The good thing about writing this type of blog is that I get to use my personal experience with mental health issues to shed some light on the reality of what’s in the news or in the lab. The bad thing about writing this type of blog is that sometimes my mental health issues get in the way of writing anything at all.
The Lucky Rebel is still alive, but it had some touchy moments in the past year or two. Sixteen times I sat down to write. Two drafts were discarded, and fourteen were saved to the WordPress app on my Android phone. All fourteen were lost when I switched phones this past April. I had a meltdown over the cell phone carrier’s inability to help me coordinate a simple transaction, and in all the confusion, I forgot to upload all those lovely thoughts and musings before the old phone was deactivated.
The problem is, this past year has been an entire series of little bitty meltdowns. Individually, they were a blip on the radar. Together, they snowballed into a complete lack of desire to get off the couch or write anything at all. That new, seriously comfortable office chair might have been a complete waste of money if I wasn’t sure that eventually I’d bounce back. I always do, and I’m getting more familiar with the ups and downs so I can remember that the downs won’t last forever.
Lately, the upward bounce is taking its sweet time, though, which has me a little worried. It’s ironic – the couch is much less comfortable than the chair. But my laptop is nicer than my desktop computer, so I talked myself into staying on the couch. And with that, my inner compass laid down on the couch with the TV remote in hand and decided to stay there.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still functioning. I’m still working. I can’t say my heart is in it all the time, but I keep up with the work. I’m working more slowly, but I’m working. (Trust me, I’m not billing by the hour anymore.)
Part of the problem is my medication. My psychiatrist prescribed a small dosage of Seroquel several years ago, and I began to sleep so much better. But when my son died suddenly in an accident, I asked him to increase it, and he did. Oh, that felt like the biggest blessing to me. If there was ever a time I needed something to help me sleep instead of freak out all night, it was then. I’m so glad I was already taking it. But then the doctor took off without a word, and I was given a new psychiatrist, who promptly proceeded to double my dosage – not just increase it, double it. Big mistake. The XR part was a great idea – that way, I only had to worry about taking one pill a day – but the increased dosage was completely counterproductive. I now sleep way too much, and I’m starting to feel lethargic when I’m awake. I have to get her to give me a lower dosage when she gets back from vacation.
Come to think of it, I remember that I started to take the new pills the day before I switched phones – I especially remember that I was too much of a zombie to engage in productive problem-solving, and it ended up costing me the rebate that teased me into trading up to a better phone in the first place. Nobody should be asked to make a major decision in that condition, but the rebate had a deadline, so I had myself convinced that I had to go for it. A rough adjustment to any new psych medication is somewhat normal, but that was a seriously ridiculous two months spent undoing the damage of day one, or day two, or whatever day it was.
If I had to guess, I’d say the other part of the problem was the grief itself. Every time I hear about another child’s death, it all comes back to me – the sadness, the pain, the extreme sense of emptiness, that awful choking feeling…everything. I live near a major urban area, so being down is pretty much a weekly thing. (I gotta quit watching the news.) So you can guess what events like a school shooting do to me.
There is no one reason this happens, and no one way to deal with it. It depends on your perspective.
You can crumple up in sadness, thinking that the world is a horrible place – and in one respect, you’d be right. Death does not discriminate by age, and the younger the person, the more horrible and unfair it seems. But in another respect, you’d be wrong because you’re denying the beauty that the rest of the world offers. It’s not healthy to think in terms of a horrible world for very long.
You can be properly outraged and indignant, resolving to do everything you can to make sure it never happens again – but it always does, because the problem has no single solution and we the people can’t seem to agree on the right way to tackle it. Focus on what you can control, and let go of what you can’t. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s the only rational thing to do when nothing else seems to work.
You can blame it on the decline and fall of man’s ability to love and live God’s way of life, but the love of God by a human being is always imperfect by definition. God is powerful, but He created us so that our bodies can physically expire, and that won’t change with all the prayer we can muster together. All we can do is look forward to the time when we will all have spiritual bodies that will never die.
Or you can feel nothing, because this happens all the time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And I have no answer for that one, because that statement gets closer to the truth in my mind with each passing year.
It seems impossible to face the death of a child when you have emotional problems, but it’s not. Consider yourself lucky if you feel something – anything at all, because it’s only when you shut off your heart that you shut off your ability to cope. The feelings may come out like a dam breaking, or they may be as lifeless as a brick wall. Either situation can make you feel completely helpless. When it finally hit me four years ago, I felt like I had a three-year-old sitting on my chest. I couldn’t breathe without physical pain for months.
That level of pain has gone down, but the hole in my life is still there and no amount of medication will ever fix that. Making sense of it has come down to realizing that sense has nothing to do with it, and that I can’t give up on life. I’m not dead yet, so I might as well make the most of it while I still can.
Grieve, in your own way, for those who are gone, for those who are left with holes in their lives, and for those who lost a bit of their innocence over having to witness it. If you can, support those who will try to make everything a little more bearable in that town. But don’t let the events of the day take away from all the good that is still left in the world, the probability that good will eventually overcome evil, and the truth that love will always be more powerful than hate. You’ll start to see your way more clearly soon. Don’t give up.