My dark night of the soul is coming to an end. I feel the sun breaking over the horizon; the light at the end of this tunnel is warming my face.
I came to the end of myself in a way that I never have before. In the past, when I felt myself crumbling away, I found a way back; whether through faith or some inner strength, I was able to claw my way back from the ledge. I feared the abyss that awaited me over that cliff; I knew whatever lurked down there was dark and deep. To fear the unknown is human; it's our survival instinct to fear that which cannot be quantified. Even now, as I write this, I struggle to relay the depths to which I plummeted when I no longer had the strength or faith to avoid that dark and endless drop into the unknown.
I know the very moment that my last finger lost the strength to hold on any longer. I was sitting in the neuro-psychologist office as she officially diagnosed my thirteen-year-old son with Schizoaffective Disorder; when I saw the tears that I didn't know I was crying hit the table in front of me. That was the moment that everything that was left of who I used to be crumbled away. I sat through the rest of the appointment as an empty shell. The woman who walked into that appointment did not walk out. She now lay in the rubble at the bottom of the abyss of her personhood.
For a week, I functioned on auto-pilot. But I knew there was something very wrong with me. The internal strength that had held me steady through all the diagnoses, all the advocating, all the illnesses, homelessness, losing everything....twice, the strength that I was known for and proud of, was completely gone. When I wasn't on autopilot, I lay in my bed, tears that could not grieve falling from my eyes. I was empty. I was gone.
After a week, I messaged the only two people in the world I knew I could trust to tell me the truth; the only two people I knew would be there no matter what shape I was in. I knew this wasn't something my husband or family could help me with. They are too close, too much a part of the person that now lay in pieces. So I called the only two people I knew I could trust with my brokenness. Everyone needs these kinds of friends; if you don't have them, find them now. Because one day, you may need someone to look at you as the pieces of yourself are scattered on the floor and then sweep those pieces up and tell you that you need help, real help. You may need them to hold you accountable to get that help. You may need them to be the ones to find the help you need because you don't have it in you. So, find your true friends in the good times because if you ever get to that point, they will be the ones to sweep you up and carry you to the people who can start putting you back together.
I went into therapy. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. Yes, living my everyday life has given me PTSD. I sat in my therapist's office, and she told me if I did not do the work and make the hard choices now, she feared I would lose the ability ever to come back from the sea of numbness and detachment that surrounded me. I had disconnected from everything that was me; my family, my emotions, the things I loved, the things I hated. Nothing of who I knew myself to be was there
My entire life, I have focused on fixing things for others and being reliable and strong. If I made my list, I was the last thing on it. But now, I had to choose to make myself the priority because if I didn't, I would end up useless to everyone.
I wish I could tell you that this was a fun process of getting a couple of pedicures and soaking in a few bubble baths; self-care done. Check! Kristine is back to being Kristine.
It has been an excruciating process of facing the pain that I haven't let myself deal with because I was too busy dealing with life. It has been a process of letting go. I had to admit that I am not enough. I am not enough to fix my kids. I am not enough to cure my husband's MS and Bipolar. I'm not even enough to fix myself. I had to admit that I needed real help and hard changes had to be made.
I had to accept that my oldest needed emergency help to deal with his issues, help beyond what I could provide. I had to admit that my youngest mental illness is not something I can fix or even therapy out of him. He has a chemical imbalance in his brain. The only way to manage it is the kind of meds I never wanted to put my kids on. I had to let go of the illusion that I was in control.
I went back to work, but that was a journey of self-acceptance. I had to face the fear that I had been out of the workplace too long, that I was no longer relevant. I had to face my fear of failure and inadequacy. Again one of my ride-or-die friends brought me the opportunity because I wouldn't have fought those demons unless I was placed in a position where I had to. I hadn't realized how much my self-confidence had taken a beating over the years. But once working, it all started coming back. It gave me pieces of myself that I thought I would never get back.
people don't know this about me, but being a stay-at-home mom was very hard for
me. I am not naturally wired that way. I LOVE my kids, but I never
dreamed of tending the house and raising babies. I have always loved working
and having a career. Honestly, I rocked working. I gave it up
because I needed to stay home with our kids' unique needs. But it took a
heavy toll on my sense of self. Working has restored some of that for
me. I had to learn to be okay with the fact that I was doing something
good for myself. The mom guilt ran deep in me.
Honestly, the things I had to face, admit and accept would take a book, not a blog, to cover in detail. Suffice to say, to come back from the bottom of the abyss of who I was, I had to examine each and every part of my fractured self. Then I had to rebuild myself; that isn't even accurate. I had to re-sculpt myself from new clay. The old me was not salvageable. The me that emerged was different than the one who lay in the rubble at my feet.
I am still learning to live in this new skin of mine. I'm stronger and softer at the same time. I am like a toddler in some ways, still unsteady on my feet, still learning what this new me can and can't do. But for the first time in nearly 20 years, I feel like the real me, not the me that simply survived in the crises and chaos.
The sun is rising. I don't know precisely how all of this is going to play out. I can tell you that I am excited to see what the future holds. I have hope for this new me, who is like the old me, only different. Thank you for your support and love on my journey.
If you are the place I was, please get help. Without my friends and therapist, I would not be writing this blog right now. I honestly don't know where I would have ended up. This is a journey that my family could not help me with. It took people outside to drag me to the help I needed. We cannot do this life alone. We are not enough, and that is okay. To Donna and Becky, I love you ladies and owe you more than I can ever repay. Thank you! As always, love, Kristine.