(*I realize I’ve been silent in this space for a long time. When you read this post, the reason for my silence will become apparent. Truth be told, I had no intention of writing today…until my morning meditation – that I decided I’d better do at 1:00 in the afternoon! I practiced a guided meditation with Sarah Blondin of Insight Timer. As I let the hot water of the shower I so desperately needed fall over my body, I closed my eyes as Sarah said the words, “you’re ok, you’re ok,you’re ok.” I saw my Inga put her hands on my cheeks. She looked me in the eyes and said in a sweet and gentle voice, “I’ve got you, I’ve got you. You’re ok, you’re ok, you’re ok. You’re not alone. You’re not alone.” YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I was doing the breakfast dishes after having dropped the children off at school. A song came on that made me feel especially light and happy. The song brought me back to a special and joyous time. Before the Psychosis. Before moving away. I smiled for the reminiscing. Suddenly, the music stopped. I turned around to see Andrew. He looked at me, his eyes pensive, his body tense. He said to me, “I can’t listen to that.” I was confused. He loved that song! I asked him, “why?” He explained that it reminded him of the most miserably difficult time of his life: My MS relapse, psychosis and all of the events that followed. This struck me and is something I’ve often contemplated over the past year.
When a family goes through struggle or trauma, they go through it together. Partners and married couples rely on each other to manage the struggle. They lean in to each other. They make decisions together. It can often draw a couple closer together. Conversely, it can tear a couple apart. Andrew and I had an experience somewhere in between becoming both closer and more distant. We were going through the same crisis together but were living in two different worlds. As a result of my psychosis, we couldn’t have been further apart from one another while experiencing the tumult our journeys had presented. I was spinning away in my own world. He was watching it happen. In my manic state, I had never been happier. I felt, in some cases, enlightened. During this period I genuinely believed that he and I had never been happier in our 9 years together. As I write this, I still remember those feelings vividly. I kept telling our closest friends and relatives that despite everything we were going through, we had never been happier. Meanwhile, Andrew had a front row seat of what was happening with me and it was terrifying for him. Yet, in my state at the time, I believed he felt the same way as I did. Blissfully happy and in love. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was living in fear. He can’t recall a more traumatic time in his life. As I came out of the psychosis and began the healing process, it was Andrew’s time to begin spinning away. I fear I didn’t realize how dark a space he was living in until much too late.
Trauma can awaken within us our innermost demons. Between the light we radiate there are also shadows. When faced with our greatest challenges, the shadows often rear their ugly heads. Sometimes the light within us is strong. We are vital enough to let the light cast out our shadows. When beaten down by the tumult we sometimes face on our journeys, we can lose our vitality. We become weary. It becomes difficult to see the light and we give in to our shadows. Somehow, we feel safer in that space…in the darkness…for the light is too much to hope for anymore. The loss has been too great. Sometimes still, it’s necessary for us to face our shadows in order to begin a deeper healing process. The loss Andrew experienced through our trauma; the fear of what he might lose, brought to the surface all of his darkest shadows. All of my darkest shadows. All of our darkest shadows. On my trauma journey, I was able to see so much light because of the darkness. I was like a snake needing to shed it’s skin. This is an incredibly arduous and painful process for the snake, but necessary if it is to survive. Better than ever before, the snake emerges with new skin. The struggle, the pain, the loss makes all things new again. This was how I was able to face my circumstances. My focus was my deep emotional and physical healing journey, second only to my daughters and theirs. I was focused on that path. My journey was clear to me. I was walking the path before me in new skin. Andrew’s path was not mine. I was in the light. He was still struggling with his shadows. He couldn’t seem to make it out and our paths split in two. Beside each other, yet separate from one another, we had begun our fragmented journey. It’s as if our trauma was a bomb, set off on our road to break everything; scattering the broken pieces of our lives onto the ground. We picked them up. Fragmented and beaten down; our road split in two. Andrew spun away on one path and I on the other. Shadows and light, light and shadows, back and forth, to and fro. Spinning away….
Andrew sunk in to a deep depression. This caused him to suffer a relapse of alcoholism, testing us all to our cores. These sicknesses are thieves. Thieves of truth, thieves of joy, thieves of life; Insidious and slow setting in. They not only steal from those suffering from the affliction. They take as much as they are able from those who love the afflicted as well. These thieves care nothing for anyone around them. This is when hard decisions need to be made – because we must not let the thieves take anymore than they already have.
We will love each other through this. We are family. We will always be family. Sometimes family looks a bit different than expected. At this point, I’m not sure what mine will look like in the end. I do know, no matter what, Andrew will be a part of it.
*I’m writing this deeply personal account because it is my greatest hope, that by talking about it, the stigmatization of both sicknesses will end. We should be talking about it. Please feel free to reach out here. We can discuss these things here. Alcoholism is a disease that so many are suffering from. Depression is a disease that so many are suffering from. There should be no shame. There will never be shame in my house; only love.
The song I was listening to while doing the dishes that morning was “Spinning Away” by John Cale & Brian Eno. Take a listen. Lyrics below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-INeMspNSQ0
Up on a hill, as the day dissolves
With my pencil turning moments into line
High above in the violet sky
A silent silver plane – it draws a golden chainOne by one, all the stars appear
As the great winds of the planet spiral in
Spinning away, like the night sky at Arles
In the million insect storm, the constellations formOn a hill, under a raven sky
I have no idea exactly what I’ve drawn
Some kind of change, some kind of spinning away
With every single line moving further out in timeAnd now as the pale moon rides (in the stars)
Her form in my pale blue lines (in the stars)
And there, as the world rolls round (in the stars)
I draw, but the lines move round (in the stars)
There, as the great wheels blaze (in the stars)
I draw, but my drawing fades (in the stars)
And now, as the old sun dies (in the stars)
I draw, and the four winds sigh (in the stars)