Misconceptions of Crazy
In June of 1995, I had my first exposure to a mental health ward. When I was 23 years old, I ended up committing myself to a locked unit, one year after I experienced the traumatic loss of a child I had carried for 8 ½ months. I naively took a week’s vacation from work to admit myself, with the belief that I would receive intensive counseling and get “over it.”
I was at a point where I could not sit still. I rearranged the furniture in my apartment on an almost daily basis. My knees were constantly bouncing. I never felt safe. I was constantly plagued with feelings of doom and dread. I worried of something awful happening to me, but this time never being found until it was too late. Recognizing my mortality at a young age stripped me of those feelings of invincibility most 22 year olds possess and left me petrified of the unknown.
Prior to my voluntary admission, to say I was angry at God was an understatement. I was volatile. I was full of rage. I was unstable and out of control. I called off my wedding three times, quit my job because I hated answering questions about what happened to my baby, moved out of my apartment, was drinking heavily to numb myself and in complete self destruction mode. By June of 1995, I realized could no longer survive under these circumstances. I was coming unraveled. Actually, I was already unraveled like a tattered baby blanket that had been washed hundreds of times.
When I met with the psychiatrist, he immediately presumed I had bipolar disorder, threw me on Prozac, Lithium and God only knows what else, instead of helping me deal with the loss of my child. What I didn’t realize is that a psychiatrist’s main job is to medicate, not counsel. I just wanted to mourn the loss of my child, the child I would caress and talk to every evening as I laid on my couch, awaiting his arrival. The problem was that my M.O. was to disconnect from the trauma and I had done such a great job over that previous year, it was almost impossible to reconnect with the pain of the tragedy. Over the past year, I would recount the story to people in third person, numb and emotionless, then become infuriated when they would express emotions that I could not. But to fully understand the extent of the trauma, let me take you back.
My son, Michael, was born on May 5, 1994 after an emergency cesarean section because I had Eclampsia which had gone undiagnosed by my OB. At her office three days prior, despite the fact that my blood pressure was elevated, there was protein in my urine and I had gained over 13 pounds of water weight within one week’s time, she sent me home and told me to rest. I was 22 so what did I know? I trustingly thought the doctor knew what she was doing. I was so ill, I lost 2 days time. I have no recollection of the happenings during those days, I only recall waking on the morning of May 5th and feeling as if an anvil had been slammed into the middle of my skull with a mallet. My headache was excruciating. My vision was so blurry it was as if I was wearing 3 D glasses, and I was completely disoriented. Somehow, I managed to make my way downstairs to my landlord to ask for help. She told me to wait while she got her car as she was going to drive me to the hospital. I don’t know why or how I managed to get back upstairs to my apartment, but that is where she found me, in full eclamptic seizures, so she called 911. I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and my son, Michael Joshua was delivered immediately by emergency C-section.
Apparently the situation was so critical that the doctor came out and told my fiancé and mother to pray for me, because her main concern was to save me now. I almost died and was resuscitated three times. I awoke the next day in an ICU; frantically feeling for my baby bump but my belly was flat and tender. Where had he gone? What had happened? Where was my baby???
I was told the baby had been flown to another hospital in critical condition, and I was critical as well, too critical to deal with seeing him. My arms were bruised from being restrained to the operating table because they could not get my seizures under control. My blood pressure was uncontrollable, and I was told I was fortunate I did not have a stroke. I was told I was lucky I did not die. The thought of “luck” was incomprehensible to me at the time. My baby was gone, ripped from within me and now he was dying. Michael was brain dead due to the extent and length of the seizures prior to his delivery.
I never got to see him. I never got to hold my son Michael, the little guy that would kick lovingly when I would sing and talk to him at night. Apparently my health was too fragile and my blood pressure couldn’t handle the additional stress of saying goodbye. I had one pervasive thought: God took my baby. God took my baby!!! GOD TOOK MY BABY!!! Why? Why? What did I do to deserve this pain and punishment? My abdomen is permanently scarred with a jagged vertical incision because they had to get Michael out rapidly and to this day, that jagged scar is a constant, painful reminder that life is never within our control.
Which brings me to the point of this post: .That was situational, right? The trauma, the PTSD, the anxiety, the post-partum depression, were all situational due to the loss, right? Yes and no. I am indifferent, because here I am again, boarding the same roller coaster, except this time, my daughter was attacked while away at school. And once again I question the existence of God! Who was watching over my child? Why would He condemn me to have to endure the pain of another one of my children being hurt? I am again, infuriated with God, and although the ways in which I’m dealing with it are a bit different, my emotions are reminiscent of the loss I suffered over 20 years ago. I’ve been catapulted back in time and all of my wounds are re-opened and fresh and new all over again. My counselor says that each tragedy which has gone dormant and remains unresolved, essentially becomes kindling on a fire, smoldering until something ignites it.
This October 6, when my daughter returned home to inform me of her horrific situation, all that kindling burst into flames. So here I sit, trying to write and work through them, trying to finally deal with them by putting them on an open forum. I have nothing to be ashamed of, right? I am human and as humans we can only take so much. There are days I feel like one more thing and I’m going to turn to ash from the burning flames, but I keep trying, and I’ll keep trying. I’m tired of carrying this unresolved pain and anger, and for the first time in my life, I am trying to confront it once and for all, no matter how long it takes.
Today, in all my darkness, I must be grateful for the ability to put my feelings into words. Whether it was God that bestowed this gift upon me or someone else, I must say I am thankful for the gift of creative expression, for without it, I’m sure I would implode.