it was chaotic and scary. I was no longer the generally upbeat and fun girl that most people knew. I was exhausted 24/7, mentally spent, and depression hit – hard. I wondered how I was ever going to get through… I constantly felt low, and my emotions fluctuated all over the place. I was simply in survival mode…putting one foot in front of the other and trying with all I had to make sense of everything I was feeling and thinking. I really didn’t want to hear about how it was all part of God’s plan and how “everything happens for a reason”… I knew what people meant…but at that moment, you don’t want someone justifying or trying to help make sense out of something that doesn’t make any sense to you. My faith had been shaken, my life was in shambles, and I was angry – very angry – with God. That anger and rage would rush over me and it would come out of nowhere. I felt like I constantly had a dark, dangerous funnel cloud over my head and I never knew when it was going to hit the ground. I knew that this “new me” wasn’t the easiest to be around, and that hurt my heart even more. I was so incredibly lost… This went on for several weeks; actually, for about two months, before I finally broke down to my mom and confessed that I (obviously) wasn’t doing well. Admitting that I needed help was really hard and difficult for me.
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As a young teenager, I had seen a psychiatrist, only once, for a completely unrelated (health) issue. That whole experience left a “bad taste” in my mouth about the psychiatry field and for a while, all doctors in general. Although, looking back, I know my parents, doctors, and even the psychiatrist, had my best interest at heart. However, even with that in mind, the thought of having to go see a psychiatrist or therapist made me feel anxious and nervous. I didn’t know exactly what to expect… Was I going to have to lay on some uncomfortable couch and poor my guts out? Were people going to think I was crazy? I felt weak, and like a failure – to myself, for not being able to cope on my own.
My first appointment was an insanely emotional rollercoaster ride. For one, the resources in a small town are slim and the psychiatrist I was seeing was a middle aged, military veteran – man. Now, I love a good looking man just as much as any other woman with a heartbeat…but, I’d rather eat dirt than to sit in his office, with a runny nose from crying and mascara all over the place, trying to explain my inner most feelings out. His questions dug deep and I was forced to “relive” what had happened in order for him to understand why I was there in the first place. It was frustrating, hair pulling, enlightening and exhausting all at once. I say “enlightening” because I learned that the feelings and thoughts I was experiencing was completely normal. I wasn’t weak or a failure, and I most certainly wasn’t “crazy”…
In my case, I was to see him monthly so that he could monitor the medications he prescribed, and I was advised to see a therapist on a weekly basis for as long as it was thought necessary. Finding a therapist I felt comfortable with was a train wreck at first. After much trial and error, and 3 therapists later…I finally found “the one.” She was middle aged, seemed sincere, and she too, had suffered a similar loss like mine many years ago. She could relate to my situation and oftentimes, could finish my sentences when I wasn’t able. Each visit with her was draining – in every single way – because, just like with my psychiatrist, I was forced to think about the accident and relive the past to a degree…but, in doing so, it helped me release more and more of my bottled up emotions.
I remember sitting in her office, tissue box by my side, when sounds and cries I’d never heard before started pouring out of my body… I confessed that even with the help of therapy sessions and popping an anti-depressant every day, I still wasn’t coping well. I still felt at rock bottom. Uneasy, I described the flashbacks and nightmares, the uncontrollable mood swings, and the feeling of gasping for air that I was experiencing. I told her how my concentration and interest in daily activities was basically nonexistent. I felt detached from everything – family, friends, my work…and the worst of it all, was the intense fear I had of losing someone else I loved. I was terrified that every said goodbye was going to be the last. If I could have had it my way, I would never meet anyone new again…because that meant I was opening myself up for more pain if something happened to them… It was then, that I was diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that is common following a traumatic event. My anti-depressant meds were changed and the dosage bumped up – significantly, and I began taking a medication for anxiety.
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Adjusting to a new normal isn’t always easy. After a while, I became somewhat numb to the pain; most likely due to all the medication flowing through my system, masking my feelings… My way of coping on a daily basis was basically to try my damnedest to avoid any and every thing that I knew would trigger an inner demon or the “water works”… My motto for life was to simply live – day by day – one step at a time.
March 8, 2010, not quite nine months since Jordan’s death, I was told by an ER doctor that I’d quote, “cheated death twice” – by surviving two blood clots that had made their way into my lungs. Excuse me, what?!? An incredibly sweet, loving wife, and nurturing mother of two small children that I knew, had just passed away days before from a blood clot… Why did God take her and not me? In a sense, I felt undeserving and guilty that I had survived and she had not… She loved her babies more than anything, she’d never be able to watch them grow up, and they’d never know her… My life was, and had been, in turmoil – for months, at that point… I remember feeling angry with God – again. I couldn’t understand why I had been given a second chance… Why me? Why wasn’t Jordan or Jessica given a second chance? On one hand, I was so confused; but, on the other, deep down, I was thankful.
I was far from being out of the dark tunnel, but I saw a glimmer of light. There was a reason why I was still on this earth, and I realized that I could let this ruin me, or I could let this experience work its magic within me. Knowing that I could have easily been here one minute and gone the next, changed how I saw (and continue to see) the world and life – that it’s all impermanent. I knew there was so much more to life and I didn’t want to miss it.
Shortly after being released from the hospital, I went to Lowe’s with my then-boyfriend. It was almost spring time, the weather was warming up, and the outdoor garden department was bursting in color. I remember standing there in amazement trying to take a mental picture of how gorgeous all the flowers were. I began touching and smelling some of them…and the tears started flowing… Thinking back, this is the first time I remember crying; not sad tears, but happy tears. There I was, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle from others’ excited for sunshine, I stood a sniffling mess – and I didn’t care one bit! I was alive, I was grateful, and I never wanted that moment to end...