If I could pour it all out here, I would tell you, life hurts. Not life with my hubby or kids, but life with myself. It hurts.
It started a little over a week ago. I took the big step of applying for full disability. I may have gotten laid off a year and a half ago, and my record may show it was through no fault of my own, but that’s not entirely true. See, I worked at my job for 12 and a half years. I worked there through 15 hospital stays in three years for Multiple Sclerosis. My job was very accommodating and damn, I was good at it. My job had lots of variety and required remembering a lot of stuff. I had 11 managers in that time, many of whom moved to entirely different departments and a few to different companies, so if information was going to be remembered, I was the one to remember it. And most of the time it all worked flawlessly. I would effortlessly go from project to project, remembering years of data and information.
Then came Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. Everything changed.
First, it took me extra time to return from my maternity leave due to my first hospitalization with a hypomanic episode. Then they changed my manager and I lost all my confidence. All of it. Gone. I could be asked a question, that I knew the answer to, but my mind would freeze. Instead of explaining what I knew, I would stutter out bits and pieces of information, only to realize later that I had made a mistake and needed to retract much of what I had said. Let this happen a few times, and what you get is complete and total doubt in yourself and your performance…and your employer has even more doubt and distrust.
My mind got stuck in the rut of fear and self doubt. I no longer understood instructions given to me. I started asking questions over and over. My manager told me, “everybody knows you can’t ask Charity to do anything, she’ll just ask you a hundred questions.” Any shred of confidence and dignity is gone as soon as that is uttered. The worst part? Knowing you used to be able to work circles around all of your new critics, but now? Utter failure.
I spent hours in tears, hiding in the bathroom shaking, planning my suicide. I also spent two stints in the hospital. Now that I think about it, I think there might have been one other medical leave in there. Damn, I don’t even remember now.
I just remember sitting in my car crying, shaking on the way to work, dry heaving in the bathroom, frantically calling my psychiatrist…having to call my hubby to get me once because my final plan included driving into oncoming traffic. My doctor made me promise I would wait for hubby, or he would call the police. I was so medicated while working that I was falling asleep at my computer, but it was the only way I could quasi-function.
I remember calling my doctor and telling him, “I’m scared. I think, everybody I work with is talking about how to get rid of me. They are talking about what a terrible worker I am. They are telling each other how stupid I am.”
I didn’t hear them with my ears, but I absolutely knew that was what they were thinking, talking about. I was sure of it every time I saw someone standing at another desk or there was a closed door.
Every day at work was miserable. I was sure I was being watched and every misstep written down, and told to others. I knew there was even a list of how many times I went to the bathroom and how long I was in there.
I kept hoping the next day would be better. It never was.
The day I got laid off was terrifying. It was a not unexpected sucker punch. And it was freeing. No more facade, no more faking it til I make it.
I came home.
And hubby and I knew then I would never be back in the workforce.
So I have applied for disability. And it’s the right thing to do, but it did require digging through a lot of history, 22 years of history to be exact. It also brought feelings of failure and shame. I can’t do what I was raised to do, I can’t work and support myself. I can’t do what I prepared to do, I can’t add to the Gross Domestic Product.
Putting 22 years of bad health on 14 pages was hard. It started a spiral into darkness. I couldn’t stop the spiral, so now I’m sitting in the bottom of a hole. I claw at the edges, but they are smooth and black, there are no handholds.
I’m doing what I need to. I am taking care of my girls, throwing myself into homeschooling them, making us a schedule that puts one foot in front of the other. I have reached out to my doctor and we have tweaked my medication.
Now I wait.
Waiting in the dark is hard. It’s scary. What if the light never comes? But it’s all I have, so I wait…
And while I wait, I feel the weight. Every breath is heavy. Each movement like walking through sand, all the thoughts playing on my weakness, taunting me… “people don’t want to talk to you. They want to get away from you. You will never get better. Your girls will grow up to hate you. You don’t deserve those perfect girls. They deserve so much better. You better hug them now because they will be long gone as soon as possible.”
So much heaviness. My breathing is uncomfortable. I feel like I am choking. The physical pressure inside me is terrifying. There is no relief. What if this is the time I descend into the pit and never come out? How will I live like this forever? How will I cope? How will I keep a happy look on my face with this pain, in this dark place?
I sit with this pressure. I wait with this darkness.