Devastation is a choice. This lesson was taught to me by Dr. Johnson, my first therapist. I sought therapy after my mother died by her own hand. Mom had been mentally ill for years. It seemed as if my world had spun right off its axis! I even wondered how anyone could find happiness in this tumultuous world. Seeing people in public laughing and carrying on bewildered me. I thought, How can they laugh when this world is so full of heartache? This tragedy was only the first in a succession of seemingly insurmountable events. Ten years later, my father died of suicide, as well. Again, I was stricken with ungodly grief and dismay. I sought more counseling and muddled through my days feeling utterly lost.
The next event broke me, though; I lost my precious baby boy. My ex-husband and I learned at about 16 weeks of pregnancy that our baby had Down syndrome. When he was born, Joshua was very sick. He required four surgeries in his short life. We loved him powerfully! Unfortunately, after three months, his health didn’t improve. The doctors discovered that he had a non-treatable, non-survivable disease, and on June 18, we had to take him off life support. Josh died in my arms.
I went into a terrible depression. I’m not quite sure how many years this lasted because truly, the question is: When did it actually start? It was very difficult growing up with a mentally ill mom and an absent father.
The following August, we were elated to know I was pregnant again! My second son, Jonas, was born on May 16, 2005. He has brought me terrific joy throughout his life. In his early years, I was filled with both delight and postpartum depression. Also, the deep sadness from losing my sweet Joshy and eventually getting a divorce was tremendous. As hard as it was to be a good mom while enduring such emotional turmoil, I showed up for Jonas and continued counseling. My life was broken in two, but I did the best I could. It was, however, much less than perfect.
The totalities of the tragedies in my life caught up with me. My self-esteem was lower than a snake’s belly, and I behaved accordingly. I fought through this difficulty for over ten years. I tried and tried to get better, but it was one step forward and two steps back. Getting on the correct antidepressant was the beginning of my recovery. I’d been on the wrong medicine for years but had forgotten what it felt like to be happy, so I didn’t know it was wrong for me. With this new med, I could see through the fog.
Something happened next; a phrase rang out in my ears: “Devastation is a choice.” Those words from Dr. Johnson three decades ago came back to me like a lightning bolt and guided my actions from that day on. I said to myself, “I do not have a death sentence. Yes, I’ve suffered horrifying loss, but I’m still here. I’m here, and I can break the cycle of tragedy. I need to get my ass up and do the deal. Not just the surviving deal but the thriving deal. I have a bright, beautiful son who’s watching me.”
With careful determination, I summoned the memories of good times and laughing. Laughter, my dear old and a sorely missed friend made a star appearance back in my belly! I started taking better care of myself, and things began to change. Now, I’ve never felt stronger, wiser, and more powerful in my life! I’m speaking my truth about survival and impacting others who have been met with tragedy. I picked myself up, washed my face, and began to live life again, and for that, I’ve never felt more thankful.