“Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up, take the key and lock her up, my fair lady.”
I remember driving my five-year daughter home from the drug store, amid my 3rd ever full-blown panic attack. I remember thinking that it felt like I was looking through a fish-eye lens, every edge curved and blurred, distorted cars whizzing past, my ears felt hot, and my hands felt foreign, like at any moment they might grab the steering wheel and veer left into oncoming traffic. I wouldn’t really do that, would I? They don’t even look like my hands. Whose hands are these? “Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up” my care-free daughter reprising that one line of the song, over and over again. The irony wasn’t lost on me, so I piped up even louder than she, “Take the key and lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!” Louder and louder, almost shouting the lyrics; she, in the backseat, eyes wide with wonder and amazement- this is fun! Mommy is funny the way she sings this song! I feel something in my chest break, maybe my heart? Just a little bit? Laughter in the car, it sounds so alien to me but it’s spilling out of my mouth, undeliberate, uncontrolled giggles, but I’m not happy, I’m scared. I’m terrified. I’ve put my precious, beautiful, sweet creature in a car with this monster. Just get home, I think to myself. Get home, take the pill, drink three beers quickly, and get under the covers.
4 years later, those lyrics echo in my head again. Here I am back in that hole that I fought so hard to get out of. I’ve lost my job; my amazing work from home job that paid me to do what I loved- help those in need. I’m 30 pounds over-weight, I drink a twelve pack a day, I’ve just stopped taking my psych meds, I spend the days crying and imagining all the ways in which I could die. My once innocent, unknowing 5-year-old is an almost nine-year-old, who knows better and who sneers at me when I pick her up from school. She looks at me the way I look at me and it’s almost too much to bear. How have I let this happen again?
How does a successful woman, with a Master’s degree, a good job, a loving husband, supportive family and friends, healthy kids… how does this woman disintegrate into the puddle person I am now? That’s what I’ve been asking myself these last several months, how did I get here? What was it that happened that set off this chain of events? That’s just it, it wasn’t anything, it was just a gradual slide down into the muck. That’s how it happens sometimes… it’s not always some enormous life event that can be isolated as THE reason for a decline, often it’s just a little piece of your hard work slowly being chipped away, and even though I had warning signs, (day drinking, tearful outbursts, quitting my meds on and off) I sort of just let it…happen. Why does it have to be so hard? I spend so much of my time looking behind me at the destruction I cause, not only to myself but to those who choose to love me. I pine over the time lost where I could’ve been better, stronger; I waste all this energy hating a part of me that is always just THERE. Why has it taken me 32 years to realize I cannot just ignore this girl? This girl, this woman, this “monster” as I so lovingly refer to her- is just a part of me. How can I be healthy and whole if I continually try and tuck her away, try and take the keys and lock her up… It doesn’t work that way. She seeps out one way or the other and demands attention. “Look at me! Take care of me! I am not going anywhere! DEAL WITH ME.”
So, that’s what I’ve finally decided to do. I love and adore my children, even when they hurt me, when they embarrass me, when they are weak… that is what I have to do with this part of myself that I try so hard to fix, change, hide, destroy. I must find a way to love her too. I am not just the parts of myself that I like, I am also this. My diagnoses don’t have to define me, but I don’t have to pretend they aren’t there either.
This journey of whole self-love is just beginning for me and some days are tough. The obvious things like, take my meds, talk to a professional, stop drinking, those things I can wrap my head around, it’s the other part, the learning to live with all of myself that will continue to take practice. All I know is I can no longer try and deny this aspect of who I am, this part of my person and identity. I will embrace her, myself… even when I might hate her sometimes, I will learn to love her.
We can’t choose what makes us, us. Somethings can’t be altered. The past shapes us, moves us onward. I am simply trying to find the way to trudge forward, embrace the discomfort and learn to love myself completely. I know that it won’t be easy and sometimes I am terrified of the effort it will take, but all good things are worth fighting for. I am worth fighting for. I am finally throwing the keys off that damn bridge once and for all.