Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Coming Out with Anencephaly: Five Years Later

I stare at the pill, as I do every morning, considering whether I will take it today.  I've done this every day for about two months.  Some days, I conveniently forget, though I've looked at the bottle and thought about popping that pill.  One day without isn't enough to undo its effects, but I guess skipping it every once in a while gives me a sense of control over myself.

The first change that I noticed was my laugh.  It's always been big and loud, but lately it doesn't take much to get me to do it.  I started laughing frequently, and frequently longer and harder than the situation warrants.  Once I start, I sometimes have trouble stopping.  Eden, ever the clown, loves when I laugh.  She sees my laughter as a reward for whatever she might have done to get me to laugh, and she repeats her antics, hoping that I will keep laughing for her.

Next I noticed an ability to concentrate on my work with a focus that I haven't had since before Eden was born.  Until I started taking Prozac two months ago, my mind wandered in and out of the task placed before me.  I had to stay late just to squeeze in minimal billing because completing simple projects was taking twice as long as it should.  But once I'd been taking the medication long enough to see results, I was plowing through the stacks of files on my desk.

Sounds great.  Right?  Why is taking this medication every day even a matter of choice, when everything seems to fucking dandy since I've been on it?

D-Day, the five year anniversary of the day Gabriel was diagnosed with anencephaly, came and went, and I stared at an empty computer screen unable to find the words to describe what I was feeling.  Valentine's Day, the anniversary of Sean's suicide, passed as well, with the same result.  The feelings were there, but I couldn't access them, I couldn't pull them from me to empty onto a page.  They were there, but just a dull and nagging throbbing inside of me.  Trapped.

Here we are, on the eve of the day I went public with Gabriel's diagnosis, Timehop dilligently reminding me of the days before I knew of my son's terminal condition, and the days when I lived with the secret of his fate.  Here I am, the emotions simmering inside of me, but like a watched pot, refusing to boil over to release me from the pain that anchors me.  Here I am, "coming out" again, this time with the fact that I take an antidepressant.  I couldn't cry right now, I couldn't force tears if I tried.  But I can laugh my ass off.

Funny thing - I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with needing medication to stabilize mood.  I mean, mental health is something we're supposed to confront, and treat, after all.  It's all the rage right now to support people in their mental illness.  There's nothing wrong with needing a little help.  Except when it comes to myself.  I guess I've become attached to my depression.  I've started antidepressants before, but have always quit just as they begin to take effect.  I enjoy my grief.  It's what I know.  I've earned it - I deserve it.  I don't understand why my heart beats every day when my son's does not.  I don't understand why Sean thought putting a bullet in his brain was better than living on earth.  I don't understand why a young mother with two children in middle school died in a fiery car wreck.  I don't understand why Amy didn't just fucking listen to everyone that loves her.  I don't even understand why Gideon has hip dysplasia, and I certainly don't understand why people go on shooting rampages, or commit suicide bombings, or rape women and children.  I don't understand why I'm still alive, and often, I don't understand how to live. So the least I can do is be miserable.

But I keep taking that pill.  Even when I've skipped a day, the next day I'm right back on track.  As I look at that pill every morning, I can hear Eden telling me that her banana eggs are delicious. I can hear Delilah on the monitor, cooing, or maybe even starting to whimper for someone to retrieve her from her crib.  These girls are here, now.  And they deserve a mother who is checked in, and who laughs with them, and who doesn't seem to sink into despair for no apparent reason.  I will probably always struggle, with all of the above.  I think, given what I've been through, I've coped remarkably well but I am still traumatized.  I'll be in recovery from that trauma for the rest of my life.  But the sun and the stars shine brightly for me in those two little girls, my precious Eden Eliana, my sweet Delilah Danielle.  They deserve the world.  All I can offer, is me.

To (re)read our "coming out" letter: