There was a big jolt, and then it got bumpy. I sensed it coming, but I was going too fast and it seemed impossible to slow down. As the air escaped from my tires, I veered out of control. Everything went flat. I was having a breakdown.
It all started in June, 1981. We were excited, expecting our 7th baby, but we didn't know where we'd put her. Our house was overflowing with kids and shoes and outgrown coats: we decided to remodel the basement. The contractor said it would take two months. Perfect. The kids could all live in the family room while the bedrooms were reconfigured into two big dorms.
One day, when the baby was less than a week old, I put her in an infant seat on the dining-room table, out of danger. Her sneezing siblings were smearing chocolate on the drapes, while I talked to the pediatrician on the phone. A lamp tipped over just as the doorbell rang. "We're here to see the baby" called my friend, herding her three kids around ladders and through stacks of lumber.
In the garage a saw whined. The carpenter had just removed some wooden slats that held the cathedral windows in place when suddenly a gust of wind blew the plate glass in. It shattered all over the room.
Marta and the other kids were luckily protected from the tiny shards, but I was hit—not by glass, but by the enormity of my situation. These kids were out of control. I had way too many of them, and they were all living in the family room out of boxes, and there were strange men using my bathroom, watching me and my house fall apart.
A week later I was feeding the baby when the phone rang. Walking backwards to answer it, (so I wouldn't expose my bare boob to Ron, the carpenter in the hall) I clipped the end table. My knee went out from under me, and I fell down, throwing Marta in the air. She landed on the hard kitchen tile, and I landed in a twisted heap. Ron dashed in to rescue both of us. Again, the baby was fine, but I wasn't. After a few hours in the emergency room, I came home with a leg brace, crutches, and torn ligaments in my knee.
Fast forward another two weeks. Neighbors helped with my preschoolers; Marta spent her life on my bed, surrounded by diapers, because I couldn't carry her and walk on my crutches at the same time. Saturday morning Dee had a leg-ache and took a couple of aspirin. Within minutes he was turning blue, unable to breathe. When the paramedics arrived, they gave him a shot of epinephrine, and rushed him to the hospital. In the ambulance he went into respiratory arrest, and heard them yell "We're losing him! We're losing him."
When I got to the hospital, and asked how he was, the frazzled doctor said, "He damn near died!" So, now I was a single mom of seven under eleven, on crutches, trekking to visit my critically ill husband in the ICU every day for two weeks. He recovered, but the stress was taking a toll on me.
Six months passed, the workmen were gone, the kids were installed in their cool new rooms, my crutches were stashed in the garage, and Dee was back in the pink. However, I was heading into the blues. Life was getting darker and darker, although nobody else seemed to notice.
I was all sunshine outside my house, but my own little world was dismal. I had periodic dizzy spells, double vision and random aches and pains; I was certain I had a fatal disease. I blew up at the slightest thing, and had tantrums right along with my kids. I used to call Dee and have him come home in the middle of the day, because of my frantic state of mind. I imagined all sorts of terrible things happening to me or my kids—I was full of fear, doubt and worry.
The hardest part was that I couldn't let anyone in my humiliating secret. I was breaking down, but I had to keep up my image.
One day I was moping on the couch while my kids stared at the TV. I had been praying about my bleak situation when the thought came to call Shawna—a neighbor I did not know well. When she answered, I started sobbing uncontrollably, and told her how helpless and hopeless I felt. She sounded caring and calm as she assured me, "We'll get through this together. It will be all right." She said she knew what I was going through, because she'd felt this way herself. When I finally settled down, she said, "Now, Dear, first tell me: who is this?"
Shawna steered me towards a doctor who shared tools to help me with my breakdown. Depression is a chemical imbalance, and anti-depressants balance the brain's chemicals so it can function normally. He explained that for me to go without them would be as foolish as a diabetic going without insulin.
Stress, hormones, illness or trauma can trigger a bout of depression. Sometimes it goes away completely on it's own, other times it goes away but recurs. In my case, it is chronic, so I'll take anti-depressants the rest of my life. A friend referred to them as "happy pills," but that's not right. The medication doesn't make you happy—it makes you normal. Then you can make yourself happy.
Life is full of crashes and surprise breakdowns. I can be philosophical about them when they're happening to somebody else.
Mrs. Organic wrote a post on her three weeks of solitary confinement:
"I was placed in a corner room on the top floor with the rooms next to me left vacant since radio waves are no respecter of walls (I always wondered about the poor soul in the room beneath me). A line was taped off around the door that I was not allowed to pass, a box of disposable blue booties and a chair sat waiting for any visitors, nurses, or doctors. No one was allowed to be in my presence for more than a total of 20 minutes per day. It was rather lonely." (Click on her name for the rest.)
Diane is one of my heroes. Her story begins with, "One misstep changed my life." Click on her name for her courageous tale (start with the bottom post and work up.) Diane is the example of how to deal with an unexpected breakdown.
"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear,
for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you . . ."
—Doctrine & Covenants 68:6
—Doctrine & Covenants 68:6
Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.
~If you've had the blues for more than two weeks, talk to someone about it. Don't suffer in silence. If you've been in a funk for more than a couple of months, go to a doctor.
~Write about a person who saved the day for you.
~Do you have a friend who needs your brand of sparkle? Think and pray about who you should call. Then make her laugh.
*Get out your blue books. Final exams are next week!
*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.