Friday, August 06, 2004

decade of pain - part one

ragamuffin diva is someone i just found, i don't know how i missed her, how our blogging paths had not crossed yet, but she is a rare gem, a heart of gold and a very talented, deep soul-d writer.

she blogged a week ago about her scars and her brush with suicide and it got me thinking about my own decade battle with that horrible demon. her story put me back in touch with my own and i hope i'm brave enough to face it now with words.

the psychology world will tell you that life changes, even positive ones when they link together can become overwhelming to the psyche. 1987 was a year that threw me into the richter scale of change very quickly. liam and i were engaged, we graduated from college, my mother was very ill, she still encouraged me to travel to canada to work with liam at a camp for the summer, she got close to death many times that summer, but i wasn't told until camp was over, we rushed home by plane to find her hospitalized and very sick indeed. she was granted remission and was sent home.

liam and i (by the advice of an ins agent - a long story for another post) eloped later that month. we had dated for 3 years in college and because of work visa issues had no dinero for a real wedding. god gave us one himself anyway. (another even longer story for another post). i was never a wedding dreamer, all i knew was that the only thing i really cared about was that my mom was there.

a month after the wedding we had a celebration party to invite the friends and family who weren't at the wedding to join us. according to my mother's version it was the fact that i didn't send out the thank-you's in a timely fashion that put her in the hospital again.

she became very ill again, and bedridden. and this time she becomes mean, but only to me. i begin to care for her during the day, when my father is at work, no one knowing how mean and nasty she has become. she is the queen of manipulating my emotions - go away, come back, go away, come back - she used that little piece of elastic she had installed in my back long ago effortlessly that winter. the guilt cards and emotional issues were played secretly when no one was looking. i felt trapped, guilty and alone. this wasn't how it was supposed to be.

one day my aunt happened upon my mother's abuse and sternly reprimanded her (gosh this is harder than i knew). the doctor tells me later it is a 'prednisone induced psychosis' and she has broken with reality in many areas. the abuse was a bit better after because i now had the freedom to talk about it and we had moments of bonding and sweet times in and amongst the dying and the pain.

liam and i retreated for a weekend away and returned to find her hospitalized. we walked into the room. she was on a vent tube so she couldn't speak. through her mouth anyway - her eyes said it all as she looked at me with hatred and yanked the iv tube out of her arm. it was her way of telling me it was my fault she was hospitalized. she had instructed us that she was never to return to the hospital - she wanted to die at home. my father just couldn't bear it though and called the ambulance while we were gone. they kept her there.

after that night she became unconscious. i never again saw her eyes, or heard her voice. they took her to madison to the real doctors and proceeded to try any and everything to save her. we were there for weeks - liam and i staying overnight in the waiting room, relieved by my father the next day, we'd take the car and return to try to work, to then return and relieve my father. it was a 2 1/2 hour commute one way and we were doing that for what seems like an eternity.

then they transferred her to the even bigger hospital where she became a lab experiment and they started to study her instead of treating her like a human. brain surgeries and anything they could think of. her body was shutting down. my poor father allowed them to try anything and everything to save her. finally my grandmother and aunt came in - i knew it was the end. her neurosurgeon told me that he had never seen anyone as sick as my mother was.

we decided to tell the doctors to turn off the machines that were keeping her alive. she was retaining so much fluid that it was seeping out her feet. the whites of her eyes had become little waterbeds. she was drowning in her own body.

because there was no 'living will' the only way the doctors would turn off the machines was if we had 'permission' from the patient. everyone thought that she was still responsive, though i knew better in my heart. they voted and elected me to be the one to ask her if she wanted to die. somehow at the time i took that as a compliment. 'she responds best to you, you ask her'. her own mother, sister and husband are there and they ask her child. i didn't know it then but that decision would haunt me for years.

i held her swollen hand and said 'mom, we need to know if it's okay if we turn off the machines. squeeze once for yes, 2 times for no' - she 'squeezed' once. they finally turned off the machines. we all sang hymns and cried and waited for her to die. she didn't cooperate. as usual my mother's timing was her own. i could stand no longer, so liam and i went into the waiting room and i stared at the television. i think a mash re-run was on when they came to tell me she was finally gone.

i re-entered her room, kissed her, held her hand again and told her i loved her and said goodbye. and i left her room and entered a bubble that surrounded me for nearly a decade.

that bubble insulated and isolated me from the world. it was then that my addictions shifted into drive. they had always been my friends before - but now they were my lifeline.

i was told not to be sad, 'she was in a better place' and both my father and my sister seemed to be strangely unaffected by her death, somehow their lives went on like before. i seemed to be feeling the emotions for the three of us. poor liam had no clue how to deal in this situation. my mother's funeral was the first he'd ever attended. he supported me through the whole episode like a rock, but had no idea of the storm he was headed into.

the shame that awoke after the loss of my virginity during my first year of bible college (not liam) created a deep desire within me to kill myself. it became my secret fantasy. the summer between my first and second year of college was filled with blackness and pain.

re-entering my second year i met liam and things seemed to calm down a bit now that i was able to self medicate with food and spiritualize the blackness away i was functional, and even happy. since i had 'learned my lesson' and liam and i had 'recycled our virginity' my shame turned to pride during the remainder of our college years. there was a darkness around the edges of my memory, but i managed to keep it away through sheer determination and activity.

after my mother's abuse and death none of that determination was left. i was empty. no drive, no activities, not even a desire for them. liam was scrambling. he is a fixer by nature, and he couldn't 'fix this'. so if you can't fix it, relocate it.

the move to canada came at such a bad time in my mental health. moving in with my in-laws until my green card arrived was a really bad idea and i spent months watching the soap operas my mother watched while bed ridden, crying and eating anything i could get my hands on. no one was home during the day, so i had hours and hours of nothing to do and no where to go. at that time depression wasn't the watch word it is today, it was 1988 and prozac hadn't even entered the market yet. so i sunk deeper and deeper into the darkness. television, naps, masturbation and binge eating became my way of life. my step-mother-in-law tried to shame me into any productive behavior, it didn't work. we had no church, no support and no friends.

planning my suicide became a game i played in my head. trying over and over to figure out a sure way to die. i knew that until i was sure i'd really die that i would actually try it. i just couldn't come up with 'the' plan. but i'd spend hours thinking about it. it was my new hobby.

finally my green card arrived and i was able to enter society again as a responsible adult. liam was selling used cars, and i was telemarketing. can you think of two more undesirable jobs? all we knew is it allowed us to rent our own place. getting out on our own was enough of a kick start for me that i was able to function again and keep the wolves of depression at bay.

i'll blog part deux later...

decade of pain - part 2
decade of pain - part 3

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