Mental Health, Beds and Balance

I took a much needed day off today. After spending Saturday night in early labor until 5:00am and then Sunday night at the hospital, it was time for a rest. Here’s a few things I learned in my brief downtime.

  • I am an intensely committed person. I am an “all in” kind of gal. This can be great, obviously, and I credit a lot of my success to this personality trait. It can also be not-so-great. I’m a little bummed to see how far I’ve wandered from the lessons on balance illness taught me. Sometimes I let my emotions lie to me and make me believe I have no other options. “I have to spend the time at the office,” I’ll tell myself. I make hard lines in the sand, raising my performance expectations again and again. Eventually those lines creep further and further away from my personal well-being. I don’t know how to fix this but I’m also not willing to let it devastate my life again. I bet creative thinking will be the solution so I’d better get my thinking cap on.
  • I have a good life. When I write about the things I am processing in these moments, I can’t help but feel a lot of gratitude for having the opportunity to continue living my life. I am alive, I have a baby on the way, I have a beautiful, healthy family. I am so much better than I was this time a year ago. All those things plus a thousand more make for a very fortunate and appreciative existence.
  • I love my bed. My advice to anyone who is going through a major illness that will force them to retreat to their bed is to invest in a good one. Our bed cost too much money and we will be paying it off for the rest of my life. Still, I consider it the best money I’ve ever spent. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve logged in bed- but I easily spend 15-18 hours a day here. (Yup, that depresses me, too.) Compare that to the 2,700 miles I’ve put on my car since October and it becomes immediately apparent where my needs/values are. Comfort is king!
  • Speaking of time in bed… I have to accept that I am not recovering well. I have to make peace with the shame/guilt I feel for not bouncing back like I think I “should.” Crawling out of this mess is not going to be pretty, but it’s time I starting focusing on my own journey. It’s an interesting thing to practice self love while also maintaining some reasonable criticism about myself. Where else would the motivation to improve come from if I weren’t objectively critical? Perhaps self love and self improvement exist on different frequencies. It’s about not conflating the data points (ex: I need to get healthier) with the values (ex: I am a good, worthy person). I am unskilled in this area but I’m willing to take on the project of rewriting that tired self-loathing script.
  • Spoiler alert: I still have trauma from cancer. Being back in the hospital is a weird mix of practicing the really grounded, healthy skill set I developed in treatment while battling a new, unnamed anxiety. I think it’s where my adeptness at handling unknown threats meets my unresolved fears from some of the scariest moments of the past. It’s like having really good armor over a totally fragile, gelatinous interior. It is strange to feel so brave on one end and so completely vulnerable on the other. It’s a new and somewhat destabilizing dichotomy. It’s a weird space for sure.
  • Mental illness is a real thing and we don’t do it very well. Yesterday, the hospital intake included the nurse asking questions about my mental health history. I answered honestly and did my best not to shame myself. “Have you ever felt like you wanted to go to sleep and never wake up?” Yes. “Have you ever harmed yourself or planned to harm yourself?” Yes. “Have you ever struggled with feelings of depression or anxiety?” Ahhh…yes. When I was being discharged, a new nurse had to go over the printed instructions with me so I would know when or if I should come back in. She was very detailed about everything except the mental health section. She skipped it entirely. I ended up reading it on my own afterward. After reviewing it, I see why she didn’t want to discuss it. [Note, there were no questions about how recently I had felt those things. There were no questions related to my follow-up on those issues or how/if I’m managing it today (I am).] The discharge papers categorically described me as currently suicidal and dangerous to myself and others. I am not either of those things and it doesn’t feel good to see myself described that way. Not only is it dated and inaccurate, it has also created a seed of fear for my care and my son’s care when I deliver him here in the next few weeks. Are they going to let me leave with him? Am I going to have to prove that I am safe, that I am fit? Will I be subject to additional assessments? If so, what are they? Should I prepare for them in some way? They already mentioned that I would need to see a social worker after delivery. If you knew my line of work, you would know why mandatory reporters and Child Protection Services scare the daylights out of me. With this in mind, I’m not sure I would answer those questions the same way if I had to do it over again. I know the spirit of these questions comes from a good place. I really do. I will keep an open mind to that. However, I’m not comfortable with how I’m currently being represented in the system and I’m at least a little paranoid about how I will be handled moving forward. I can’t help but think about the times I have been treated awkwardly or even negatively by hospital staff for addressing these issues in the past. It kind of blows my mind how dismissive a medical professional can be when they learn I have struggled with depression. In fact, when I saw a primary care physician for symptoms related to my cancer before I was diagnosed, the doctor told me I had a “sensitive brain” and dismissed me. In her mind, my symptoms didn’t make sense and therefore I was crazy. I was diagnosed as Stage III four months later. (Yes, I do wonder how much my aggressive cancer spread and grew in that time frame.) But listen, even if they are uncomfortable with it, I’m not going to be. I’m going to talk about it and I’m going to support others as they move through it. This is a space of love and acceptance. This is a space of solace. This is a space free of judgment or expectations. It is important to me to extend to you what I am actively trying to learn to extend to myself- love, grace and support.

My time away has been productive and restorative. Baby is doing well, I am doing well, and we will have a baby here in a matter of weeks! Holy smokes, this is really happening. Ready or not, here we come!

Give ‘Em Hell

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ashley Whipple says:

    Hey sister. We always have a spot open on our pro bono dance card. Don’t worry about DPHHS. Todd and I have cut the head off of that monster a number of times. If it grows back and starts looking your way, you just let us know. Nothing to worry about. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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