Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Episode 19- Target

It was a cold and wet evening in mid October when Cody sent me out to run an errand. This particular day had been exceptionally bad for me and for no real reason at all I had spent most of the day in and out of tears. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d gone the entire day with out food and water. Whenever I tried to pull myself together, something would remind me of the nightmare I was living and the feeling of hopelessness would consume me all over again. Each time I felt the baby move I would be overcome with feelings of guilt. Guilt for not wanting the baby, guilt for despising her for what she was doing to me, and guilt for being such a dreadful mother. For days I had been fantasizing about what it would be like not to exist anymore. I don’t think I necessarily wanted to end my life, I simply didn’t want to be alive at all…not ever.

Cody could tell by the condition of the house and the expression on my face when he walked through the door that evening that something was very wrong and I needed to get away. The house was in total disarray. Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, laundry was scattered through out the entire house, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ethan was still in his pajamas covered in his breakfast. Truth be told, I didn’t even shower that day.

It didn’t take a genius to realize that I needed help, so my dear husband told me to get away for a while so he could take care of Ethan. We had been doing some organizing in the basement and had run out of plastic storage bins, so that seemed to be the ideal thing for me to go fetch from the store. I didn’t hesitate when he said I should go. I was in such a fog from all the crying I had done that day, and I don’t remember grabbing my car keys and heading out the door. I just remember that I suddenly found myself driving down the highway, and from the surrounding landmarks I gathered that I must be heading toward Target. At this point my whole body felt numb and I didn’t think in a million years that my tear ducts had anything left to give. So I pulled in to the Target parking lot, took a deep breath, and headed through the front doors.

Once inside the store, I felt the world spinning around me. I looked up at the fluorescent lights and I saw a jillion little spots dancing on the ceiling. For a few moments, I couldn’t even remember where I was or how I got there. I grabbed a shopping cart and began to push it. I knew I was there for a specific purpose and I figured if I wandered long enough I would remember what that purpose was.

And then I smelled it. It was the familiar scent of popcorn making its way from the snack center and suddenly I was taken back two decades to a little league game in Texas. There I was, six years old standing in the ball park complex where my brothers played ball each season. The smell of popcorn lingered in the air and I never failed to beg my mom to buy me a bag of my own. Popcorn and cherry flavored Jolly Ranchers which where always sold at the concession stand seemed to be staples of little league for me.

But there I stood in what seemed to be a million miles from the security of childhood. There in that Target store I stood with my hair still damp from the rain outside, breathing in ever so deeply that familiar scent of innocence. The simple smell of popcorn instantaneously reminded me of what it was like to be naive, small, and unattached. I kept my eyes closed tightly as not to let in the reality of what lay beyond the safe feeling of the Bear Creek Baseball Complex in Houston, Texas.

My body felt completely weak and I didn’t think I had the strength to face yet again the despair that was encompassing me. As long as I kept my eyes closed I could feel my dad’s warm embrace around my tiny six year old body. I could even detect hints of Old Spice aftershave on his skin. And I knew that if I stayed like that long enough, the soothing sound of my mother’s voice reading to me could be heard above the ringing cries of help in my head.

I’m sure I looked like a moron standing there like I was. Then I heard a voice come over the PA system and I suddenly jerked back to reality. That flicker of happiness was gone in a second and I realized I was still standing there holding on to the cart. Oh that’s right. I had come to the store for something. I still couldn’t remember what it was, but somehow my feet obeyed the message sent from my brain and I began to walk. My empty shopping cart felt as if it had one thousand pounds in it and it seemed impossible to push.

As I started down one of the main aisles, I looked straight ahead of me and even though it was probably only two hundred feet to the back of the store, it looked as if it was an endless trek to reach it. My perception of everything was utterly blurred. Everything continued to spin around me, but I kept on walking. I could hear noises around me. People were talking, music overhead was playing, even the wheels on the cart were squeaking. But it was all an empty echo in my head. All life around me was being played in slow motion.

I guess I decided to wander until I recognized what I had come to the store to get. I have no idea how long I wandered for, but at one point I rounded a corner to see a display of neon orange and black storage bins. Who on earth would pick such hideous colors to keep in their house? And then I remembered it was nearing Halloween and above the display was a sign that read “For your Halloween d├ęcor needs”. I thought for a minute about whether or not to buy storage bins in such dramatic colors. I thought about it and thought about it. Looking back, it was a very trivial decision. One might say to themselves “Who cares about the color. They will be stored out of sight in the basement anyway.” But to me, as I stood there weighing out the pros and cons in my mind it seemed astronomical.

My body began to tremble and I could feel the hot sting of tears welling up in my eyes. Why couldn’t I get my head on straight enough to make such a simple decision? If I chose not to get them in that color, I could easily find some others in another department of the store. It really wasn’t a big deal at all. But at that moment I couldn’t think rationally about anything, and I suppose this was the final straw for me.

I buried my face in my hands as to control my sobbing. I wasn’t going to let this monster take a hold of me again, not right there in the middle of the store and give strangers the opportunity to gawk at this crazy lady. Somehow I got a hold of myself, wiped the tears from my eyes, and began pulling bins from the shelf to load into the cart.

For some reason I had the impulse to take off one of the black lids, perhaps because I thought something scary might be lurking inside. After all it was Halloween. I unsnapped the lid and peeked inside and of course found nothing but the potent smell of plastic hit me. Satisfied with the emptiness, I went to snap it back on. And then I saw it. On the underside of the lid was a bright yellow warning sticker with a horrific sketch of a baby being locked inside. In huge black letters it read “Warning- may cause suffocation.”

I can barely describe what I felt next. My heart began to beat so fast that it felt as though I was having a heart attack. It was as if I was living that experience with the Zoloft from September all over again. The pit of my stomach came right up to my mouth and I could taste vomit. I quickly clasped a hand over my mouth and luckily swallowed whatever had made its way back up my esophagus. This time there was no possible way to control the tears and they poured like faucets from my eyes.

I dropped the lid I was still holding on to as all strength left me and I sank to the floor. Something inside of me began to scream and I longed to let it out for all to hear. Instead, I sat there and sobbed silent tears into my jacket sleeve. I clenched my eyes closed and all I could see was Ethan’s little body lying lifelessly inside that bin. It wasn’t real by any means, but it didn’t matter to me. In my mind it had already come to pass. Part of me really thought that when I went back home that night I would be met by paramedics and neighbors telling me that Ethan had been found dead inside a storage bin. All logic was totally gone and I sat there and cried for my loss.

I don’t know how long I was there on the floor, but it was probably somewhere around five minutes. I wonder how many people passed by me asking themselves what in the world could be wrong. At one point I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up through blurry eyes to see a man in a red shirt kneeling beside me. “Are you okay, Mam?” I could hear fuzzy voices coming from his walkie talkie and I could see his nametag which read “Chris”.

I looked at him blankly for several seconds, wiped my eyes and told him I was fine- I was just having a bad day. Normally I would have been humiliated by what had just taken place. But in my state of mind I don’t know if I was fully aware of anything that was going on. Chris then asked me my name and it was as if everything inside of my brain was gone. I didn’t know how I had gotten to the store, what day it was, or even my own name! I knew I had to tell him something, and I think I told him my name was Jennifer or Janet or something like that.

All I wanted right then was to be exiled away from all life. I wanted no one around me and after a moment, Chris walked away. Somehow I convinced him that things were okay. Again I’m sure I did a great job of lying, something I’d become a pro at in the last few months. I gathered all of my lost marbles from the floor and gained some composure and decided to finish what I had set out to do when coming to the store. I loaded up my shopping cart and attempted desperately to push the image of Ethan’s lifeless body out of my mind.

It seemed like a never ending walk from that aisle up to the check out stands, and it seemed like an even farther distance from there to my car. After I made my purchase I said to myself “Okay, now all you have to do is make it to the car and then you can explode again.” As I stepped outside I could feel the rain falling down all over me. The air was frigid and I thought for a moment that it was far too cold to be July. Why was it so cold if it was summer time?

I looked around me, so confused and alone. “No wait a second,” I thought silently. “Halloween decorations were out in the store. It must be October. The cold makes sense then.” Even though I was freezing and wet, I was in no hurry to get to the car. I walked sluggishly through the parking lot, taking in the chilled, damp air. It so perfectly mirrored my every thought and it was like the weather itself was the only thing on the face of the earth that understood how I felt. So in some twisted way, I took comfort in it.

I loaded the storage bins into the car and slumped down in the front seat. I sat there for quite a while, starring vacantly into the night. I didn’t care that I was soaking wet from head to toe or that my hands were so cold that I could barely feel them. And then from out of no where, a sound ruptured from deep within my soul. It came out in such a violent way that it almost scared me to hear it. I began to scream and scream, and then scream some more. It was like everything that had been bottled up, everything that I was afraid to tell anyone, every bit of anxiety, anger, and fear came bursting out of me. I felt like a three year old child throwing the tantrum of the century. The tears gushed freely and I clutched my abdomen as I felt the baby begin to kick vigorously. I’m sure that this outburst was quite alarming for her. I was crying in heaves so hard that I thought my lungs would burst. I could imagine the baby saying “Mommy, why are you so sad?”

“I don’t know!!!” I yelled out. I started banging on the steering wheel with my fist. “I don’t know why this is happening to me! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! Why me?! Why, God?! Why?!”

For the next several minutes I had a very intense conversation with God. Well, it wasn’t really a conversation so much as I was simply letting God have it. Then the fear and anxiety changed to pure rage. I was so angry with God and I wanted Him to know exactly what He had done to me. I felt like He had taken this perfectly capable, sane, happy, thriving human being and broken her. And for no reason at all! “Is this some kind of joke to you? Do you get a kick out of seeing me like this?” I felt so powerless and the only way to combat it was to scream. Here was God, this gigantic and powerful being, totally in control of my life and everything that happened to me. And here I was, an insignificant pawn in His little game. I was being tossed around, moved this way and that, all for His pleasure.

And so I yelled, and cried, and beat my fist so hard that one of my knuckles began to bleed. “Why won’t you just take this from me?” I pleaded over and over. “I know you can. You can do anything, and yet you won’t do such a simple thing for me. Make me sane again! Let me sleep again! Make me want to live! Take these terrible thoughts from me! Just give me back the person I once was!”

I caught my breath and sank back into the seat. That episode had completely exhausted me and I had no more voice to yell. “Okay, God,” I sighed “You win.” I sat there in the dark for a long time and cried for the better part of an hour. And then by some miracle, an ounce of logic entered my mind and I had the brilliant idea to listen to the silence. I bowed my head and humbly prayed “Dear Lord, please help me. Help me.”

I don’t fully understand what took place next. All I know is that I was suddenly calm and the foreign feeling of tranquility overtook my body. It had been so long since I’d felt anything like it, but I sat there and tried to absorb it. Then it was as if I saw a flicker of light before me. I know it wasn’t a real light, but in my mind I saw hope. I was encompassed by this deep, dark tunnel, and at the end there was a pinhole sized light shining through. I think that when we are going through a trial, God does allow us a little breathing time. Wave upon wave crashes down on you, but in between each one you get a second to take a breath of air before the next one crashes. And as I sat there in my car on that cold and rainy night, I was allowed a small breath of air. I was completely aware that the calmness I was feeling was fleeting and that I would likely feel the despair and confusion again.

But for a tiny moment, I was calm.


Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela said...

Wow! You are such a strong woman to have gone through all of this and be able to tell it. You are a geat writer and have me captivated! I can't wait to read more. I have been fortunate enough to never have suffered any type of depression (yet). I remember when I was younger and I always thought it was in peoples heads and they wanted attention. That there really wasn't anything wrong. I have personally watched a friend suffer PPD and it hurt me so badly to watch her suffer. It hurt me to see her be so disconnected from her precious little baby, but most importantly it showed me that it was really a sickness. It wasn't in her "head" it was reality. She quickly recovered and thankfully didn't have it as severe as you. You are a beautiful person and a wonderful mom. Your dh and children are lucky to have you! I shared your blog with my friend and she thanks you! I am so glad you are well and able to share this story. I hope it can help someone!
Angela *aka* browneyedgirl from bbc

Kate said...

Please keep writting and fast! LOL. I am captivated by your words. I truly hope one day this can be published if you would let it. It is scaringly beautiful and so are you.

wifeoftwomomofthree (BBC)

Krystin said...

I find my self doing that alot as of late, like my life is a huge fog nad I am just lost in it. I feel like one of those people who "let go of the iron rod" in Lehi's dream and was lost in the wilderness. Now it's all I can do to get back, some days I am not sure that I can. Thanks for this..your story. It gives me more hope than you can know.

*aka punkrokmam from BBC*

Ute Family said...

Ok there are two things that amaze me about you...
1. That you could go through something like that and make it through to the other side...and
2. You write so beautifully. It's more than just the details, it's the analagies and the way you describe things.
It's awesome and I love reading your story!

lilpeasinmypodfrom~God said...

Oh sheesh, I have ready every ounce of episodes from 1 til now this morning(yeah nothings gotton done.....) I am just sitting here in tears for you. I have something very similar happen(anxiety/psychosis) after my 3rd and I have just kept it hidden and luckily it only took about 9 months to work itself out. It was never to the degree you experienced, but it was pretty horrendous.

Anna said...

I can relate on only such a tiny level. Osccasionally I've had the irrational fears come to me in pregnancy. I too remember the peace God gave me through prayer. The feeling of total relief. Thank you for sharing your experiences.