Even now, I don’t have a definitive answer as to “why” I fell ill; it was probably a mix of things. But whatever the rhyme, whatever the reason, I am past it. Yes, this story has a happy ending. But there’s a bit more to tell before we get there.
I cannot say this enough: my mom really went to bat for me while I was sick. She kept me properly fed, gave me gentle reminders about my medications while I found my rhythm with them, kept in constant contact with my psychiatrist when I was unable, and all the while searched high and low for a therapy situation that would accommodate my homebound circumstances.
And she found it, or rather him: a therapist who made house calls. His name was Dr. Henry Montero, and over the course of five weeks he would talk me through some of my heaviest issues. That journey, albeit difficult, was invaluable to my recovery. Dr. Montero didn’t flinch from asking difficult questions, questions that sometimes snatched the breath from my lungs. Nonetheless, I looked forward to his Sunday afternoon visits and our introspective conversations.
And though it took longer than I (or my mom or my husband) would have liked, the medications started to take effect. The change was so slow and slight that it was almost imperceptible day to day but, cumulatively, was undeniable. Bit by bit, the chemicals acting on my brain forced anxiety to cede the land it had appropriated from me. So little by little, the world got less scary and I was able to venture farther out into it. Not as far as in the past, but I was in no hurry.
The last couple of months had consisted of putting one foot in front of the other, blind in the dark. Now light was starting to filter in, and I was grateful to be able to see again, but I still needed to take my time and focus on moving forward. One foot in front of the other.
Help also came from the most unexpected place: Pokémon Go. It took four years, but my husband finally persuaded me to download the app and play with him. It started out as a means to an end; he needed someone to trade with as part of a task, and I grudgingly helped him out. But then I ended up hooked. I wasn’t proud of joining the trainer ranks, but the game did help get me out of my head and get me outdoors without undue anxiety. My first visit to Manhattan (pre-Pokémon Go) was so uncomfortable that I had to leave after just a couple of hours. My second visit, filled with Poké Stops and raids and gyms and Swinubs (So. Many. Swinubs.), lasted an entire, fun-filled afternoon.
My birthday fell shortly after my third session with Dr. Montero. On the day of, I received a birthday gift that anyone in their right mind would have been over the moon to receive. But I wasn’t entirely in my right mind just yet. The potential for an enormous change had been set in motion sometime before my trip to Paris. And now, on the day I turned 30, that change was finally coming to fruition. I resigned myself to this amazing, life-changing gift with all the grimness of one walking to the gallows.
Still, my condition continued to improve. I took more and more photos, browsed and posted on social media, danced and sang along to my favorite songs. I was even shopping again; that one wasn’t such a treat to my wallet but, hell, I was happy. The ghost that had haunted me when I looked in the mirror revived into the woman I remembered, or maybe an even better version of her. We all know that old adage: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
By my fifth session with Dr. Montero, he told me that I was doing extremely well and that our visits could continue on an as-needed basis. I was thrilled. Not because I didn’t want to continue seeing him (because I definitely did), but because now the visits would be out of want rather than out of necessity.
And that enormous change I talked about earlier? I accepted it, and then warmed to it, and then fiercely embraced it. Maybe because I had no other choice? Regardless, it turned out to be as positive as everyone around me always said it would be. (Sorry to be so cryptic; I may reveal this mysterious change in the future, but not today).
If you need to hear this, hear it from someone who’s been there. There is nothing wrong with taking medication. There is nothing wrong with needing therapy. There is nothing wrong with leaning a little harder on a loved one when you need it most. Your life is worthy; your health is the utmost. You do whatever you need to do to preserve them.
I’m still taking medication. I have a Sunday afternoon appointment with my therapist coming up. And I know how incredibly fortunate I am. To have a mother who would drop everything to care for me. To have a husband fully committed to his vow of “in sickness and in health.” To have a therapist with my best interests in mind. To be able to afford the medications that managed and manage my condition. And most importantly of all, to have spent so little time in that dark, terrifying place that others spend months, years, their whole lives in. There are no words to express my gratitude.
I am healthy; I am alive.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 800-273-TALK (8255) or through chat available 24/7. https://www.usa.gov/features/recognize-the-signs-of-suicide-and-find-help