“You can bury yourself in a hole, or walk your way to heaven.”
-James Reedy, my Yoga Master Extraordinaire
Two weeks and still no clear cut treatment direction. My now attending psychiatrist seems hopelessly hapless. Today, he tells me he will make the referral calls to the programs I’m hoping to find placement in ASAP for continued ECT treatments after his lunch break. One program in particular seems custom fit, like those elaborate, turn-of-the-century ballgowns wealthy aristocratic women were painstakingly sewn into for one evening of wear only by their maidservants: Columbia University has in inpatient research program dedicated to treatment resistant unipolar and bipolar depression with an ECT-focused approach. So the Doctor in charge wanted all my records sent by today and my referring doctor to call her by today.
Were the records sent as promised?
Did my attending psychiatrist call as promised?
Am I desperate?
Even he knows that. In his own words? “If you continue to decompensate further in the next day or two, we’ll have to look at admitting you to the hospital.”
Decompensate. The inability to maintain good, functional working order in the face of psychological stressors. The image I always imagine when psychiatrists casually interject this word in their conversations with me is that of Mount Rushmore and all those famous, resolute, impervious, stony faces crumbling in a slow, dusty rockslide until there is nothing left but the gray impressions of what once was but never will be again.
I hate to think that I am edging toward the rockslide again. That I might have to disappear from home again, leaving my kids to wonder why I am THAT sick again, if I will be coming back, when I will be coming back, if I will ever be coming back to them again. If this program happens and admission happens soon, it probably means that I will miss Sophia’s first day of fourth grade, her BIG year, the transition year she’s been worried about all summer.
“Momma, you can’t send me to fourth grade with juice boxes anymore. It’s embarrassing. Only waterbottles.”
“Momma, do I have a monobrow?”
“Momma, can I get pregnant if I hold a boy’s hand for too long?”
“Momma, I want to study really, really hard every night so I get really, really good grades.”
“Momma, do you think my stomach is fat? Do you think I need to go on a diet?”
She needs me here, to help with all the messiness of these negotiations between the dream of dragons and the first blush of boys. Of course, the irony is she needs me HERE, alive, and for the past few weeks I’ve been vacillating about whether I should be here or burying myself in a hole in the ground.
And then there’s Alexander and his first day of kindergarten that I’ll be missing. That first walk to school with his backpack, that first kiss at the door to his classroom, that first day home with the proud, crazy energy, his breathless recitation of new friends and rules and the cafeteria and how he managed to wipe his own butt after he pooped at school and tried his best, but could I check just to make sure? Surely he needs me to kiss him goodbye in the morning and surely he needs me outside his classroom door so he can run into my waiting arms to kiss him hello? But again, if I’m burying myself in that hole in the ground, my kisses will surely be cold, without feeling.
And Christopher, beginning the new semester. The insanity of classes, of writing his book, of chauffeuring kids, of cooking breakfast, packing lunches, cooking dinner, scrounging up snacks, laundry, cleaning, dog walking, litter box cleaning, lizard feeding, bill paying, lawn mowing, loving the kids, protecting the kids, reassuring the kids, loving me, forgiving me, taking care of himself, washing, shaving, breathing, sleeping. How do I leave him with all that to take care of if I am being zapped in a New York City hospital? Of course, if I am burying myself in a hole in a ground, that is his job, without hope for relief, for good.
Bury myself in a hole or walk my way to heaven.
Tonight, tucking my kids into bed, my big king-sized bed, I held them against me, breathing them in, kissing them over and over. Their cheeks warm and soft. My son purses his lips; he wants mouth to mouth.
“I love you, Momma,” he says.
My daughter sighs. “You’re the best Momma. Now can you get me a snack? I’m hungry.”
Heaven. They are my heaven. They are why I keep walking. Even if I am crawling on hands and knees right now, breathlessly inching my way up Everest. They are why I aim for the summit.