I took it all in stride, my arms swinging wide for all to see: Look at me - I got my shit together. But then Life, that cruel goth mistress who likes to stick hooks in her back and hang from the ceiling, let me know who was boss in this joint. Just to be clear, it's her. Not me.
The first time I got sober, I held tightly to a just-in-case Xanax prescription, waiting for the panic every addict in early recovery knows well. We feel all of our emotions when we're new, pain and worry and sadness and grief and fear. We are like the exposed nerve in a rotten tooth, except walking around in the world.
There really is a Murphy's Law principle to this stuff--on the day when you were most hoping to autopilot parent until bedtime so you can binge watch Black Mirror while eating the gummies you bought for your kid's school lunches, that's the day they're going to break out the existentialism.
Recently, a friend who had a baby last week reached out to me with some concerns that I recognized all too well from my own postpartum experiences. It got me thinking about how key facts of the first week postpartum hadn’t made it onto my radar before I had Eleanor, and how much of a relief it was to read articles like this and this and realize that I was totally normal and not alone.
A golf-ball size chunk of soured milk plopped into my bowl, splashing milk all over me and the table. I would stink like rotted milk for the rest of the day as we sat in the ER, my sore throat actually strep. My mother looked at me, at the hunk of cheese in my cereal. She collapsed at the table and sobbed, a keening that made me feel complicit in the milk's souring and my strep throat.
By the time I came to terms privately with my own queerness and stopped trying to tell myself that I just really enjoyed the company of my female friends and didn't actually want to recite Sapphic poetry to them while entwined naked in silk sheets watching Gilmore Girls, I was 24 years old. I was also married to a dude.
The truth is, I'm a baby bird in this recovery business. In this kindness business. I forget my compassion and gorge on my judgment. I forget that we heal together and recovery happens in community, not in the safe isolation of my comfy house and on the spaces I deem safe on the web.
OCD didn’t make another significant appearance in my life until I had my daughter at the age of twenty-six. It started with something innocuous--the pacifier. Eleanor had spit it out onto the floor, and when I rinsed it under the faucet, I felt a stab of panic and heard a familiar but long-forgotten voice in my head say: do it again.
My compulsions included checking locks, re-shutting doors and drawers, tapping objects, and counting things. By the time I turned thirteen, my life was pretty much dictated by these behaviors.
That was the first time I remember having a panic attack from what I now know was obsessive-compulsive disorder. My parents had never heard of OCD, so they spent the next four years referring to my litany of bizarre behaviors as my “worrying” problem.