Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh hi, remember me?

Hi, my name is Rachel.

Hi, Rachel.

It's been 4 months since my last post. What is that about?

Well, it's about general life suckage and not wanting to bring others down. And depression keeping my fingers from writing the words my brain can't stop thinking. 

Did I just come out about my depression? Yes, I think I did. 

I've had a horrible summer. And yes, it is still summer in Southeast Texas, despite being a month into technical Fall. Someday I will move to a climate that matches my personality better. Like Seattle. Or England. 

Please, please, please, God, let that happen someday. The constant heat, sunlight, and humidity saps away my identity. I need clouds and cool weather, scarves and jackets, boots and hats. Amen.

I'm not going to go into all of why I'm struggling right now. That would take way more than anyone would want to read in one post. But, I wanted to put it out there that I am fighting depression right now and it sucks. 

I said I didn't want to bring others down by talking about it. As a therapist, I know that talking about things is good. As a writer, I know that writing my experience can be healing. As a blog reader, I know how freeing it can be to read my own feelings in someone else's words. I know that depression shouldn't be a block for writing and connecting with people. But it is. And here's why it is for me. Or, at least part of why. 
When I was around 7 years old, my family went to a session of family therapy. I remember nothing about it except one question and family conversation that shaped the rest of my life. 

The therapist, for some reason, asked us who was the most mentally stable member of the family. Through a short discussion, it was decided that I, a little 7 year old with horrible bangs and an underbite, was the most stable. 

(As a therapist now, I can not even fathom what on earth that therapist was thinking by asking such a question. Because A, it doesn't matter who is the most stable. And B, that is wayyy too much responsibility to place on anyone, let alone a 7 year old, youngest child who wants nothing more than to be the best daughter and sister possible).

That decision told me for the next 17+ years that I had to be strong. I had to be happy and optimistic and a "peacemaker" and if I was sad, doubtful, hopeless, upset, I needed to hide it for the sake of my entire family. My little 7 year old mind learned that the future of my family rested on me being happy and obedient and faithful (because the therapist was a member of our church, so though I don't remember, I am positive aspects of faith and lifestyle were talked about there as well). I had to be emotionally perfect or I was letting everyone down. 

That was my role in the family. Happy peacemaker. Though I am trying to change it, in a lot of ways, it still is my role. I don't fault my family at all for this (though I do fault the therapist to some extent). This is part of family dynamics that emerge in every family. Roles develop and family systems strive for homeostasis. I know I am not the only happy peacemaker in the world. It truly is not their fault.

But, it was damaging, as almost any static family role is. 

Except for a 4 month period in 7th grade, when I "rebellious," (read: snuck out to a dance, watched an R-rated movie, fought with my parents) I have striven to be the perfect child. And for the most part I was. And that just further ingrained the belief that I needed to be perfect, because in my mind, it was my emotional stability and happiness that kept the family together and helped things go the best they could, despite some sticky situations. 

I learned to force my sadness away. Because when I was sad, I didn't have enough faith, and if I just had more faith the sadness would go away. 

I learned to completely ignore any doubts or questions I had about our beliefs or the way our family worked. 

I learned that if someone else was upset, it was my job to go cheer them up.

I learned that if two of my family members were mad at each other, I was supposed to go explain the other person's side to calm things down. 

Is it any wonder I became a therapist? 

I learned that any emotion that wasn't positive was bad and I had to get over it. Read my scriptures, pray, serve, get a blessing. Those things would solve everything. 

And for a long time, that worked. My "negative" emotions often weren't strong enough that they needed to be heard or felt. So, they quietly faded into the back of my heart. 

Well, it doesn't work anymore. 

I can't ignore my emotions anymore. 

I can't ignore that my body is being ravaged by a systemic, progressive disease. (Rheumatoid Arthritis, or as many patients prefer, Rheumatoid Disease; arthritis is a symptom, not a cause of the disease). One in which something like only 20% of patients have a 20% improvement on harsh medications. (can't find accurate stats now, will do a post with that info in the future). One that is treated with chemotherapy drugs and biologic shots that cost $2000 a month. One that makes me unable to be insured traditionally because no insurance wants to invest that kind of money into one person. One that makes disability a very real possibility for the near future. 

Every major joint in my body is pounding as I write this. Has been all day. 

Scratch that - all summer. 

I can't ignore how utterly hopeless that makes me feel. 

I can't ignore how fiercely angry it makes me feel, either. 
My 2 month break after graduation to recuperate from Grad school has turned into 5 months of hell.  

There have been moments of good (which I am going to be documenting in pictures soon). But the majority of the time I am paralyzed by pain and fear. 

And it sucks. 

I haven't even been reading much because I can't handle being in my head that much. So, I've numbed the pain with compulsive Netflix watching. And bejewelled blitz. 

(Hello Doctor Who! The Doctor has been a HUGE good that has come from this summer. I'm seriously in love with the show. And did you know, today is Matt Smith's 31st birthday? Happy Birthday, Matt!!!!)

I'm supposed to start working again soon. Which I know in some ways will be really good for me. And I do love being a therapist and I look forward to reconnecting with some of my former clients.  

But mostly, I'm afraid of the pain I will be in driving 45 minutes to work and sitting through sessions and doing the marketing necessary to start up a new client base in a new private practice. 

The reality is that I'm scared. I'm scared that I'm not going to be able to do good therapy anymore. I'm scared I won't find enough clients to pay my bills. I'm scared I'll let my own needs get lost, because that is my definite tendency. Despite my love for doing therapy, there is a big part of me that wonders if it's the best thing for me to be doing now. But any other realistic options are almost as scary for different reasons.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post... 

Why I didn't write. And why I'm going to try again.

Life became hard enough that I could no longer just write about things that made me happy, like the books I was reading and the novel I was starting. And since there wasn't anything happy to write, I stopped writing. 

Because I've been taught to be silent about my struggles. 

Unless, of course, I have some beautiful, faith-filled explanation of how I see God's hands in my trials. That was the one exception to being silent. 

Well, honestly, I haven't seen His hand in a long time. 

So I was silent. 

But I know that is not good for me. 

And I've been reading a bunch of blogs that make me want to share my experience. And tonight that desire manifested as a near panic attack of writing need. 

I know I need to rock the boat and disengage from the role I've been forced into my whole life. 

It's not right to expect people to ignore their emotions. I believe in emotions. Deeply, fervently. Even the nasty ones. Maybe even especially the nasty ones. 

And I want to express them. I want to put them out there. For me but also, hopefully, for someone else who will read what I write and learn that their emotions, however hard, are okay. 

So, yes, I am sad, depressed, angry, scared. In pain. 

And I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don't know how to have full faith through this. 

I don't see how things are going to get better because the fact is my body is getting worse and worse every day. (My most recent blood test, the Vectra test, put my firmly and decidedly in the severe RA range which means I will have lasting joint damage). And that's scary. 

I don't know how God is being glorified in my suffering or even He is or ever will be. Maybe this is just a shitty result of living in a fallen world. 

I don't know. And I hurt. 

But I don't want to be silent anymore. 

And neither should you. 


  1. Oh Rachel, I am SO glad you posted all of this. I can't believe you've carried that role since you were 7! I can't imagine all the times you felt unheard, or suppressed what you were really feeling, for the sake of everyone else. But more than that, I can't believe the GIANT burden you have been called to bear. RA is something that seems so cruel and ungiving that nobody should have to suffer through that. And honestly, I feel creeping frustration starting to surface because I look around and see such untainted lives. And I know that "nothing on the surface is what it seems" and "everybody has their struggles so you never know" Yeah, buuuuuuut, those "struggles" are not this debilitating. I can guarantee that "everyone" isn't living in FULL pain everyday, living in fear of a disability, of permanent change to every part of their lifestyle where it makes the daily tasks difficult. And on top of that, all the emotional weight - discouragement, disappointment, frustration. Sure people's lives aren't perfect, but people's lives DO NOT carry this heavy of a burden. THIS is so so hard! And I'm glad you are not silent anymore. Because your challenges and hurts and depression is REAL, and I can very much validate and understand all of that.

    Additionally, I also know of the questions and the doubt that comes when God lets the suffering become so great. I remember telling my mom "I just can't believe in a God who would let his daughter go through so much pain. And even if that God were real, I can't imagine that His 'promised happiness' that we speak of could ever be greater than the amount of hurt that I feel." It is so hard to just keep trudging along, one foot in front of the other, with no release from all of this. And no future sight of it even being released! That is maddening.

    I wish I could promise an end. Or a relief of some sort. Or a guarantee of a someday perfect world. But I really can't, and I don't want to just throw out statements of encouragement that I can't genuinely back, but I'm just spouting something to say. Because I want you to know I'm being so sincere, so I will say this. You are one of the most magnificent people I have EVER met. And I have met a LOT of people. But never in my life have I witnessed someone with the degree of empathy that you have. Truly. And I think that is the most rare and precious gift to have, above all else. So I think that for someone to have learned that gift so perfectly as you have, you must be a Spirit of extremely grand status. And as a Spirit who is so closer in rank to Christ Himself then ANY other person I have ever met, then God would have had to put you on this Earth with a trial that is more weighty than others. And I know people probably say that a lot "Challenges come for those who are great." And it seems like just words, or just a "reason" that people have picked up to make sense of hard things. But looking at you, Rachel, I really believe it. Because I can't see how a person like you, who is such a wonderful and caring person, would have to be given this terrible terrible weight of RA and depression. I think you are amazing. And you cross my mind all the time because of the way you have impacted my life. I pray for you, BY NAME. And I am so grateful that God worked that mighty miracle for us to become good friends. I LOVE YOU! And through all of this, whatever happens today, tomorrow, or in the future, I'm right by your side. And even if you feel like giving up, I won't. I will always be hear to encourage, support, listen, and cry. Truly. I love you.

  2. Whoa, longest comment in Chantel history.