Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Solitude and Survivor

I'm sorry. For those friends or family to whom I have not given much of myself lately, those are the best words I can think to say at the moment. I am here, and yet I'm not. My brain, my heart...they are filled with noise and pain that I yearn to quiet and ease.

Back in March I posted this link after our fourth in vitro attempt failed. We got the negative test results on the 16th of that month, and at the moment of 'the phone call' with the IVF coordinator (whose job I do not envy) I remember my body going numb and cold. One week later I was having trouble remembering big and small details of the previous days. I knew I had bought some shirts, but had to ask Casey where we'd gone to get them. I knew we'd visited his parents for a weekend night, but didn't remember the drive there or much of the visit itself. I was actually shocked at how big the gaps were in my memory.

Turns out I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD was no stranger to me, because the events of 2006 following Miles' birth had greatly affected me. But this time the symptoms were much more acute, and because I was in better health I noticed them more quickly. In my mind, there are so many worse things that can happen in life which might cause post-traumatic stress. I almost felt silly  thinking that this was what had taken place for me. Yes, the news for us was bad and came after three years of our struggles. Still...it seemed like a big reaction for me to experience.

I have thankfully had the opportunity to see a counselor who Casey and I trust greatly -- had sessions with him last year, and Casey has joined me for sessions this year. In counseling we are looking for tools in coping with my emotional 'stuck-ness' (for lack of a much better word), and tools that will help us listen to one another in the midst of grief. Our marriage is a strong one and we don't intend letting it go by the wayside. Casey and I have always agreed on being proactive in this.

And as much as I don't want to be tied to daily meds, I began taking anti-depressants almost immediately. I know that for me it is a tremendous help. Side effects? Yes...and I don't like them. But while I struggle to function in daily life, they are something I must endure for a while. I feel as though I must take them, not just for myself, but for my husband and my son. As much as my heart wants to skip those large looming clouds on the road of grieving, I would never choose to miss out on those small sparks of joy I still experience from day to day. Yes, sparks of joy, because with Casey to hold me and Miles to fill my heart with his laughter, there is no denying that joy is going to get through the cracks in my sadness.

I don't know how many of you watch the show Survivor, but this latest season included a twist where the person voted off doesn't immediately go home but instead goes to 'Redemption Island.' They stay there and wait (three days?) for the next eliminated player, and the two duel it out to see who stays on the island for a chance to get back in the game at some point, while the loser goes home for good. As of now, Matt -- self-proclaimed Christian -- has spent about three weeks on Redemption Island. Three weeks. That's more than half the game, and nearly all of that time alone.

I always find it interesting when a Christian is on these reality shows. Well, not so much that they're on the show, more when they start talking about it in terms of what God's will is for them on that show. Can they hear themselves talking? Recently I found myself so irritated with a statement like that I said to the TV, "He doesn't care that you're on the show!" I mean, of course God cares about the person and loves them. But is God really putting effort into the outcome of a reality show? Really? My guess is that he has more important issues on his mind.

But I digress. The aforementioned Matt now has my attention. Here he is, this nice, young Christian guy...I never found him disagreeable, just a bit unfocused on what he was saying. The intentions to 'honor his God' as he put it were definitely there, I only had trouble with believing that the best way for him to do so was in the run for one million dollars. On an island. Alone. I'm by no means this great Christian example, but even I know that there are better ways to honor God than trying to win a bunch of money in a game where most people excel by lying and backstabbing.

What the producers unwittingly did in creating this 'Redemption Island' twist, however, was to force a sincere Christian kid into more solitude than he ever wanted, and in last week's episode the effects of it were clearly showing. Up until then, Matt seemed strong and confident and was winning every single duel that came his way. He gave the glory to God, and I would scoff in my usual way that God didn't really care. Yeah, I liked the kid and was cheering him on...but I wanted there to be more. And now the solitude had all but broken Matt. He was crying on camera, saying that God had been carrying him for the past few days. But the best part? Now he said he was done with the game. That was it! That was what I'd been waiting for! Matt had used his time of forced solitude to be with his God, and he had had a breakthrough: the game didn't matter. At the next duel he faced, Matt looked broken and maybe a bit wiser. He somehow pulled out yet another win and said something like, "I guess God still wants me here." Well of course that bugged me, but not as much this time. And the woman who he beat in the duel mentioned before she left that because of Matt's example she was going home and getting involved in a church. That, in my mind, is the closest reason to God wanting Matt on that show.

I digress once again. Why, you might be asking, would I interrupt my talk of PTSD and depression to discuss an episode of Survivor? I promise it fits. When we were watching Matt breaking down and breaking through because of his solitude, all I could think was, "I wish I could do that!" And maybe that sounds like an unusual thing to wish, but I am in an unusual place in my life. Counseling and meds can help, no doubt -- but at this point I still need something more. And so Casey and I have decided that I will take a weekend in the next couple of months and spend it in solitude with God. There are ways I could find some moments of solitude where I am right now, but I believe what will truly help me grow is being in another place all alone for a good stretch of time. I've found one place online that is very appealing: it has little cabins specifically for spiritual meditation and solitude. And I know this is what my heart needs because I normally wouldn't want to do this, and yet I can't stop thinking about it.

Eleven years ago I was in search of solitude. I found a horse ranch two hours from my home and spent a night there in the bunkhouse. Sitting under the stars on the tiny balcony, reading my Bible and journaling about the experience, I could feel my soul being renewed. I remember how it felt and I long for that again. Just me and God, tending to the wounds in my heart.


Lori said...

What a brave, transparent post you've written my friend!Thank you so much for getting counseling & admitting to it. Too often Christian's feel that have to "hide" counseling & use of medicines to cope with difficult things. I am a long time anti-depressant user (my brain just doesn't put out the right chemicals.) I hid that in shame for a long time. One day I just didn't feel like hiding it anymore, come what may. I know that people are going to be helped by what you have shared today.

Also, thanks for the Survivor explanation. I've never watched it but now I want to!

tracey said...

Lori...I can always count on you to be one of my cheerleaders. :) Thank you. I've wanted to put these thoughts out there for a while, but my mind hasn't seemed clear enough until today. Even if no one had read it, it still would have helped me just getting it out. But thanks for being one of those who did read it and sharing your experiences as well.

Kathy C said...

Praying for peace.
Praying for Healing.
Praying for you to have the time to "Be Still and Know". You are not alone.

tracey said...

Kathy ~ Thank you so much. Prayers have held us up for so long through these crazy times...so thank you.

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