Behind the smile I have been falling apart. Behind the smile I have hid my tears. Behind the smile I have suppressed and suppressed until I no longer could. Behind the smile is a woman who really doesn't have it all together. Behind the smile is a mother who is running on empty. Behind the smile is just a broken down woman.
So, this is it. This is where I found myself. I entered treatment for postpartum mental illness on April 21, 2017. I entered treatment thinking I was just going to go in, address the panic attacks that had been occurring and fix the issue. It would be a quick three weeks and I would be myself again, but there was an underlying fear that I would never be the same again. I was wrong. It would not just be a quick three weeks. It would be an emotionally exhausting seven weeks of treatment and my issues were not just "fixed." I was also right; I would never be the same again.
Treatment began and I literally could not recognize myself, this illness had taken over my life. With sleep deprivation, irrational fears, high anxiety, and obsessive thoughts; I was not functioning. I was terrified of being alone, being in busy public places, sleeping, taking care of my children (or failing to do so). My body was running on pure adrenaline from so much anxiety. I no longer recognized myself and the person I had become. It was frightening to wonder if I would be stuck this way forever.
I learned so many coping strategies in treatment and dug up a lot of emotions that I had not been allowing myself to feel. Treatment was so much harder than I ever imagined. I left each day feeling extremely drained, emotionally and mentally. I could not have gotten through it without the support of family, the few friends who stuck with me, my counselor and the therapists. I worked the program, and allowed myself to find a state of vulnerability. This was just the beginning of my healing, my recovery.
After 26 days of Partial Hospitalization and then Intensive outpatient treatment, I was discharged today, June 8, 2017. I will never be the same again, and I mean that in a positive and very empowering way. As I left treatment, I had to write a "good-bye letter" to my issue(s)...
Dear Anxiety and Depression,
We have been "friends" before and I thought I left you in the past. However, here you came again, just like an old friend. We picked up right where we left off. I thought at first we could just continue as we had before, but you had other plans. You came in during one of the most joyful times in my life and intended to wreak havoc. You blindsided me, since we had been apart for so long. You left me feeling confused, hurt and unworthy. You stole my joy, my happiness, my peace. You made an attempt to turn me in to a monster, someone I did not recognize, someone I did not want to be. At times you made me question life and my purpose. You made me an angry person, in cases where anger was not a healthy emotion. You began stealing my faith and replacing it with fear. You did not think I would be strong enough to beat you. Honestly, I did not think I was either. I have now learned that I do not have to beat you. I just have to accept you as you are, because I am strong enough to manage you. I have learned skills to keep you at bay. I will breathe, I will care for myself, I will be present in the moment, and I will not be fearful of you. You will not control my life. You will not steal my joy. You will not make me lose this precious time with my children. You may be in my life, but I am bigger than you. My God is bigger than you. So, though we may be at battle, I have already won this war.