“So, what brings you to us today?”
There it is, the dreaded question. The question that you know is going to be the first one they ask, so you rehearse it over and over while you’re sat in the waiting room. The question that, when it actually comes out of the mouth of a psychotherapist, is most often met with a blank silence, and lots of tears. It’s a funny question to ask I think (funny odd, not funny haha). I mean, where on earth do you start? The relief of actually being in front of someone who is not only qualified to ask these questions, but might actually know how to help you deal with the answers, has always resulted in me falling apart right in front of them. The same can be said of this morning.
I felt sick to my stomach this morning, and a couple of times I thought I might actually run. But then they called my name, so I had to see it through. These things can go many ways; a lot depends on who the person on the other side of the door is. I’ve been known to go for help (yes, I’ve been here before, well kind of – I’ll explain later), and clam up the moment they’ve opened their mouth. “Yes, I’m fine. In fact, I’m not really sure why I’m here. I’ve been feeling much better lately…” Mostly they are the kinds of people that are experienced in getting people to talk, and are warm and welcoming, and I spill the beans before my backside has even met the chair.
Today was like that. I was introduced to a trainee psychotherapist who would be responsible for carrying out my assessment. i did feel immediately at ease with both her and the psychotherapist present and was able to articulate how I felt to a degree. I answered that question, after a pause and a moment to catch my breath and stem the tears, that I was struggling to come to terms with a situation that I found myself in. I explained that I felt an incredible sense of sadness that our child was struck by this devastating illness, after just seven weeks of normal. I explained that I felt afraid that I loved Freya too much, and that every time I felt positive about the prognosis I was overwhelmed by the fear that the rug could be pulled out from under my feet. I explained that I felt angry at the world for not understanding how much this has impacted on our lives, and that I had considered taking myself and my daughter far enough away from all of this to convince me that it never happened.
After a considerable length of time where I switched between a mother unable to speak through the tears as I recounted some of the experiences that you will have read about if you follow this blog or the Facebook page, to a sensible, level-headed woman who could describe the illness and its effects with the knowledge of a medical professional, a conclusion was reached. I am not depressed. I knew that. I have suffered with depression in many forms in the last 11 years, and I knew that what I was feeling was not the same. It’s one of the reasons why I have struggled on alone for so long; I didn’t have an appropriate label for what I was experiencing. I don’t display the classic symptoms of someone with depression. I enjoy my life and know that I have a lot to live for. I don’t avoid people or situations, in fact I look forward to human interaction and an opportunity to escape, let my hair down, mingle with my peers. I took part in a hen party this weekend, which I thoroughly enjoyed (apart from the bit where I cried myself to sleep looking at a picture of my precious Peanut). Some of the old familiar thoughts have been creeping in; I text her ages ago, why hasn’t she responded? She has probably had enough of me/isn’t interested/doesn’t care/doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore. But I’ve managed to ‘have a word with myself’ and been rewarded by a late response and an explanation that allayed my fears, and reaffirmed my common sense. I get up every morning, shower, make myself look presentable (cue the school mums saying “Seriously! She thinks that is presentable!!”), I have my nails done, I buy nice clothes. I am still interested in my outward appearance, and take care of myself.
However, I experience anxiety like I have never known before. Full blown panic attacks where I feel like I am being strangled, and my body wants to sink into a puddle on the floor. Real, deep sadness that takes my breath away. Intrusive thoughts that threaten every moment of happiness that I dare myself to have. Confusion, anger, hatred, irritation. I shout at my husband and the kids like an old fish wife at times; I have no patience. I want to lock myself in a room for a week, or more, and shout, kick, scream, punch some walls; let the emotion of the last 6 months escape from me in one tremendous fight against myself and the world.
See, I’ve written my blog. Every time I have feelings I need to share, I take to my Mac and write. I don’t think about it, my words are not considered. I sit and write whatever my fingers choose to type, and Prosecco-fuelled as I am now, it just comes out, unconsidered, but raw and real. I thought it would help, that writing would be therapy. It has a little, but not a lot. I feel like the words have to be spoken, aloud, to someone who hasn’t shared this journey with me, to someone who hasn’t had their own journey to contend with, to someone who doesn’t have an opinion on what I should think or feel. To someone who doesn’t wonder what all the fuss is about (you know who you are!). And I do not want the rest of my life or hers to be defined by the bastard that is Kawasaki Disease. It has already taken enough from us. And right now, Freya doesn’t notice that there are tears behind every smile, but it won’t be long before she does notice. “Why are you sad, Mummy?” These are not words I ever want to hear come from that sweet little mouth. But they will, if I don’t take control. And I don’t want Freya to grow up scared of this world she lives in, scared of her own strength, frightened to fall or take chances. I want her to live, and love life. How can she do that if I put her to bed every night afraid that she won’t wake up the next morning?
The psychotherapist admitted that the low intensity treatment they offer is not what I need. It is likely that I am suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and am being referred for appropriate treatment. I have a number of choices ahead of me. I need to choose the treatment that will benefit me and my family the most. I can be treated for PTSD with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), which are standard treatments. Or I can have talking therapy that will allow me to say aloud all the things I have kept inside of me for these past few months. Both would benefit me. I think the most important thing for me to deal with right now are the symptoms of PTSD. I need to rid myself of the anxiety, and be able to walk into our local hospital without it having a physical and debilitating effect on me. I need to get some sleep; stop staying up until 3am to limit the number of hours that I am not alert to Freya or aware of her nearness. And I need to erase the flashbacks, because those are the most distressing of all. I have lived through these things once, re-living them every day against my will is making me unwell. I will never forget some of those moments, nor do I want to; those moments are what will ensure I never take a moment with Freya for granted. But I don’t want to see them played out in my mind like a DVD on a loop every day of my life. Those memories are stopping me from moving on, and from seeing the beauty of life that is in front of me. And I want to move on more than anything.