Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Emotionless Semester

I never thought I'd see a psychiatrist. I was strong. I was good at holding in my emotions and being the "tough one" for my sisters' sake- especially after my Dad's tumor (see Breaking Point).
I'm the kind of person that holds pain and anger inside. But I remember my last Spring semester of college when my world turned upside down.
My baby sister needed to have back surgery- doctors were surprised that she had the back problems she did.
My Granny B was dying of cancer.
I was "lightly emotionally abused sexually" by the associate of the professor I was working for- I quit after a week and didn't exlain to my prof what had happened and refused to take my paycheck telling him to mark my time as "volunteer work".
I got very sick.
A guy and I were mutually interested in each other, but he was confusing me.
Naturally this was all very distracting from my studies and they began to plummet.
I turned to exercise- running. I ran from all my problems. I pushed myself so hard that I collapsed one night out on the golf course, dizzy and exhausted. Weakly I made my way to a pavilion by the dorms and called a friend who lived in the nearest dorm, "Can you let me in so I can walk through your building instead of going around it? I'm not feeling well." That friend and another came to my rescue. They brought me fries and a milkshake (comfort food at its finest) and let me sit on the cement floor of the pavilion and shake. I couln't cry.
It wasn't until a few weeks later, when my Dad called about my Granny B's passing away, that I lost control. I couldn't take it anymore. My roomie, Kristin, held me as I sobbed. She and another friend, Elana, had been very worried about me the past week. They had threatened to force me to watch The Passion of the Christ, just to make me cry. After a stormy 30 minutes of sobs, I swallowed back the pain. Again, ashamed of the tears, too hurt to breathe or focus.
I skipped all of my classes for a week.
I didn't know too much about panic attacks or depression, but I gained firsthand experience that semester. I was part of a Bible study leadership team with The Navigators and during our meetings I rarely spoke. I listened to the others but I was doing the bare minimum so that I could show up and see their faces. I searched their faces subtlely at the meetings memorizing their smiles. I'd smile back, but it was half-hearted. I was so emotionally detached, I don't know if they knew. Finally, somehow I decided to go and see one of the free psychiatrists on campus. I needed to spill my entire story to someone unemotionally attached to me. I filled out the paperwork and wrote a synopsis of why I needed to see a psyciatrist.
She came and got me. A tall, willowy blonde woman and led me up to her office-a large space with a huge comfortable looking couch in a pattern that reminded me of Arizona or New Mexico. A tiny water fountain ran in the corner and the lighting was natural, but muted. "This doesn't seem so bad." I thought. "Now I just need to tell her my story and..." I didn't know what would happen after that.
"Well, Hannah, I read your paperwork- you have a LOT going on. How are you doing?" she asked me. And I lost it. All of my self-control. Weeks worth of tears came. I cried because I was hurting, I cried because I was confused. I cried because I was missing my Granny. I cried because I was afraid I'd fail all of my classes. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I was scared. I cried more than I've ever cried in one sitting and all that in front of a complete stranger. She stayed in her chair and handed me a tissue box.
Who knew crying could be so cathartic? I finally was able to talk. I told her what was going on and she walked me through my feelings- something that I was embarrassed about and didn't think was necessary. She wrote notes for my professors telling them that I had missed class due to emotional stress, had seen her about it, and would be making up the missed work. She offered me medicine but I turned that down. I didn't need medication to help me cope- I'd just needed an outsider to ask me some questions that would help wake up my brain and let me vent.
I wrote an apology note to my Navigator friends giving them a little bit of information about what had been going on that semester and why I had been so detached. I told them that I was going to try to do better. "You don't need to apologize" one of the guys told me and my tears (suddenly thinking they had the right to show up whenever they felt like it) sprang to my eyes. I looked down embarrassed and trying to hide them, muttered thanks and moved on.
I don't know why I'm sharing this. Perhaps because it's freeing to write it down and whenever I feel stressed I remember this time? I do know one thing. During that time in my life I found this Bible verse and I clung to it.
Isaiah 30:18 "Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him."
In all that time, I DID seek the Lord. I longed for Him more than I ever had because I could not handle my life at the point in time. I am so grateful for the friends He placed in my life who kept an eye on me and encouraged me through it all. I hope that in your times of stress or pain that you know the Lord and can call on Him to help you. I also hope that you have a church/friends that you can rely on to pray with and for you. God is always there. He never changes. Blessed be His name! No matter what: long for Him, my friends!!