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So much love, so much sadness.
Rachel and Dylan

Illustration by my father, Tony Hedrick (www.tonyhedrickart.com)

I am taking a blogging course and it’s pushing even fairly-transparent me to share something about myself that I’ve never shared before. Here’s the assignment Liv at Choosing Beauty has handed out:

I’ll be writing something revealing about me and I ask you to do the same. Reveal something on your blog about YOU that you haven’t shared yet: a personality trait, a bad habit, an odd talent, a fear, a breakthrough, an opinion, a belief. Then come over to Choosing Beauty and add the link to your blog so that others can easily find your post. It’s a fun way to build traffic and gain support. – Liv’s asking people to bare their souls Monday. To see what other people are saying, head on over and check it out.

It’s tempting to come up with something that fulfills the assignment but keeps things light and fluffy.

Perhaps I could share something similar to the response I had prepared once upon a time, should I ever be faced with the following interview question: “What is one of your weaknesses?” My standard response of “perfectionism” along with some reason why my need to be perfect could sometimes impact my ability to be productive –though certainly true–is not exactly an admission of some major flaw. In fact, some interviewers might actually view the perfectionism as a strength in weakness’ clothing. Which was, of course, the inherent brilliance of the response.

But I am a grown up now and I have the emotional health to handle big challenges, so I’m not going to let myself off the hook. I want to be the best me I can be, and that means doing the hard work, even when it’s really hard.

Since I have already shared a fair number of embarrassing and vulnerable things about myself on this blog and in person, I’m having to dig a little deeper to come up with something that will require a new level of bravery.

Deep breath. Here it is:

When having my second son Dylan, nearly seven years ago, I had a high risk pregnancy (a full placenta previa). I was severely depressed and anxious throughout the last five months and spent much of my time alone (can you say “downward spiral?”) After three weeks in the hospital flat on my back, giving birth by c-section to a premature baby and having an infection in my incision that slowed and complicated healing, things got even worse. Exhausted, profoundly sad, feeling trapped and scared, I was in a very dark tunnel physically and emotionally.

I didn’t drink while pregnant, but now, though a nursing mother, I started to drink in the evenings. I began looking forward to that glass of wine, or two, a little too much. Especially on evenings when Jeremy was out with the band, I would become desperately sad and sometimes have three glasses (or four?)  after the kids were asleep. I never drank during the day and the amounts were minimal compared to a full-blown alcoholic (hey, I’ve watched Intervention…) but I was self-medicating and I didn’t want to think or talk about it. My need to do something, anything to alleviate the desperation I felt inside, filled me with shame. After all, aren’t “good” mothers supposed to abstain from even caffeine when pregnant and/or nursing? If I truly loved my children, wouldn’t that be enough?

I prayed desperately for relief. I had already been depressed and anxious on and off for nearly 30 years, but this episode was accompanied by a nearly unbearable intensity. There was literally no one I trusted with these thoughts. I was deeply frightened of exposing the full extent of my sadness. It felt infinite.

Exactly a year later,  it was my birthday (Dylan’s birthday is the day before mine) and Jeremy mentioned to me that he was concerned because I seemed so sad and I was drinking more than usual. I knew that he was right, but it was horrifying to realize that my struggles might have become that obvious. Thankfully his concern was enough to cause me to reign in the drinking (I’m not actually an addict, so this was fairly easy for me, once I stepped back to see what he saw.) I knew I had to face what could happen if I didn’t find another way to start getting through my days. 

I’m grateful for the love Jeremy demonstrated in approaching me gently with the truth. After all, it’s not as if I wanted to be sad. Shortly after that, I finally got on a medication that helped to regulate my out-of-control hormones and a skylight appeared in the tunnel. I found a great therapist to talk to regularly and I started to get more rest. I began to make slow but concrete progress with my depression and anxiety.

My heart is beating fast as I write these words, knowing that I will be sharing them with the world when I hit “publish” tomorrow. This is obviously not something I’d ever planned to admit to anyone.  I love my children deeply and hate thinking that I could behave in a way that would endanger them in any way. I’m grateful that I am no longer in that dark place inside.

(Boys, I love you.)

Vulnerable stuff to admit to the world, even for me.

But I’m choosing to be brave, no matter what. Like it or not, this is me.

And it really is enough.    

Rachelxo