HE stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
Before I am misunderstood, I'd like to elucidate the ending of my last post. That young lady in the psychiatrist's office that morning,was sick. I'll never know what exactly she suffered from; most likely bipolar disorder or perhaps schizophrenia. But our experience with her was not to suggest that my depression was, you know loony bin-lite. I wasn't comparing situations, or laughing AT her. We always remember that day as the first ray of light into our darkness. She caused two people who had not felt any joy in half a year, to finally exhale.
If my story should teach us all anything, it's that disease can happen to anyone, including the mental kind. I pray that my story will be your first step in eliminating your stigma when it comes to depression, bipolar disease, general anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. They do not affect people with somehow defective brains. These diseases will break into the mind of any human being, and steal everything. Remember that, and start to extend grace. I know it's not something automatic, but make the effort. We need you to. Oh how we need you to.
Over the next six months, I healed. A major part of it was exercise. I started carving out time for myself to drive to a gym nearby. Gyms do me good. I love the solitude. I put my earphones on and unwind; my mind slows down and I focus on the running, the dead lifts, the squats. I can't stress it enough; exercise is a powerful drug when you suffer from depression. A gift from God. I'm not saying that I LOVE working out, ha! Who enjoys not being able to come down the stairs the next morning? But oh how it heals your mind.
My husband and I made rest a priority. I had to learn to relinquish a lot of control at home. I wanted to do it all when it came to my son. I wanted to wake up with him, feed him every meal, take him for his walk, take him for his naps...all of it. Which is what many women do around the world. What took me a while to understand is that when one is sick, they need a lot more help than people that aren't. With all the reading up I had done on postpartum depression, I still felt like I was suffering from it because somehow, I was less of a woman, less of a mother. I believed I was not strong enough; I was so, so weak. But just before Tito turned one, the clouds cleared and I reached a place of acceptance. On the eve of his birthday, it took me ages to fall asleep. The last twelve months flashed before my eyes like a movie reel. I COULD NOT BELIEVE we had survived. That I was physically alive was a miracle; because at one point the darkness had its tentacles around me like a vice, and I was ready to disappear into the abyss forever; I thought death was the only way I would find rest. I couldn't believe my husband was still here. He had suffered incredibly, watching his bride get eaten alive by this monster, and our little family ravaged by the scourge. His emotional depletion was indescribable, but he stayed. And he didn't just stay, He LOVED me. He loved me through the rage, he loved me through the days I wouldn't get out of bed, through the days I didn't want to look at our child. In the sea of tears that I wept, he was my life raft. He gave up his life for me. If he wasn't at the office, he was at home. Taking care of his son. And his very sick wife. He never went out to meet friends or watch a football game, unwind over a couple of beers...nothing. He took care of me. The weight of the realization that night was heartwrenching; that I had been loved so sacrificially. Oh my beloved...he had taught me what it meant to be married. His commitment to our vows was unwavering; in sickness and in health.
Oh his birthday, Tito woke up pretty early as usual. We jumped out of bed excitedly and went to his room. He was standing, holding onto the side of his cot, smiling at us. We began to sing happy birthday, he was giggling and jumping and squealing. I remember feeling like I was standing outside of myself, watching the scene. My husband was throwing him into the air, the were laughing loudly.
And I realized anew, that we had made it. We had come out on the other side. The sun had risen. Weeping had endured for a year-long night, but joy had come to us on this morning. My husband looked over at me, and understood. He asked me to sit in the rocking chair, and put our boy in my arms...and the dam broke. I wept. I wept the entire year out of me. Oh how I wept. It was like the rushing of a river whose banks had overflowed...my tears flowing like frothy and wild white waters straight into the heart of God.
Tito was holding my face, staring deep into my soul, and he began to messily wipe my tears away. His eyes welled up too; he looked as though he knew exactly why I was crying, and it hurt him to see me hurt. My husband stood over us, pulling us into him. Then Tito began to giggle. I let out a chuckle, and we all just started laughing. We were chasing this little boy around the house, shouting, still laughing our heads off. We tumbled into a heap on the living room carpet and I covered my boy with kisses as he tried to fight me off. My husband cupped my face, and whispered, "We made it babe. God has done this".
We had a barbecue at a park, invited a lot of our friends. It was a good day. Cutting the birthday cake sent me over the edge again, and I openly wept once more, as our friends hugged and congratulated us.
His birthdays continue to be bittersweet days, but with each year the sweetness has grown and the bitterness has faded. I'll be the first to admit that I have an extraordinary relationship with my son. We have spent almost every day of his three year old life together, from dawn to dusk. I have woken up with him, spent all day with him, and put him to bed nearly all of his days, with the exceptions of a weekend at his grandparents, or when his father and I take a holiday on our own. He is my friend. I've been privileged to teach him his first words, how to hold a paintbrush, and make play-doh animals. We bake together, we go looking for caterpillars together, we snuggle under the covers and play with the torchlight. We cuddle up on the rocking chair and read the Bible, and pray. We run, and roll on the grass. He will mimic every movement when I exercise at home. We lie and look at the clouds and he asks me every time where heaven is exactly. We do grocery runs together; I hold out the plastic bag and he drops in the onions and the tomatoes. My son, is my friend. The son I once believed would never love me, is my friend, and I am his.
I continued to battle in my spirit with God's choice to allow this suffering in our lives, and I'll address the testing and refining of my faith these last few years in a later post; but I finally believed that I was my son's mother, and he was my son. I finally believed that this was how it was meant to be, before the foundations of the earth were set.
This was never a mistake. I was not a failure. I was not a horrible mother.
God had stilled the storm to a whisper. He had hushed the waves of the sea.
I was Mama Tito.
Yes. I am Mama Tito.
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.