Peace. We pray for peace. We light the peace candle on this, the second Sunday of Advent. We ask for peace on earth. I ask for peace of heart and mind. I may be selfish that I can’t see beyond my weary war-stricken brain to a weary world, but it is where I am. The opposite of peace? For a long time, I have considered peace’s antonym to be division, which seems to be the definition of my internal state. I cannot even go through a train of thought without having an all-out brawl with myself, or one of my selves. This is the state of my parts. Many seem to hate each other. Peace? Not yet. But we aren’t really yet to the idea of peace on earth either. We still have wars and countless conflicts, and the world keeps turning, and we still have Christmas. We still hold onto hope. We hold onto the promises of Christmas. Peace. The second Sunday, followed by joy. JOY. Peace for me is unity, and not a political type of unity. Honestly, if I could achieve an internal unity, I would be in the running for the happiest person on the planet award. Shalom. It means among other things, completion. Wholeness. I long for wholeness. I long for my brain to come untangled and stop pulling against itself, the different threads and chains and ribbons to be woven and braided into something beautiful. For now, it seems like an endless chaos of interminable confusion. For me, the peace that I pray for this Christmas is internal. I need clarity, parts working together. I need my mind to no longer be a war zone but a sanctuary, a cathedral. Lord Jesus, come with PEACE. Shalom.
Two year ago, when as a newly-wed, I left treatment and moved with my husband to this part of the country, I wanted to start over. Prior to 2012, I was unstable, unpredictable, severely eating disordered, depressed, anxious, and immature. When we moved, something happened. It’s not like I “graduated” from treatment; I was kicked out and then immediately sent to the ER to be evaluated for my suicidality. I was finally released, and I moved to a place where no one had known me previously. I decided that I had to be functional, and I shifted, or switched, or something. After almost 20 years of restriction of food, even in treatment, I started eating normally. After many years of self-destruction, I ceased being a danger to myself. This has continued for two years.
I am skeptical. I question the validity of this shift. I don’t entirely understand what caused me to become so much healthier. I don’t fear that I will go back. I really have no desire to return to where I was, but I wonder what is brewing under the surface. I am certainly more joyful than I have ever been before, and I am infinitely more responsible and controlled. I wonder, however, am I over-controlled? Have I built up such solid structures around my emotions that they cannot any longer be expressed? Have I reacted to the “immature” me by not allowing any room for play and fun? I know that there are many hurts still to work through, and I am becoming more aware of my dissociative process, but it seems that somehow I have turned off a switch that I cannot locate in order to turn it back on. I am not sure if I have become so bent on “proving” myself as fully functional and perfectly fine that I cannot allow room for brokenness. No one around here knows me as broken and disordered. This is the first time in my life that I have been seen as “healthy.”
I also look back on the “old me” as morally inferior to the “new me.” I have a hard time even thinking about that old girl, and I have very little patience with her and her “absurd” emotional lability. But somehow, I am still she. Inside, I am not on a morally higher plane. God’s grace and love don’t extend to me any more than they extended to her. He loved me just as much for the first several decades of my life as He does now. Oh, but parts of me hate her. They want nothing to do with her massively disordered lifestyle. I am different now. I am a wife and a mother, and not only a wife, but a pastor’s wife! I suspect, however, if I am going to heal, I have to make peace with all of me and accept God’s love for all of me. I need to acknowledge that those broken little kids are still living inside of me and still clamoring to be heard. I struggle to know how to handle them now in my current situation. I am not a child anymore. I have children. Yes, I have these child parts, but they are not functional, so what do I do with them? Do I have time to let them out and let them communicate? It seems absurd to be in a grown adult’s body and have these little kids inside that need to be loved and nurtured. I am often infuriated by this need. This idea of God as parent seems absurd to me. I don’t need a parent. I’m grown up. Do parents actually need parents too? This defensiveness suggests a deeper need, however, and the loving parent part of me is carrying the defensive parts kicking and screaming to the feet of Father-God. The loving parent part of me that was birthed with my first-born has a heart for these multitudes of broken little children inside of me, and wants to see them loved to wholeness. It also knows that as broken as I still am, I can’t love my own external children as fully as I want to love them. I am just not sure how to go about letting down my defenses. Maybe I will ask God for help, since I guess that’s what fathers like to do: Help us. And I suppose that I am not wholly self-sufficient. That’s a first step, right?
The baby doesn’t sleep through the night and is often up every two hours to eat. She whimpers on the monitor, and I am now aware of the lake of sweat that I swim in. Dang nightmares. I feed her and crawl back into my freezing cold sweat bed. Hopefully it doesn’t flood the husband’s side. He needs his sleep. This happens several times throughout the night, but I can’t quite figure out how often and when. Dissociation is the highest at night when my guard is down.
The morning houses hope. Light births hope, so we can go on living. The baby bounces. I try to come back to reality, to claw my way out of the hell of the nightmares. Still afraid of the fat, I put off changing into jeans. They may reveal that my dissociatve episodes led me to eat more than usual. And weight gain is terrifying. I need to run today.
She grounds me. Her gurgles, chatter, da-da-da, her smiles, her needs. She is the most beautiful baby on the planet. And she needs me. I stay. Please God, don’t let me damage her fragile heart beyond repair. She evidently gets my anxiety through my breast milk. That’s what the psychiatrist says….when I am extremely anxious, my breastmilk releases cortisol into her system. I feel so guilty. And then get more anxious. Counterproductive, Mrs. Psychiatrist. You just stressed me out more, thus damaging my baby.
I had to go off a good number of my meds when I became pregnant, and I still can’t take them because she is breastfeeding. She’s worth it, but man, it would be helpful to have something to take the edge off of all of the fears. The flashbacks bombard, and the postpartum OCD transforms them into seemingly legitimate fears of something horrific happening to the baby. I hate it when the neuroses team up against me. They are like bullies, working together to immobilize me even more. Flashbacks and PTSD alone aren’t enough. They feel the need to inform the postpartum fears around my child’s safety, making it nearly impossible to leave the house. The superstitions abound. You can’t loose her pacfiers. That means that she will die. How does that make sense?
And we are only approaching seven in the morning….
I hold it together because that’s what I do, for everyone else’s sake. It’s a good thing. The alternative is splintering. Thank God for my strong observing self. The evil spirits of my childhood have morphed into the demons of my laundry list of disorders: Anorexia, PTSD, depersonalization disorder, OCD, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression….just to name a few.
But I put on a mask and most people would never know. I guess that this helps my GAF score, but it certainly doesn’t help my internal sense of peace. And my child is growing and highly intuitive. She will pick up on my brokenness if she does not already, and she will internalize it. I must heal.