We’re starting couples counseling next week. Wow, wait. I didn’t think I could say that out loud. I’m so afraid of the discrimination and stigma from others at the mere mention of it. Like they’re thinking we’re already headed straight to divorce and this is a last-ditch effort to save a marriage.
We’ve been going back and forth on the idea of it for a while now. We know things have changed between us. That’s inevitable in any relationship. However, the entire bedrock of our marriage was put through a massive trauma when we lost Emmett. Needless to say, we have a lot of things to work on and we want to be proactive to cope with them together before we get to a point-of-no-return.
This post originally was published on June 8, 2018, on my Facebook page after the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Click here to follow Missing Emmett on FB.
This week has hurt. A little bit more than most.
It’s ok to talk about it, and that’s why I do. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I have for most of my life. I had my first panic attack in high school. Scared because I didn’t know that all of those emotions flooding my head were entirely normal. I wasn’t going crazy. It took me years to realize that.
I. AM. NOT. CRAZY. I. AM. HUMAN.
We all are.
We have feelings. We have hearts. We make connections with people that make indelible marks on our souls.
Most recently, I’m struggling with my past. To be specific…2001. It’s complicated grief. Sparked by Emmett’s loss but remembering the loss of my mom. At a time when I was just beginning to find myself. I was in pain and my heart was full of this emptiness, straining to find something to mask it. Until someone came along and made me feel alive.
On the advice of my support group leader AND my therapist, I’ve been tasked to write a letter to the “old” me. I’ve been struggling A LOT lately with my emotions. I’m easily angered and frustrated these days. I had a meltdown the other day when I couldn’t figure out how to get the allergen protector back on the mattress after I washed it. It was ugly.
My therapist thinks this will help me process all of the emotions that I’ve been feeling lately and that I won’t be as hard on myself as I tend to be. I’ve been super procrastinating on this assignment because I know it’s going to cause the waterworks. I’ve decided to write the letter to the “me” on my wedding day, back on Feb. 15, 2008. Here goes…
Today is going to be one of the happiest days of your lives. You’re going to be surrounded by people who love and care for you. People who will do anything for you and just want you to be happy.
I’ve still been seeing my therapist every two weeks or so for the past year. Earlier this week, I had my regular session and it was one of those moments that made me go, “hmm.”
Let me step back for a second.
My brother, John, has been staying with Brett and I for almost a month. He recently won his disability claim after nearly four years of waiting and appeals, and living in a several different homeless shelters in Wisconsin. It’s been a stressful and emotional time for him so his therapist recommended that he come out to visit us for a month or two so he can figure out what he wants to do with his life. He recently said to us as we were sitting on the back porch, “This is the first time I’ve felt safe in a long time.”
We moved to Massachusetts from Wisconsin almost seven years ago now. This is the first time he’s been able to see where we live. It’s nice having him here and to catch up with him again, but it’s been anxiety-ridden for me and a definite shift in our regular routine.
Particularly, it’s bringing to light a lot of “hidden” anxieties that I have. I’ve always felt safe with my older brother. We would go on amazing road trips every summer to Disney World from the time I was in sixth grade through my junior year of high school. But, after my adopted mom passed away when I was a sophomore in college, life changed drastically for both of us.
Yesterday I hit a milestone I didn’t even realize I was approaching. Yes, it was May the Fourth for all of you Star Wars fans out there but that wasn’t it. So, what was it?
I reached a year of regularly seeing my current therapist.
A few years back now before we had started trying to conceive, I regularly worked with a therapist and a psychiatrist when I was actively having panic attacks. It took about two years of constant work to get to a point where I felt good again and we could back off on both the appointments and the medication I was on. That was about 6-9 months before we started trying to conceive.
Even before the pregnancy was over in April last year, I reached out to find a new therapist. We had moved to our house in the middle of nowhere and my insurance had also changed so my last therapist (who I absolutely adored since we could bond over “Doctor Who” but also for the hurdles she helped me overcome during regression therapy) was no longer covered but it also was more than an hour-long drive one-way to see her. I knew I was going to need therapy after this kind of experience (what they refer to as a “traumatic event” in the medical terminology in my case-file) and I didn’t want to go back to the really dark place that I was in a few years back.
We had to update paperwork yesterday so that’s how it came up that I had reached this particular “milestone.” I go see my therapist about every two weeks or so. I’ve gradually been able to stretch it some times to a month.
Losing Emmett has made me much more introspective lately. Recently, I’ve found myself examining a lot of the facets and experiences during my life and behavioral health much more closely. Sometimes, it’s triggered by something really innocuous, like a song or a movie. Other times, it’s because the insomnia is bad and my mind is racing in the wee hours of the morning and I’m grasping for a sense of normalcy from something in my past.
The other night my road down memory lane was prompted when Brett and I were watching the most recent installment of the “X-Men” series. It had me thinking back to a night more than 13 years ago in Spring 2003 when I was a senior at UW-Milwaukee. I remember going to see “X2”. It was opening night and me and some of my closest friends nabbed tickets to the midnight show.
We made it to the theater just as the trailers were starting. We ended up watching the film from the front row, and two hours later, our necks and eyes were strained and blurred from staring at the on-screen action so closely. But, it was one of the most fun evenings I had with friends in my four years of college. It was just before graduation and all of us were going to head our own ways. I’d be leaving in a few weeks for grad school in Boston. Another friend was taking a job at a university. Another was taking a job at a TV station. It was like one of those last “hurrahs” of youth and frivolity before we had to start living real-life. The friendships that I made in those last two years came at a very important turning point in my life, just after my adopted mom passed away, leaving me and my family reeling, and also when I had finally started to discover who I was as an individual.
It also was a time that had me scared about my future. What was life going to be like out on my own, in a new city. Would my roommates like me? Would I do well in school? Could I find a job to help pay my rent? Underneath all of the fun that night provided for me and my friends, I was an anxious young woman who was unsure about everything that was coming in the weeks and months ahead. I was frightened I wouldn’t graduate because my advisor told me I hadn’t taken enough science courses (I really had but something wasn’t credited properly). I was skeptical about leaving my family behind for the first time. There were so many thoughts and emotions that were bubbling below the surface.
There have been a lot of discussions recently online about the “high-functioning depressed person.” While I would say I have definitely been a happy, optimistic and positive person for most of my life, there’s a part of me that I haven’t let others see until recently, or more accurately, I didn’t want others to know was there because I tried to keep it hidden. It’s the part of me that is hesitant, unsure, troubled, broken, anxious and sad. I’ve spent most of my 35+ years trying to make everyone else happy. Trying to be the perfect daughter, sister, wife, student, employee and friend. I’m a fixer at the root of everything. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started to experience panic attacks again on a regular basis that I started to realize how afraid and distressed that I had become after trying to be perfect and strong for so many years.