Never thought I’d end up here.
How did this happen?
Today I went to my first group therapy session.
I self-registered about a month ago after being referred to the Psychiatry department at St. Boniface Hospital and attending an assessment with a doctor there. She recommended the group therapy, and since I had decided prior to even attending her office that I would comply with whatever she had to suggest, I signed up with the receptionist on my way out of the appointment. Anything to stop feeling worthless.
I’ve been suffering from…suffering from? Dealing with? Coping with? Battling against? None of those seem right to me… regardless, I got diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety back in August of this year. I immediately started an anti-depressant, and in the past two months, I’ve gone from being unable to look at (never mind care for) my children to successfully planning and executing not one, but two birthday parties for my daughter this past weekend and without having a panic attack.
It has been a trip. Despite feeling vastly improved the past two weeks (nearly three since my last anxiety attack), it’s a very strange sensation to logically understand that I am feeling the way I am because of medication, and not because I am “better”. Whatever that means.
When the session started today each of the seven of us participants were asked to share how we felt heading to the first meeting. I volunteered to go first. I’ve always been the “just get my turn over with and then enjoy listening to everyone else” person in the class. All I could think to say was “I am feeling weird”. Super descriptive I know. Sounds rather ‘derpy’ now in hindsight. But I did “feel weird”. I still do. I still have a hard time believing that this is my truth. This is me. This is where I’ve ended up. I suppose no one expects to suffer from or anticipates suffering from mental illness.
The whole experience of recognizing that something was “wrong”, admitting it to my husband, family and friends, followed by seeking help and learning to accept said help has been out of body to say the least. I didn’t feel like myself for a very long time. So much so I didn’t recognize my own thoughts, and I couldn’t trust the narrative in my own head. It was a scary place to be, by myself, in my own isolated cycle of subconscious self-destruction.
Now that I assume the medication has more or less stabilized due to the fact that I do once again recognize myself, I am finding it difficult to remember what that dark place was like. Not that I want to dwell on it, or anything like that, but being in a group therapy session requires me to share my experiences, and now that whole period feels like a strange nightmare that I can vaguely recall, but have trouble describing.
Listening to the other women speak today made things familiar again. Like I was looking through an old photo album of forgotten memories. “Oh yah right, here’s that time I stayed up until 4am even though the baby was sleeping because I was afraid he was going to stop breathing”, and “Shit. Yah, I remember feeling that intense rage where I wanted to throw things and scream…and when I actually did.”
Over the years I’ve always tried to support Mental Health initiatives, and to be aware of my own emotional and mental well being. Being in a room with six other women who were describing some of my darkest moments today made it all seem somewhat futile. I don’t mean for that to be so pessimistic sounding; I am holding out hope and believing that I will not suffer from this the rest of my life, but the pain and the hurt I was reminded of in that room today really shook me.
This shit is real. And it is hard. And it is debilitating. It affects so many women. And as “front and centre” as Mental Health initiatives and awareness campaigns seem to be these days, it doesn’t change how remarkably isolating it feels when you’re in the trenches of mental illness. But I suppose that’s why group therapy is the way to go here.
Despite feeling rather heavy and still rather “weird” after the first session today, it was at least very relieving to hear every other woman describe some element of what I can recall having dealt with. I am not alone. I am not the only one.
So I will go again. I trust it will feel less weird. Or maybe I’ll just learn to embrace the weirdness. Either way, life probably can’t get any weirder than it already feels. I hope.