There are blocks of time when I cannot remember the last time I held my baby. I recall her face every now and then, during a more lucid moment when my instincts tell me to pay better attention, peering at me over the rocky mountain range of my blankets and sheets. If she has snuck in on her own, she will gently lift my eyelids and ask if I am here. My eyes roll and snap shut as though whoever is in residence is scurrying to hide. She knows by now that this is not a game of peek-a-boo. She calls to me- Mamma? Mamma? I hear her from a long way off. I am an inmate at my own asylum. I am here and I am not. I am held captive by unmitigated fear. She waits by my bed with more patience than any three-year-old should ever have to exercise. I want her next to me so I can smell her hair, feel her sweet warm breath on my face, but I cannot move my arms to reach for her. When I finally do find my way out of this straight jacket, she is gone. Has it been a few minutes, or has it, by measure of darkness outside, been hours? I hear her somewhere else in the house, singing sweetly to herself and giggling when her father tickles her. I have lost another chance to have her back, to start over, and so I let myself slip back into fits of terror in my sweat-flooded boat that has gone so very far downstream and there is no bucket with which to bail it out.
My fear comes like contractions. I labor day in and day out- struggling to bear this delirium. I sweat and strain with each wave- shivering and crying out. There is no kind of breathing, there are no words from outsiders, that will quell the hellish surges of inner demons that refuse to be exorcised. Within these sensations I believe that I am still in the hospital, laboring the birth of my daughter. I hallucinate faceless nurses and midwives lowering me over hell- fire until I can no longer tolerate the test they are administering. How strong are you? How much can you take? If sweat-stained sheets and my tear crusted face are a measure, I have taken on Satan himself and I am losing.
It is on a bright day that I realize I will only ever see darkness. In a moment of clarity I know what I must do. I cannot take up residence in this asylum any longer. I no longer want to live in this space that I can now see was erected by my step father. I want to float above and away from this bed of misery. I want my body to be free of these rotting bedclothes that are my captor. I will ride away on a tide of water so pure- no longer drowning in waves of angst. No more futile struggle.
My last bit of strength and resolve are spent on the gathering of a killer recipe of pills and booze. I know that my beautiful child is young enough to forget me. I know that she is already halfway there and I must not be selfish. With the deepest sorrow I will ever know, I must let her go. All of this makes sense as I look at each and every person in my life. I have not been the woman my husband married in so long that I must release him too. I am aware that there are two people who will be relieved when I am gone and though I wish not to give my step father and my mother the satisfaction, I know that ultimately I win because I will finally be cured of them. There is no one else I can think of who would not understand. They will get over their anger soon enough. Surely they will remember how, when they visited, I begged them, in all sincerity and lunacy, to find a way to trade my limbs for my sanity. Surely that was not a fair trade, but that was all I had to bargain with.
I pray now to a God I have never known to give me rest, let me nap deeply without the whirling upheaval of specters whipping my mind into chaos so that upon awakening, I will have the strength to know for sure that this really is what I must do. My final request is that I might receive a sign in my sleep and the strength to see it if I have been mistaken in my decision.
I slumber in blessed peace. I do not dream. I awaken in just the same position I feel asleep in. My mind is more clear than it has been in a very long time. On the pillow next to me is a splendor of golden light. It looks like a tiny fairy as motes of dust settle around. As my vision comes into focus, I see that it is a tuft of my daughter's angelic blond hair lit by a single stream of sunlight beaming through a tiny hole in the blinds. The miracle is so exact, so doubtless, that all things comes to a halt. I feel the softness of the mattress under me, no longer driving nails. I feel the blankets warm and protective, no longer restraints. I feel the drugs letting go and somehow I am healed. I do not question the voice that tells me to get up now, for this is over and it is time to live my life.
Insanity is truly without definition. There are words to try to put a name to it, but nothing comes close. I could write endlessly and still never begin to touch the inexplicable phenomenon of losing one's mind. I could never bring myself to join in conversation about how selfish suicide is because I know something that so many people do not and I would not wish that kind of hell on my worst enemy- not even my step father.
Yes, three years after my daughter was born, I was worse off than that first day in the hospital when I realized that my mind had gone off. After so many days and nights of living hell, I just could not take another minute of it. It is hard to imagine, after fifteen years from that moment, that I might have succeeded had I not heard the first miraculous voice of my first spiritual awakening. I do not know how that moment came to be. I won't try to explain. I can only honor and attest to the FACT that what I heard was real, and more-so, the infusion of mental, emotional and physical strength I received in order to rise from my bed and arrive in the kitchen in time to swing my daughter into my arms and hold her tight before tucking her into bed for the first time in months, was nothing short of a miracle.
I had some serious ups and downs after this experience, but nothing that took me to such a final decision except to keep on with my fight to survive.
My daughter is my angel. Her kisses and her love songs that she delivered to me unconditionally while I was on my death bed are still felt every day that I am blessed by the saving grace that allowed me to get myself together. I will never take for granted each blessed day that I get to watch her become the gentle, creative, charming and beautiful soul that she is. I am so grateful to be so alive.
Please read about Post-Partum Psychosis and and Anxiety/Panic Disorders in previously tagged posts.