Monday, September 19, 2011

Bonkers, But Beloved

September 19, 2011

Late Fragment
--Raymond Carver
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Beloved. Ever since my discharge from Western Psychiatric Hospital last week, I have been inundated with convincing assertions that I am loved and needed and worth this continued, exhausting, often horrendous fight—what often feels like a fight to the death. Only this fight to recover, to regain stability and sanity, is a fight to live, a fight for life, a fight to inhabit the love that I am given on this earth. Love that keeps me tied to morning and evening, that keeps me continuing to wake and begin another day, that keeps me burying myself in forgiving release of blankets and bed and sleep surrounded by my family that loves me despite my faults and failings: Christopher at one end of our giant bed, my two children on either side of me, each fighting over who gets to sleep next to me. A problem solved by my sleeping in the middle, between Sophia and Alexander who don’t yet trust that I will stay between them, with them, will stay asleep with them and wake into a new day beside them. They are afraid I will leave again, that I will be committed, once again, to some distant hospital ward.

Alexander has anchored himself to me, following me around the house, keeping me in close proximity. “I love you, Momma. I love you, Momma.” He tells me this over and over, all day long, usually accompanied with a sloppy, gloppy mouth-to-mouth kiss. Or he tackles me, arms thrown around my legs, squeezing me tight to him, refusing to let me disappear again into the mysterious, confusing crazy hospital.

Sophia tells me how happy she is that I am home and how scared she is for me to leave for my now outpatient “procedures,” because she doesn’t believe the hospital will let me come home. My “procedure”—ECT—what Sophia only imagines as some terrifying, necessary electrocution. She doesn’t understand why electricity pulsing through my brain via electrodes doesn’t kill me. How can it possibly help me? “Please, Momma, don’t get your Procedure again,” she begs.

Tomorrow will hopefully be the last outpatient ECT treatment. Not that I am necessarily ALL BETTER, but the side effects have become intolerable. Short term memory has been decimated. I open my Kindle and can’t remember what books I’ve read. I open the book I am presently reading and don’t remember what I previously read the night before, don’t remember the plot hitherto revealed in previous chapters. I am forgetting appointments. Misplacing important paperwork. Confused by the simple act of driving around my small (literally small) town—lost in the side streets, having to rely on my GPS to navigate me around what was once easily crisscrossed.

Should I trade my memory for mental stability? Yes, the electrical shocks seem to haul me out of the abyss of hopeless depression. ECT is, as many psychiatrists have told me, the last resort option. My last resort option. But I am not willing to sacrifice my memory, my ability to make new memories, to recollect my children telling me they love me, they need me, that I am the best Momma ever. I need to remember my life with them, the small, inconsequential moments—did I tuck them into bed? Did I make their peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches? Will I remember that Tuesday is the day Sophia and I go to the Humane Society to volunteer with the dogs and cats? Will I remember that Thursday is Alexander’s kindergarten Open House, that he will be deliriously happy to show off his big boy locker, his desk crammed with his worksheets and art projects? Will I remember that my love, despite the debilitating illnesses that attempt to annihilate it—Bipolar disorder, Anorexia, Alcoholism—that my love is needed, is necessary, is EXACTLY what my children rely on to keep their world stable (even when my own world is profoundly unstable)?

And Christopher. He has remained by my side these 17 years, has remained faithful to me, his often crazy, confusing, frustrating, infuriating wife. And I don’t mean merely sexually faithful. He has wholeheartedly given his heart to me, choosing to love me, choosing to forgive me, choosing to believe in my eventual recovery despite my backsliding, despite my relapses, despite what must often seem like impossible (sustained) healing. And yet…and yet, he is willing to play SuperDad when needed, willing to take over when I am hospitalized, willing to tug me time and again out of depression’s hole, willing to hold me close, tight against his heart so I can continue to believe that I am lovable despite my often irrefutable belief that I am not lovable, forgivable, worth the trouble of maintaining faith in our meaningful, essential, crucial future together. Together, mutually beloved.

And then there are the unexpected reminders that I am beloved and needed and necessary to the world of others. All the cards I received while in the hospital from my AA groups. All the emails I receive from readers of this blog, insisting that these entries, these sentences that I string together are meaningful, are helpful to the recovery of others. The phone calls I receive from friends near and far, friends who are part of my recent life, and friends who were once part of my more distant life—all friends reminding me that I am beloved.

The fight to stay inside this life, the fight to believe that despite the absolute, horrendous craziness, the struggle is worth it. I am loved and I love. I am here and continue to survive because I am loved and I love. Love is truly the best, the most essential medicine.