“I am not sure I am ready to tell my dad,” I remember telling my therapist.
“That’s fine,” she replied. “You don’t have to, you don’t need to tell anyone you don’t want to.”
I was scared to tell anyone, I didn’t want them to worry about me the way I watched Kevin worry each day. I wanted my dad to know, because I knew he would have insight from my mom’s history, but at the same time, I didn’t want to see him worry and I still wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge the situation anyway.
A few months earlier my dad had to act as my rock, my support and my superhero. I called him in tears asking if he could please come to my house the day I told Henry I needed space. He saw the nonsense online that Henry posted after that, knew about the times Henry came to my house when I wasn’t home. He had been on the other end of the phone when Henry pounded on the other side of the locked door, he heard Henry’s demands for me to let him in. My dad told me to call the police and that he was on his way. My dad left work that day, driving more than an hour to make sure I was okay, He stayed with me and helped me get all the paperwork I needed from the court. He watched the house, letting me feel like I could take a shower without an immense amount of fear. He took me to lunch and spend most of the day with me to make sure I was okay. My dad was there when Henry came to pack up his things and again when Henry moved them out. My dad read my raw, honest letter to Henry, explaining the small things that added up over the years leading me to no longer love him. My dad watched and helped his little girl go through all of those things; how could I make him watch me go through this too?
In January, my my inability to make it to work and continued spiral down hill, my therapist thought it would be best if I went into an Intensive Outpatient Program – IOP. So I did. On a Tuesday I was enrolled to begin the following week. In the days between I struggled with wanting to tell my dad and not wanting to worry him.
“What if something happens,” I thought recounting the time years ago when my dad had answered the phone expecting my mom to be on the other end to hear a nurse telling him his family had been in an accident. I couldn’t do that to him again.
So, the Sunday before IOP began Kevin and I went to my dad’s house, I had every intention of telling him and my stepmom, though I had not figured out how. Then, sitting around the table my dad got a call from my brother and while they were catching up my stepmom looked at me and asked how work had been going.
“Uh, well… it hasn’t,” I quietly replied, “I haven’t really been able to go to work this month…”
A look of pure excitement swept across her face as she looked at Kevin and me asking, “Are you pregnant?!”
As my dad ended the call, I finally told them how I had not been to work in days because I had been struggling with depression. I told them how the therapist thought I needed help, so on Tuesday I would be starting IOP. I told them how I was trying to get all the paper work in order so I could be on an approved leave from work.
My dad asked about the medications I was put on and my behavior, providing insight as to the signed my mom had exhibited.
That night, the conversation continued for hours. I told them how I had taken a leave from roller derby and how scared I was that it meant they would no longer be proud of me. I told them about my outburst. We talked about family traits, similarities and so much more. They reaffirmed that they were proud of me for so much more than playing roller derby, that it was simple a small part of who I was. That they liked seeing me happy on the track, they liked cheering me on, but they weren’t disappointed in me for having to step away.
It felt like a huge weight had been lifted and I felt reassured knowing I had their support.
Nothing traumatic happened in the 10 days I was in IOP. There were no concerning phone calls, accidents or admittance to the hospital. Rather, they were 10 days that I have since looked back on with a tremendous amount of fondness. Despite the discomfort of day one and the days that felt like they were a complete waste, IOP was a safe place. It was somewhere that was not only free of judgment, but full of understanding.
My first day, we split into processing groups and mine started by doing a brief check-in. I remember listening to others talk about how things had gone over the weekend. I remember wondering why I was there if my situation wasn’t that bad. And then, and then it was my turn to check-in…
I told them how I was new and that I had recently began addressing my struggle with depression. I told them how it scared me because I didn’t want to be like my mom. I told them how I was specifically there because I stopped being able to make it to work, even thought I knew I should. The therapist leading the session stopped to ask me about work. It was something that I felt like I was always having to explain, how and why my boss felt like the monster I could no longer face.
The night I told my dad, he had told me about how when my mom was in the hospital and he would go in for his groups or to see here that so many of the women said they were they because work had pushed them past their breaking point. He told me that he didn’t think it would be a good idea to go back.
So, sitting in my first group I told them about my monster. I told them about my bodies response to the situation and my continued misinterpretation. How I thought I had known how to “deal with it,” but clearly I was wrong. I told them what my dad had said and that I didn’t know what to do.
For the first time, everyone seemed to understand. No one needed me to explain why my boss telling me to layout my clothes and pack my lunch the night before work was upsetting. They just got it.
In the days following, I continued to open up. I would share more and add to the group. It felt great to not be alone, to provide insight to others and hopefully help them avoid the hardships I had faced. It was eye opening to signs of depression I had been ignoring for years and realizing the pain I had put myself through. It began to teach me not to compare myself to others, that it is okay to have dark days and how to deal with them.
Early on in the program one of the girls approaching her final day told us how before she felt like she was in a tunnel that was dark and it felt like there was no way out. But now, even though she couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, there were lights along the way showing her she could get out.
As my days in IOP neared there end, I better understood and could relate to what she had said. The dark shades of gray that laid over each day became lighter with each step forward.
Going into IOP I figured it would give me a legitimate excuse to miss work (you know, because having a psychotic break and wanting to die more than go to work wasn’t enough). It was something I would to because other people wanted me to. I didn’t expect to get anything out of it and coming out of IOP I realized how wrong I was.
I spent 10 days focusing on me. 10 days learning how to cope. 10 days feeling others pain and not having to bear the weight of mine alone. In those 10 days, I treated myself to me time. I became brave enough to ask friends if I could just hang around. I began to let the trauma of being at home heal. I learned about my self, I learned how to acknowledge my feelings and accept that it was okay.
I am endlessly grateful for the IOP team and various people I met over those 10 days. I still think about them often and I hope that they have been able to continue succeeding with their battles. They are all stronger then they realize they are, they are all so much braver than they realize they are and they all deserve all the love they can find, plus more.
I am so thankful for my understanding friends during this time. The ones who checked in to see if I was okay. The ones who didn’t care I wasn’t bubbly and that I struggled to carry on a conversation. The ones who understood some of my frustrations and anger; the ones who without question let me tag along with them on their day. I am thankful to their friends who treated me like any other friend they had always known, that didn’t question the quite, sad face tagging along. Who never stopped their kids from interacting with me. Who were also fine with me being there just to be there. For the friends who gave me hours at a time to talk with them about various things.
Being released from IOP and returned to the “real world” is something to be celebrated, but day after day I find myself wishing I could go back; feeling like nothing else quite fits as well as IOP did.