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.

In the hospital for my 9th surgery.

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.

Category: Random Thoughts

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13 Responses to The Never-Ending Forest

  1. [...] you read my post from just a few weeks ago (The Never-Ending Forest), you’d be surprised at what a turnaround I’ve made in such a short period of time. As [...]

  2. Jen Doolan says:

    Charis ~ In my eyes weakness is not sharing and not reaching out. It takes strength to talk about personal things, emotional feelings. It’s hard to let someone in and I’m so happy you did. I just recently started my meds again too and it was quite a personal fight but talking is what always helps the best. We have it tough and so what if we need a little help along the way! Thanks for sharing and showing even more strength by post this! Hope your recovery goes quick for you but take your time as rushing things could make it go slower than you think. Try not to be so hard on yourself cause you rock!

  3. Janet Hirst says:

    Hello Charis, Jackie and Kerrylin are so right – there is no shame at all in taking anti-depressants. Your brain is an awesome structure and is part of your body just like any other. We take meds for the rest of our body without feeling it’s wrong, and our brain controls ALL of our body, so if the brain feels rubbish and it is THE most important organ we have, there is definitely no shame in it needing help. I’ve been on anti-depressants for some years now, and I felt like you at first, but they’ve helped me so much Charis. I take venlafaxine and i can’t tell you how much they’ve helped me. Your body has gone through so much Charis, and that takes it toll, especially over time. We all love you very much, and just want to be here for you. Go girl!!!! x

  4. Kerrilynn says:

    Jackie is absolutely right! There is no shame in needing or asking for help! I’ve been on anti-depressants off and on for 12 years but only about 5 years ago did we actually figure out something that worked. We also figured out that it’s a chemical imbalance. Even if it wasn’t, though, there’s no shame in needed to take them. You do whatever you need to in order to feel better. Sometimes we just need that little boost to get ourselves into a place where we can see the positive things again. For me, I will most likely be on these meds for the rest of my life. Hopefully, I will be able to go off of them at some point, but I’m ok if I don’t. It’s no different than taking medicine for a thyroid problem, meds to treat an IBD. You’ve been through a traumatic surgery and there will be some kind of post-traumatic stress associated with it. The fact that you reached out means that you are stronger than you think. It doesn’t mean weakness. It takes lots of courage to be able to reach out to someone. <3

  5. gail says:

    ♥ your so amazing stay strong ♥

  6. lizzy taylor says:

    Ya charis you have a lot of support remember that. You are an inspiration to us all so do what you have to do to get well so you can return to your normal rutine again. We all miss and love you very much and can relate very well. Thoes meds are the only thing that get me threw and there is no shame in taking them to help you feel better. Keep your head up and keep pushin strong girl.
    Love ya,

  7. Kirstie says:

    I am sorry to hear that you have had such a rough time. There is no shame in anti depressants. I have been on them since 2004. I hope you have an easy recovery. My thoughts are with you. Xx

  8. Deepan Shah says:

    i used to think that i didnt have the strength in me to put on a smile for everyone to show my strength, when inside i was crippling. it wasnt even pain, the constant soiling, and incontinence, and then after my operation, constant bag changes, having to hide it in public, people staring at me because of my height (stunted by steroids) compromised relationships because of insecurities. i often contemplated suicide, and nearly went through it once.

    Once i opened up to a couple of my oldest friends, after a slap in the face for not considering what might happen to them, and even my family if i had succeeded, they had convinced me to talk about it further, and even though i never went to a proper shrink, i now have someone i can talk to about anything, explicitly. I know i can tell her anything and she will just sit there and listen, never judge.

    All i can say is that there are people in your life that rely on you, just as much as you rely on them, and by opening up you’ll realise who they are.

    Stay Strong. We got yo’ Back!

  9. Hollie Barnett says:

    Girl! You made me cry…full on tears streaming down my face as I type this. I want to reach inside this computer and hold you tightly and tell you everything is going to be okay. I hope this is not too creepy because we have never met…but your words are so powerful and if I could, I would make it all go away for you. It’s my nature to be uber nurturing and I’m compelled to offer you infinite love and support as you slay this current dragon. I’ve been where you are right now as far as mindset is concerned and it is a terrible, scary and dark place to be. Please know what an inspiration you are to so many! Our love and support for you grows deeper with you honesty and you have an army of us out here cheering you on! I am so happy to hear you have begun your meds again because they will help and it’s okay to need help. I admire your strength and honesty to put your feelings out there for the world to see and I know that it will help so many in the future. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope the fresh air and sunshine offer you some peace during this journey. Please don’t let your pain get too bad because you need a pain med break…I would hate for you to get yourself in a position in which you can’t control your current pain level. I don’t know why we are chosen to carry this burden, but I know with your strength and grace you will win this battle. Hang in there Charis! Stay strong and hold on to hope! I am sending healthy vibes, good juju, prayers, hugs, you name it, your way! **hugs**

  10. joanne says:

    We’re all conditioned that we’re supposed to just soldier through pain, just get up and kick ass, physically, mentally, emotionally, and find all this inner strength all by ourselves all the time. Well, sometimes it just f***ing hurts so much and for really really long periods of time, over and over and over, to the point where going to sleep forever is a far more attractive option than having to get up and live with it all again today. I’m so glad you were able to reach out to a friend who gets it, and who could support you in a way that was helpful for you. We all fall down. And yes, we ultimately do need to get up again, but it’s okay to rest for a bit first down there on the ground while others shoulder some weight for you, and then gently, gradually get up again with the helpful hands that come in any number of different forms.

    I so hope your pain begins to ease exponentially very soon.

  11. Never feel weaker when you are becoming more real. That is your strength. You are real, you have feelings, and you are dealing with a big thing. Keep it up- you’re amazing!

  12. kerriann clark says:

    Charis- I didn’t know of this recent surgery. But I feel your pain and mental anguish. Those meds will kick in soon enough and all the pain you feel won’t be gone but it will get better. I too almost died before my ostomy surgery (not that that is the surgery you just had) but I know the pain and not wanting to go on. I want to live again and I haven’t in 2 yrs since my ostomy surgery. I used to work out and look like a body builder and want to get back to it. I want to do my cardio again too. I lose so much fluid I end up in the ER or hospital all the time. Right now I hate my life. I started dating someone who I think is trying to dump me. I just am so depressed too. Thanks for writing and also listening. I appreciate it.

  13. David says:

    Stay strong–you are not alone!

Hi, I’m Charis!

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