Reprocessed Thinking: One year post inpatient
I wished many, unpleasant thoughts on my Memphis Teacher Residency coaches, professors and mentors when, each evening, I stopped to reflect on that day's teaching. Every day felt the exact same, so posts felt inauthentic and a waste of time. Now, I see the magic in their madness, because each day is not the same, self-reflection is an investment and, if I'm mindful enough, there are shifts in my life worth documenting.
While I'd wished by now I'd be "a normal human again," I look back on the past year with intense gratitude because I have come so far. I am learning to become my loudest cheerleader, as my Foster Sister* instructed me, and this evening is a night for documented cheers. Every next year in recovery, I roll my eyes because it feels like another year in "The Recovery Tour." I wasn't kidding when I posted that last Fall: I really did once consider my heart so broken and had such little faith in my healing that I began referring to my journey as a treatment center tour. Each clinical space was a pit stop in a string of what I believed would be a lifetime of a depressing, lit-up spectacle show. I joked to ransom myself off as a highly-qualified, exceptionally promising, psychological case study. That thinking, while valid, not a matter of right or wrong, and not worth presently explaining, is not thinking I choose to center on for these next few moments.
I am proud of my past year. Read it again: I am proud of my past year. In just a few days, it'll be my first Memphis anniversary since returning from what was about a four-and-a-half month step away from city living. To quickly catch us up, I spent October 2016 - February 2017 at the inpatient care level for what would be diagnosed as an eating disorder, personality disorder, and mood disorder. We are also - still - exploring the extent of my neurological impairments. (And, honestly, those first three labels** are always in evaluation.) I spent the latter end of February and March stepping my way down from inpatient to partial hospitalization, partial hospitalization to intensive outpatient, back to total outpatient care. Since then, I've remained at the outpatient care level. In continued brevity, the decision to increase or decrease medical support is based on my physical body functioning, the existence of comorbid behaviors, quality (or poor) support structures available independent of outpatient clinicians, and finally, the extent to which I can care for myself outside of their offices. Flashback to October 2016: I was going to die had I continued in that being space, and that is unexaggerated. Come back to January 29, 2018: I am living my best life yet.
My best life will never look like another person's best life, because no two individual's best lives can resemble the other. Examining my single life within its whole, I live my best life because I have a new definition of well-being. Not new as in a revolutionary shift in medical understanding; new as in the first time I've reached this wellness of life within my own body. Filter this however you like: I am well because I am understanding my values, separating from what does not serve them and no longer desiring to live according to any other standard, for any other affection, by any other value than my own. And because I have never more aggressively wrestled with my understanding of God than within the past year, I understand that an identity based in unconditional acceptance can only exist in the God whom I know as Jesus Christ. Please don't confuse this post as some sort of evangelical tirade, religious sacrament or ritual to transport into the next phase of my Christian-hood. If I've learned anything this past year, it's how ugly it is hide from my own shame in boasting and engaging in theological lectures as an inauthentic type of pilgrimage. My point is this picture that my expanded sense of well exists only because all parts of me are reconnected: my physical body, my spiritual identity and those things that make me me. If I took the list of my symptoms a year ago and my symptoms today, there would be some overlap; what would not mirror, however, is the realistic, applicable wisdom that my pain does not have to continue on as suffering. I once described it as if I've had two AA batteries all along, but kept pushing the polar sides together, and have finally learned to flip one of the batteries around.
I've also described how healing is like rewiring a broken circuit. The broken circuit once produced light. It met its purpose and served its need, but for whatever reason, now needs to be rewired. I've described in my own words how mental health requires paving new pathways in the brain. (Google it. Seriously.) In both scenarios, it is both productive and necessary to reflect on the previous functioning and navigate new routes. But it is unproductive to introduce judgement or shame what created light, however bright or dim. It's just time to rewire.
That is what the past year has been for me. It's not that former years' counseling was a waste of time, insufficient or inadequate. I didn't work any more or less, swallow a magical pill or stand in the right place at the right time. I've actually reached out to former caretakers and thanked them for sowing those seeds that were bound to harvest. I laughed at some of the very same sentences they spoke that I heard again before the batteries flipped. Oh, I was listening, but those batteries hadn't flipped. And when I say batteries, what I really mean is the whole Duracell warehouse, of which we could only tackle a handful at a time. If you're not following my poetic-minded processing, all that just means each year I invest in my own growth is valuable, undoubtedly determining the productivity of the following.
This reflection is a culmination of recent musings and mulling overs whether I've been at all "successful," if I've actually been wasting time, regret opening the door to vulnerability, should loose sleep over standing by integrity when accused of violating that integrity, or have failed the people who express better things for me. By now, you can infer my answer.
There is no way I am the woman I am without all these messy transpirings. When I stepped away from work, I did so because I had two options: 1. Continue checking grown up boxes at the cost of an early coffin 2. Face guaranteed backlash but regain my humanity... in it's most literal form. And again: you filter this post however you like, but I body a stronger woman whose life is now actually sustainable.
I'm still exploring what my next career moves will be, but I'm actually not stressed about it until it's questioned with an unkindly expressed concern. In the process, I continue putting in the work by investing in holistic self-care, and I am accomplishing more of what I'd previously been scared to explore.
I wish I now had all the journal time I wished away before as a graduate school student just piddling away until reaching an approximate word count. And then again, I don't, because my Foster Sister also taught me that I was where I was at that time and only now have this maturity because of those experiences. So, though I comically call my writings The Insomnia Chronicles, I'll honor my work by winding down the post to wind down for bed so I have the energy to make time for writing tomorrow. (Please trust that it is on my website-making agenda to list explicitly what great fun I've been up to.)
I find the best thing about my online presence, other than my finding it captivating to see instant, pretty publishings, is its chronological storytelling of someone unafraid to make mistakes, shift, revisit, adjust and boldly share her life development. When it expanded to this website, it allowed me to calculate exactly how what is irresponsibly called "retarded," and approached as a sort of character defect, as the perfect, professional asset it's always been. Specifically, that is my compassion. In other words, I have always been this person: intuitive, compassionate and aware. But now, instead of it existing only to serve others, consequentially at my expense, it exists for me too. If no one else, Plato understands: My madness is heaven-sent. Its beauty fashions me as kind and talented. It is exactly what made me the profoundly competent, effective educator I once was and still am. It's verbal expression is a translation service from the politically correct, status quo circles to what's inside us all that needs to be challenged, encouraged and uplifted in softer spoken language. But now it has learned to also say no, stop hiding, when to apply feedback and when to say, also as Foster Sister taught me, "I do not give a @#!*"
Photography © natalie rose eddings
*Foster Sister is a confidential code name for a former caretaker. I rename most my former team for their protection.
**Labels are DSM/ICD10 medical codes. all certified practitioners, no matter what field, use those codes to title the illness(es) s/he treated during patient care when filing records, particularly for insurance claims. though often attributed to creating stigmatization, labels allow a common reference point to be able to communicate patient needs. think of it this way: a pharmacist can't fill your amoxicillin prescription for pink eye, if there's 'no such thing as pink eye,' and your insurance company receives a list of symptoms (i.e. watery eyes, fever) that repeat themselves among an unending line of other illnesses.