Since leaving IOP, I have had moments of pure joy with my babies: watching C grow more confident in his walking; seeing L waive her hands and shake her booty to pretty much any song with a good beat. I have spent every morning driving my sweet H to school, having in depth conversations about transformers and whether he will be a policeman or a helicopter pilot when he grows up.
I have also spent entire days listening to unremitting screaming at a volume I would not have believed such tiny beings capable of. I have been to the pediatrician three times in the last four weeks. I have had all three children hit, pinch and push each other in an effort to be the only one in my lap. I have felt overwhelmed by the depth and strength of their need for me.
Even so, none of my experiences with my children have precipitated a panic attack. And while I have felt some depression, it has been nothing like the debilitating depression I experienced last year that kept me in bed for days at a time. Overall, I am feeling better. Not having to fit my family and everything that goes along with managing a household of six in between work hours has made my life feel fundamentally different. I still get stressed and impatient and exhausted but in a normal, manageable way. There was nothing normal or manageable about my life last year.
I also feel different because I am taking time to take care of myself (most days). I am learning to value myself. And recognizing that I have value — as an individual and independent of my relationship to anyone else — has made it imperative, although not necessarily easier, to speak up and take a stand, to refuse to compromise when my head or my heart says no, to ask for what I need and what I want.
At the same time, I am learning the frustrating but important lesson that I can only control myself — my own words, actions and responses. I can control my willingness to say out loud what I feel, what is acceptable to me and what is not. I can control my courage to ask for the help I believe I deserve.
I have no control, however, over how the person I am talking to will respond to what I say or what I ask. That response is on them. That is their shit to deal with, not mine.
Learning this lesson has been painful but ultimately freeing. As my therapist says, I have let go of the rope; I have stopped trying to drag anyone with me down my ideal path for recovery. All I can do is ask and then keep moving.
Someone somewhere once said, “The only way out is through.” Having someone to hold my hand as I make my way through this crazy ordeal (pun intended) would be immensely helpful. But that is not my decision to make.