The word for the day is this:
Do not reinvent the wheel.
Do not make it harder than it is.
You are doing just fine, little zealot.
Burn right there.
Today is a doctor day. A day I march boldly into the oddly lit waiting room and arrange the chairs and magazines as a service to all the other psychiatric patients. I have done this with great love in my heart ever since the day a dear man brought his daughter in, and with such confidence, comfort, and familiarity, reached up to a high shelf to turn on a lamp that had always been switched off. I over-thanked him, but he seemed to understand the impact of a small change in such an important place.
I will carry my ownership of the space right in to the office, on to the black leather couch, where I will, without wavering, tell my doctor I am discontinuing another medication. She will push me, but I will not not be moved.
I confess that I am nervous about this one, an anti-anxiety medication, because it is probably helping with irritability and depression, and the withdrawal is known to be brutal, but it is requiring me to sleep 10-12 hours a day and feel like I’ve never had enough (that’s from the moment the baby falls asleep at night, until the minute she insists I get out of bed in the morning, plus her afternoon nap). AAAAAND it made me eat a cookie sheet full of nachos. Twice.
Now, I am the first to say, “You are responsible for your own choices,” but I am telling you, this medication has caused more cravings and insatiable hunger than anything I have ever experienced before in my life. It is worse than pregnancy, worse than mania. It feels like the urge to binge in emotional eating, but without the emotion. I am constantly white knuckling it through overwhelming distraction and anxiety about FOOD. As a woman with a history of morbid obesity, a present of need for nutritional therapy for pain and mental health management, and future of required weight control for spinal stability, food is the very last thing I need haunting me.
A medication that consumes all of the time and energy I have to write, exercise, bathe, and engage in conscious solitude, while crowding my waking hours with thoughts of inhaling bricks of cheese and bars of chocolate, spending every ounce of my self-control (which I desperately need to keep my tongue in check while raising three small children) makes me really anxious. Therefore, I have decided I would no longer like to take it to combat anxiety.
But nachos taste good.
A raging wall of water ripped houses off their foundations and tossed them whole, all the pie plates and Fritos, sliced watermelons, Pack-n-Plays, bathing suits and dominos out into the river. It is easiest to make it sound like a rained out picnic, a holiday gone wrong. It is easiest to go touring the waterline, measure our height against the muddy marker on the bent over tree, and not think about a body pressed hard against it by the current, dumped out of a bed while sleeping. It is easiest not to think about the babies.
Maybe stick to the Instagram feeds and the downtown floods that only kill money and cars.
Maybe just pretty pictures of clouds.
The last week of #powerrehab, everything was a total disaster. The contents of my house were tossed in heaps, the red head was infested with lice, people were vomiting and urinating on all the freshly sanitized bedding, and we were trapped at home by threat of rain and the rules of good citizenship.
This rite of passage followed several weeks of undoing and disruption to our schedule with house guests, growth spurts, teething, changing sleep schedules, and unending allergies. All of this is added up to the inevitable, fiercely resisted Change of Season. (That should be printed in the blood dripping, horror movie type face.)
I had been panicking off and on over the last few weeks, grabbing at the remains of #powerrehab as they slipped through my fingers. The once vast expanse of my 5am writing time disappeared into the needy full body embrace of my almost 15 month old. My long trail walks dissolved into the pounding, relentless rain. The babysitting hours were spent in long, luxurious waits at the doctor’s office.
The rhythms and routines we so meticulously crafted to support my mental and physical healing were crushed, every system broken down beyond repair.
And yet, here I am.
All good training programs end with a week that exposes the strength they have been systematically building. If the program was worth anything and you have put in the work, when you step up to the bar in that last week, loaded with more weight than you have ever picked up before, you will pick it up. Just like that. Though thoroughly unplanned, it is fitting that #powerrehab end with such a test.
Last week, as I stood under the bright lights in my kitchen, on the third hour of combing through tiny sections of wild, curly hair, carefully examining each wiry strand, it occurred to me that I did not hurt. I scanned my body looking for pain and found only the outline of sensation around my sciatic nerve. My back was strong and straight, my spine and shoulders right where they should be. My body, which could not even put on a backpack 56 days ago, tackled ten loads of laundry, eight bedding changes, vacuumed a two story house, all the furniture, beds, and the car seats, and successfully stood up and deloused three little girls all in 24 hours.
While I marveled at this ridiculous improvement in strength, it struck me as very silly that my latest PR came not with a steel barbell, but a steel lice comb and I started to giggle. And there it was, more impressive than core strength holding a wounded spine in place, a mind holding itself together. My mind, which could not handle the noise and stress of a single family meal seven weeks ago, was cheerfully nitpicking shrieking baby heads for the second day in a row.
All of my grumbling, the uninspiring work outs and painful, rose-filled walks, the life rules, the tongue biting, pill swallowing, and hashtag regret of the eight weeks of #powerrehab fell away as I stood there, calmly smiling down at hands full of knotted hair, a baby rubbing snot and string cheese from my knees to my ankles, in a kitchen washed in glitter, serenaded by the washer, dryer, and dishwasher all chirping simultaneously, and Frozen blaring through the iPad. Truly a weight I could not pick up two months ago. But there I was, being so insanely hardcore, picking it up.
Today #powerrehab is complete. Every box is checked from Holy Week through Pentecost. Ordinary time begins today, and there is no new notebook set up, no charts or graphs ready to receive gold stars, no fresh system in place to hold up my precious goals as a sane writer/mother person with a functioning spine and reasonably clean home. I do not know what happens next, other than more laundry, more rain, and a very long nap.
I’m wandering into this new season without a plan, or at least not one that I’ve been allowed to see. I trust that there is one, since there are still plenty of good adventures to navigate in the days immediately ahead — moods and medications to wrestle, school years to end and begin, a career change that is still significantly changing us, and the care and maintenance of all of these bodies. Yes, I trust that there is one, and that if I can just stay thankful that I have been given the gift of wandering, on my own two feet, without whimpering in pain, with the freedom to pick real bugs out of my kids hair instead of hallucinating them crawling across my desk, then it is a very, very good plan.
It has been raining all month.
I have been collecting sleep in buckets and pouring them wildly over my head whenever the opportunity has presented itself. Trapping my big kids in their room with audio books and napping with the baby, going to bed at 8pm and waking up well past dawn. I have some kind of otherwise symptomless sleeping disease that is eating away all of my writing time, and you know it’s real because I am just going with it. And I am not one to go with things.
My mother arrives today for a long overdue visit, so I am taking the opportunity to perch the baby on her most welcoming head, and in between the tea parties and fashion shows, to sleep the deep, heavy sleep only children know when their mother is in the house.