Being brave

So much love, so much sadness.
Rachel and Dylan

Illustration by my father, Tony Hedrick (www.tonyhedrickart.com)

I am taking a blogging course and it’s pushing even fairly-transparent me to share something about myself that I’ve never shared before. Here’s the assignment Liv at Choosing Beauty has handed out:

I’ll be writing something revealing about me and I ask you to do the same. Reveal something on your blog about YOU that you haven’t shared yet: a personality trait, a bad habit, an odd talent, a fear, a breakthrough, an opinion, a belief. Then come over to Choosing Beauty and add the link to your blog so that others can easily find your post. It’s a fun way to build traffic and gain support. – Liv’s asking people to bare their souls Monday. To see what other people are saying, head on over and check it out.

It’s tempting to come up with something that fulfills the assignment but keeps things light and fluffy.

Perhaps I could share something similar to the response I had prepared once upon a time, should I ever be faced with the following interview question: “What is one of your weaknesses?” My standard response of “perfectionism” along with some reason why my need to be perfect could sometimes impact my ability to be productive —though certainly true–is not exactly an admission of some major flaw. In fact, some interviewers might actually view the perfectionism as a strength in weakness’ clothing. Which was, of course, the inherent brilliance of the response.

But I am a grown up now and I have the emotional health to handle big challenges, so I’m not going to let myself off the hook. I want to be the best me I can be, and that means doing the hard work, even when it’s really hard.

Since I have already shared a fair number of embarrassing and vulnerable things about myself on this blog and in person, I’m having to dig a little deeper to come up with something that will require a new level of bravery.

Deep breath. Here it is:

When having my second son Dylan, nearly seven years ago, I had a high risk pregnancy (a full placenta previa). I was severely depressed and anxious throughout the last five months and spent much of my time alone (can you say “downward spiral?”) After three weeks in the hospital flat on my back, giving birth by c-section to a premature baby and having an infection in my incision that slowed and complicated healing, things got even worse. Exhausted, profoundly sad, feeling trapped and scared, I was in a very dark tunnel physically and emotionally.

I didn’t drink while pregnant, but now, though a nursing mother, I started to drink in the evenings. I began looking forward to that glass of wine, or two, a little too much. Especially on evenings when Jeremy was out with the band, I would become desperately sad and sometimes have three glasses (or four?)  after the kids were asleep. I never drank during the day and the amounts were minimal compared to a full-blown alcoholic (hey, I’ve watched Intervention…) but I was self-medicating and I didn’t want to think or talk about it. My need to do something, anything to alleviate the desperation I felt inside, filled me with shame. After all, aren’t “good” mothers supposed to abstain from even caffeine when pregnant and/or nursing? If I truly loved my children, wouldn’t that be enough?

I prayed desperately for relief. I had already been depressed and anxious on and off for nearly 30 years, but this episode was accompanied by a nearly unbearable intensity. There was literally no one I trusted with these thoughts. I was deeply frightened of exposing the full extent of my sadness. It felt infinite.

Exactly a year later,  it was my birthday (Dylan’s birthday is the day before mine) and Jeremy mentioned to me that he was concerned because I seemed so sad and I was drinking more than usual. I knew that he was right, but it was horrifying to realize that my struggles might have become that obvious. Thankfully his concern was enough to cause me to reign in the drinking (I’m not actually an addict, so this was fairly easy for me, once I stepped back to see what he saw.) I knew I had to face what could happen if I didn’t find another way to start getting through my days. 

I’m grateful for the love Jeremy demonstrated in approaching me gently with the truth. After all, it’s not as if I wanted to be sad. Shortly after that, I finally got on a medication that helped to regulate my out-of-control hormones and a skylight appeared in the tunnel. I found a great therapist to talk to regularly and I started to get more rest. I began to make slow but concrete progress with my depression and anxiety.

My heart is beating fast as I write these words, knowing that I will be sharing them with the world when I hit “publish” tomorrow. This is obviously not something I’d ever planned to admit to anyone.  I love my children deeply and hate thinking that I could behave in a way that would endanger them in any way. I’m grateful that I am no longer in that dark place inside.

(Boys, I love you.)

Vulnerable stuff to admit to the world, even for me.

But I’m choosing to be brave, no matter what. Like it or not, this is me.

And it really is enough.    

Rachelxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24 Responses to Being brave

  1. mindy kordich June 27, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    i wonder how many of us go through something similar and think no one will ever understand, or are ashamed of what we are feeling or felt-it is a relief to hear others went through the same thing, that you are not alone or somehow freakish, so thank you for sharing and know you are sooo not alone

    XX
    mindy

  2. Bev June 27, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Rachel,

    I really admire you, and think you are a wonderfully brave person.

  3. Colleen June 27, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I want you to know that many of us can relate, if not with drinking, with some sort of crutch that we used to take us through a difficult time. For some it’s food, excessive spending, smoking, or some other method of avoidance. You are doing something so special by facing up to it, and feeling the feelings that you were trying to run from! Even better, you serve by SHARING! Keep up the great work!

  4. melissa June 27, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Thank you for sharing. Just wanted I need to read this morning. I can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

  5. Amy Haley June 27, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    I love you.
    Our sermon yesterday was by our counseling pastor who taught on “Wait on the Lord”. His main point was that the deeper, most meaningful work in our lives (like freedom) only happens when we are willing to do the hard things – often a slow and painful process. Being a drug and alcohol counselor he cited three of the twelves steps of recovery as something we can all benefit from in our lives, whether we are addicts or not. The three he mentioned were 4,5, & 6:
    4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    5. Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs (or struggles).
    6. Be entirely ready to change.

    You happen to have the unique calling to share much of your journey with more than a small circle — through this difficult vulnerability, you are being used to bring health and hope into the lives of others. Bravo, brave girl.

    I’ll say it again… I love you.

    • Rachel Greenhouse June 27, 2011 at 9:47 am #

      Thank you, Amy. “And the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

  6. Tim Griffin June 27, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Rachel,
    That’s a brave step. Thanks for taking it – and for being the teachable person with amazing backbone that you are.

    I’ve been thinking about this “radical transparency” thing and now having read this – I see more about how important this is.

    Tell Jeremy he’s awesome.

    Loved the closing statement, “Like it or not, this is me.

    And it really is enough.”

    Amen

  7. Liv @ Choosing Beauty June 27, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Rachel, I’m all choked up by how raw you allowed yourself to be here today. Bravo! Of course you love your children to the moon and back. You found the easiest way to give yourself some relief at a time when you couldn’t think clearly or see that light at the end of the tunnel. AND you made the choice to do the much harder thing: you faced the darkness, found help and did the inner work necessary to move forward. I think that’s the mark of pretty awesome mother and woman. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  8. Jennifer Richardson June 27, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Feeling this to my marrow
    and sending…no, shouting
    love and acceptance back
    to you in all of your parts.
    Shame is careful
    with the company she keeps.
    She’ll find no place in the light
    where you’ve thrown open
    those doors, braveheart:)
    Beautiful share…..thank you.
    -Jennifer

  9. Janet June 27, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Tears roll down my cheeks. I hear you. I’m there. Thanks for standing up and holding the light, even if for some all they can see in their darkness is a flickering match. It is hope.

  10. Noemi Hedrick June 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    I love you Rachel. I’m reading and crying and reading some more. All the while falling in love with the weak (and strong) woman you are. We all want to be strong and I know I’m ashamed when I’m not, but I have learned that people really do love me more when I’m weak. When I’m real, When I’m vulnerable like you were today.

    I love you more.

  11. catemezyk June 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Beautiful, Rachel. So glad you shared, and that you know that it is indeed enough to be who you were created to be.

  12. Andrea (Sacred Suds) June 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    What a beautiful, brave story, Rachel. It is so rare that we hear the story of someone going down a dark downward spiral, but pulling out before they hit rock bottom. You are an inspiration!

  13. Jill June 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Rachel –
    Thank you so much for sharing – I am sure it was extremely difficult and heart-wrenching. I know of women who are still struggling with depression, who have not been brave enough to ask for help. This is something that is much more common issue than people are aware of or willing to discuss. By sharing your story, I am sure someone else will be inspired to either get help or encourage someone they know to reach out. Best to you!

  14. anna June 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I like it – and you, just as you are. Brave, raw, and full of heart. xo

  15. jenniferinspiredart June 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    Thank you. Very, very much for your story and your bravery and your clear authenticity of self that rang through to push you to share this.

  16. Bonita Rose K June 28, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    You are brave and wonderful. Your story is moving and touching.. and I like you, hv been to those dark places for other reasons.. thank God we all find the strength we need to make our lives happier. xo hugs bonitarose

  17. claudia kaul June 28, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Rachel, One again you touched something deep and profound for so many of us. And you have had the courage to share which helps to free each one of us who reads your story. My heart is greatful for your vulnerability and helping me to look at some things that I have kept in the shadows for a long time. What a gift you have given. Bless you dear one, and keep up the good work.

  18. Colleen June 28, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Just when I thought I couldn’t love you more. I admire you so much, and seeing you do the hard work, step by step, to climb out toward the sun is real, and true and brave. xoxo.
    Colleen

  19. Jacquelyn Senske June 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Such an amazing story, Rachel. And I can’t imagine the courage and strength it took for you to write all of that out. Obviously by the comments you can feel the love people have for you – and for your willingness to be vulnerable – so proud of you! Other will benefit from this, absolutely. You are inspiring to many women and men who will read this. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  20. tami June 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    rachel,
    THIS is who you are, and it’s YOUR story. we all have one! it’s life, raw, and honest. and hard. HOWEVER…it’s all about the journey. and what you do with that. and wow!! look what you have done!! and how you have had help. and love. I love you more for sharing this. I KNOW it was not easy. it TOTALLY inspires me. there IS hope. There is help. it is SO freeing to share, and know you are not alone. and you are NOT alone. THanks for being brave, and being honest, and for loving back as well…..
    you are my hero, rachel…….

  21. Vicki June 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Oh Rach, I love that you are real. And more important than the “medicine” we choose is the ache that is there. We focus more on what choices we make to in order to feel better, but the feelings are ones we have all touched to one degree or another. So let shame fly off!!! Bringing anything into the light will bring a measure of freedom. I pray you feel that tangibly.

  22. nikol gianopoulos June 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    Good for you for bearing your soul and big hugs for seeing how destructive the behavior and having the courage to change. You are an inspiration.

  23. BH July 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    I know what it’s like to bare it all to the blogosphere. Well said, and *well done*!!! Your words will speak to someone out there, comfort and edify them, and gently guide them onto the healing path. The gift you’ve given in your transparency is one of coming alongside another–even if that other is an anonymous reader you’ll never know or hear from. Shalom to you, Rachel.

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