Coming Out of the Dark

Just like that, I came out of my office on a Sunday morning last October after having spent time in meditation and prayer, looked at Dean and simply said, “I have to move back to Logan or I am not going to be alive much longer”. He looked at me and said, “Okay, then I’m going too.” Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It wasn’t at all. It was the most agonizing decision I have ever made but I really was slowly losing my life and I simply reached a point of believing it to be true.

In July of last year, after taking one dose of a medication prescribed by my doctors at the Mayo Clinic, my body began to shut down and lose all of its bodily fluid. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where within minutes I was surrounded by people trying desperately to get an IV into my body in multiple places. After all attempts proved unsuccessful, the ER doctor came in and put one in in my neck. Soon after that I was intubated and admitted to ICU.

I woke up the next morning with Dean and Hannah beside me explaining to me that I had almost died. It took me quite awhile to grasp all of this, a few months in fact. Upon discharge, I was home for a day and went back in very sick with a kidney infection. Beyond discouraged, I asked God why I was so sick and to show me what I could do to get better if I was going to continue this habit of “almost” dying.  I had the strongest impression in my mind and heart, almost audible words, telling me that I wasn’t dealing with the Undefined Connective Tissue/autoimmune Disease that I have. Instead I was dealing with severe depression that was threatening my very life. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment in that though I’d battled depression since 2012 when a series of surgeries left me with chronic pain, I didn’t realize that it had reached a much darker place.

I didn’t know what to do but I knew that I had to go after the depression with zeal or I really wasn’t going to be alive much longer. I’d already tried everything I knew possible – lots of therapy,  both physical and psychological, prayer and meditation/mindfulness practices, several online classes directed toward healing including all of Brene Brown’s classes and of course a plethora of doctors and alternative interventions. Though everything was life changing and healing to some degree, I was not getting to a place where I could sustain a reasonably healthy life. Having been on that ventilator and in Intensive Care was really the final straw because I knew that if I entered the hospital again like that, I would not come out alive.

I realized that there were two things that were basically killing me. The seasonal depression that overwhelmed me in Minnesota. Even now, all I have to do is think about being there in October and a sense of dread comes over me. Winter is LONG in Minnesota and there can be weeks with overcast skies. One year we went from March 1st to June 1st with just 15 days of sunshine.  Growing up in Nebraska and having lived here for 5 years, I’d been through long stretches of dreary days but add to that very short days and life among more trees than I even knew could possibly exist in one place and well, my brain just could not adjust. In addition to the Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder, I had been diagnosed with PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a result of multiple traumatic personal events.  My central nervous system was on high alert most of the time and it was just wearing me out.

Another important piece to the puzzle of my darkness was that due to my inability to work or expend much energy involved in social events, I found myself alone A LOT. Alone to the point of isolation. As if falling from the sky, a book I was reading shared some statistics on the effects of isolation and loneliness in battling chronic illnesses. Apparently, isolation is one of the major causes of serious illness. In case after case when isolation was resolved, people’s bodies were actually able to more easily enter into a state of health that allowed for their bodies to heal. It sounded far fetched and out there but for me in the throes of it, it was spot on. After reading this information and revisiting it that Sunday morning before talking to Dean, I knew that I had to go back to a place where I had an established support system and where the association to traumatic events was absent. Thus the reason we moved back here last December.

I’m living proof that isolation really does inhibit one’s ability to heal both mentally and physically. I’m living proof that the brain is an organ like any other and when it is overused or damaged in any way, it requires care just like anything else. I’m living proof that some people just cannot live without enough sunlight even if they take Vitamin D and sit in front of special lights.

I’m still somewhat fragile, especially physically. I haven’t been able to do any real good hiking yet and that’s been a bummer but otherwise, things are going very well. I am working 5.5 hours a day 4 days a week at a Special Needs preschool and couldn’t be more eager to get to work in the morning. I LOVE it so much and though tired at the end of the day, I’m able to sleep well and ready to go the next day. I’m still pinching myself.

Last January I attended a beautiful retreat at Asilomar near Monterey California. The speaker was the poet David Whyte. I went there because his poetry was so important as I tried to find the path I was to go toward in the spring of 2016. I have listened to his OnBeing interview with Krista Tippett at least a dozen times. The following is one of the poems that was most meaningful to me.  I don’t know if I’m ready to feel the sweetness of the darkness I have been through just yet,  but one thing I do know that it has taught me. That is the deep truth of David’s words that  “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive, is too small for you”. I have learned that what those things are or who those people are, are as individual for each of us as our unique fingerprints. Through David’s poetry I very literally found the courage to pursue my own house of belonging (the name of one of his books and poems) and honestly, I am finally grateful that I didn’t die during any one of the times that I “almost” did.

Scan 2016-7-28 12.18.57

4 thoughts on “Coming Out of the Dark

  1. My heart goes out to you Jane. I don’t know the particular struggle you are dealing with, but I know the struggle.

    I have been fighting a chronic pain situation for at least 20 years now. I have gone from brief periods of sheer relief to long stretches of debilitating pain. I have tried one thing and another, sometimes thinking ” aha! I think we found the solution just to find myself back to multiple trips to the ER, numerous urologist, several surgeries, and as I write this, I am waiting for the clinic to open to see if my urologist is going to be able to work me in today.

    Yes there are times when your body and soul just get tired. Yes the fight is real and the pain is real. I think the hard part is not letting it beat you.

    • Thanks so much Steve. I’m sad to hear about your pain journey! Wow oh wow. In 2012 I had a surgery for something minor and five days later my stomach flipped up into my chest wall. They pulled it back and the surgeon cut into it – and chose not to put a drain in it. I developed a large pleural effusion and then it got infected. I had to have a lengthy traditional thoracotomy and a month later my gall bladder was removed. I was in bed for months or barely functioning. It’s been such a LONG haul and I didn’t realize how serious my seasonal depression was in MN. Went to therapy and discovered that I also had PTSD from the whole situation. I will never be pain free but honestly, I can take the physical pain much better than the mental anguish of severe depression. Anyway, thanks for reading this.

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