A week ago today, I was in the hospital.
Not entirely because my body wasn’t working. But because my mind wasn’t.
Sleep had eluded me for two weeks, and the weeks before that had been pretty rocky. Night after night, I would take my sleeping meds and then stare for hours at the spinning of the ceiling fan. Spinning and spinning and spinning. Hours into the night, I would get up and read. Sometimes I would write. Sometimes I would fill my tub with water and soak until I wrinkled.
Around 3 or 3:30 or 4, I would crawl back into bed and try again. Just a few hours would pass before my pseudo-sleep was broken by the garbage man. Or a kiddo. Or simply the sun coming through my window.
I have walked this road long enough to know my non-negotiables. They are what I have learned give me the very best shot of a good day or a good week: I need to get dressed and leave my house every day; I need to connect with someone on a daily basis and see my counselor every week; I need to live in relationship and not isolate; and I need sleep. Lots of good sleep.
What happens when sleep is stolen? When meds and oils and sound machines and cold air and heavy blankets aren’t enough? What happens when I try everything and still watch the endless spinning of the fan?
The words of my hope-speaking counselor rang in my head, “Keep yourself safe.” Of all the answers I was hoping to hear, this is the only one I felt I had any control over. Try as I might, I could not make my body sleep. I could not keep thoughts of harm out of my head. I could not make my brain keep track of details to maintain conversation.
But I knew I could keep myself safe.
For weeks I stared at the question. How would I know when I was so sick I needed treatment? I had seen my doctor. I had tried new meds. I was doing my list of good. But it was only getting worse.
Last Saturday, I knew. I knew I was unable to take one more night of eyes wide open on the spinning fan. As physical as depression has been this summer, the mental onslaught finally came. It was pure desperation.
I do not know what makes a brain twist relief into harm. To say my brain does not struggle with ideations of harm would not be true. It would merely be an escape from the absurdity of explaining madness to one who has not walked the same road.
Please do not think less of me. Or of any other person who lives with a brain that speaks lies. Applaud the bravery, instead, of damning those lies with help. Of knowing there are limits and not trying to pretend we can respect them by ourselves.
I texted a friend who has also stood on the edge. He spoke what I already knew but needed desperately to hear. Go.
I am filled with endless words of the two days I spent inside those walls. They will come.
Today, I speak of grace. Of truth. Sometimes asking for help is the very strongest, most courageous thing you can do. I had nothing left from which to fight and yet I slayed. I fought by surrender.
I kept myself safe. That was all I could give, and it was everything.
Every story has peril and victory, pain and joy. Mine is no different, and neither is yours. Help is God’s tangible grace to us. Ask for it. Receive it. Give thanks for its expression.
I am home now, and I am sleeping again. New meds were God’s provision, and there is no shame. I can think clearly again, and the battle in my brain has lifted. My tribe has loved me well and with action. I am so grateful.
Keep yourself safe friends. Listen to your limits and be kind to them. Tomorrow needs you.