I know at 32 I haven’t had as many major life changes as lots of people older and even younger than myself, but I have still had a few, all of which have kicked my ass. I watch some people glide gracefully through whatever life throws their way, while I’m over here taking on the feels of the entire world then wondering why I’m emotionally and physically drained. Before really digging into my hows and whys (aka 4th step), I always considered myself a strong person who could handle anything. But when I started looking at my patterns of depression and anxiety, the worst of times always centered around some type of life change. Anything from changing of friendships as a kid, to going away for college, to the more major ones such as having Andy. I guess I had to put it down on paper, then out there to the world: I do not handle change well, although I understand and deeply value change. That’s a silly conundrum, no wonder why it’s been so rough all these years.
This past year has really opened my eyes to the fact that change is a real struggle for me, and an area where I still have loads of work to do. The ironic part is the changes I experienced this past year are positive, glorious events for many people. The two main ones to which I am referring are the birth of Andy and resigning as a teacher so I can stay home with him. I can see the eye rolls through the screen…and believe me, the rational side of my brain wants to bitch slap me too! I was sad, stressed, angry, and pretty much every emotion in between for the past 12 months. I felt so guilty that I was not happy despite all this greatness in my life. Long story short, I ended up going to a therapist who diagnosed me with Adjustment Disorder. Wtf. I laughed, because that sounded to me like a big, fat ass excuse as to why I couldn’t just suck it up and handle life. But at that point I felt pretty shitty, so I went with it. And later, upon reading on it and looking back at past behaviors, I think there is some merit to the label. I didn’t buy it 100% though because there was something deeper inside off, something that wasn’t on the symptoms list.
I need to now mention that I allowed myself fall away from my Al-Anon program after Andy was born. The fact that the symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety reappeared within six months of my disconnection cannot be a coincidence. I did take into account there was some major hormonal shifts occurring during this time too, but I think the combination of the everything inside my head and new responsibilities was more than I could handle. I was back to the old me: irritable, restless, and discontent (AA got that one on point), despite radiant joy all over in my life.
My poor, patient husband said to me one evening, “I miss the old Chelsea, I want her to come back.” I replied with, “That Chelsea is gone, I don’t think she’ll ever be back.” That sentence still haunts me because at that time, I really could not see the light at the end of the tunnel of sadness. I was happy, but only on the surface. I did not want to die or anything, it was more that the light inside me that I worked so hard to light and stoke had diminished down to a faint glimmer. I was to the point of hitting up my dealer (aka any doctor, sorry, little bitterness there) to get a script for some meds so I could at least get the blues to go away. I knew better for myself, that was the old “band-aide on a bullet wound” route, so I rejoined the gym and guess what else…dragged my ass back to Al-Anon.
That was about three months ago now and I am finally starting to feel like myself again. Praise all the Gods (don’t want to offend anyone)! But seriously, I knew the little voice in the back of my head was right all along. It kept saying, “Go back to Al-Anon”, and that voice was my HP doing the damn thing like he always do. I can see now all the changes happened as part of my path in life. Having Andy felt so overwhelming because it made me realize I want to do something great in life, something different than what I was doing. Resigning from teaching did not make me a quitter or weak, nobody was judging or making fun of me for it. I got back to genuine praying, intense listening, and paying attention to what I am supposed to be doing in life; to what is really important. Basically, got myself almost back to where I was before the changes of the past year.
Looking forward, I know life has a plethora of changes in store for me. Some of them good, some bad, but all for a reason. I shared tonight at my home group meeting that, “Slacking off from Al-Anon is simply not an option for me.” I truly credit the strength and shares of others, also forcing myself to openly listen and share my story as the best medicine I could have taken to get me well again. I suppose Al-Anon is akin to one of my best friends: We can go for months without talking, but pick right back up where we left off. And for that I am eternally grateful and fully intend to “Keep Coming Back.”
Be Good, Do Good