When I was little, my mother made up a massive story that she added on to everyday she drove me to school. It was called The Never-Ending Forest. The Never-Ending Forest held many secrets – both good and bad, both evil and whimsical. There were helpful trees that helped a little girl named Charis find her way safely through the woods and then there were evil trees with huge roots and long branches that would grab Charis and try to kill her or hold her hostage. There was plenty of yummy, safe things for Charis to eat but even more poisonous foods that could kill her or make her very sick. There were fairies and demons, sweet bunnies and horrible, snarling bears.
This may not sound like a totally appropriate story for a child of 5, but I always enjoyed the tales held within the Forest and I’m glad my mother treated me to them every weekday.
I realized today that my entire experience with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has been very much like the experiences fictional Charis had in The Never-Ending Forest almost 30 years ago. Since 2009 I have been in the deepest, darkest parts of the Forest and felt the “demons” grasping at my body and life. I know what it’s like to be held hostage by something you cannot control. I know what it’s like to think you won’t survive another hour, let alone another day. But I also know how it feels to emerge from the dark and feel the sun on your face. I know how to look Evil in its fiery eyes and say, “TRY ME.” And I know how to dig myself out of a pile of shit and stand taller and stronger than ever before.I had my 9th surgery on September 10th (2012). It was extremely painful. The meds the docs and nurses pumped me full of (Fentanyl, Morphine, Diulaudid, Percocet, Vicodin) had little effect on my pain. The one coherent thought in my mind during those first few days post-op was “just make it stop. kill me. just make the pain stop.” I believe I actually tried to follow through on this immediately post-op because I remember people telling me over and over again to start breathing – because I kept stopping. I just wanted to leave and every time I felt like I could slip away, somehow yelled at me again.
I’m home now (have been for one week today) and I don’t feel I’ve let that one, consistent thought go yet. I feel like I’m stuck in the dark. The only difference between this time and previous depression periods is that this time I did something that was really hard for me to do: I told someone I consider one of my best friends how I felt. It wasn’t easy for me because I was raised to have pride in my strength – physically and mentally. Telling someone that I felt I was losing my grip on reality showed that I wasn’t so strong after all (in my eyes). I almost regretted sending the email to my friend. But within 10 minutes she wrote back and her words instantly made me feel better. She validated the way I felt and made some suggestions that could help me. And she made me laugh. Much love to Jackie – my partner with Girls With Guts and one of the strongest people I know.
One of the suggestions she supported was for me to start taking my anti-depressant meds again. So I did. She said there’s no shame in needing things like that sometimes. Do whatever helps me feel better, she said. So I did; I took the pills.
I can’t really tell a difference yet but I think that just knowing I’ll feel better soon has inspired me to start digging myself out of this hole. I know I’m starting to see light when I start imagining myself running for miles and miles, being back into figure bodybuilding competitions, and feeling pretty. Tonight I’ve set my alarm for 7:30 am tomorrow morning in the hopes that I will get out of bed and have a good day. I will try to go on a walk. I will not take my pain meds (I only took two today) because I need to feel that I’m alive, not muted. I know I’m stronger than the person I’ve been the past week and a half.
I know I fell again. But I’m standing up. Again.