I have lived life both as an independent person and one who relied on others to make my decisions and create change in my life. People like my Mother who forcefully made my decisions, paid money to eradicate my debts, and made it easy for me to not stand for myself and my children. An ex- husband who controlled everything in my life. For a long time I looked to others for solutions to my problems and I can now declare independence beats passivity every time. My experience is not reflective of others; I just know passivity kept me a prisoner and made me sicker, emotionally, mentally and physically.
Years ago I was severely depressed and went to Western Mental Health Authority in Torrington, CT. I tried some classes, counseling on financial matters, and was a phone counselor on the Warm Line (a service for the mentally and emotionally ill). The classes made me feel worse because I saw people who I knew were so much more problematic than I doing better than me because my depression overrode everything else in my mind. I had trouble relating to others in the programs.
But the Warm Line made me feel better because I had a Psychology background. The down side was the same people called again and again, sometimes several times a night. I felt I was holding their hands over the phone lines but that I wasn’t making any effective change in their lives. I didn’t hear recovery.
Slowly I was learning and progressing. It took time and an experimentation of different psych meds. I moved across the country, driving on my own, thinking I would have the connections I so sought with my children. But I landed in a place where I lacked support, my children were busy building their own lives, my daughter was in Africa and my son was engaged to be married and very connected to his fiancee’s family. Given that I’m shy and an introvert, it was tough going for a year. Then I found a housing community for those over 50 in another town and began rebuilding my life.
Unfortunately, I became very ill with a 5% chance of living only with major surgery. My body went septic and most major organs shut down. Most of my intestines and my gall bladder were necrotic, I was on life support, and was put into a medically induced coma which ended up causing some traumatic brain injuries. After three weeks of coma and another couple weeks in the hospital, I was moved to a rehabilitation center as I had lost all muscle memory and had to relearn to move every muscle in my body – every finger, toe, arm, everything was still. No independence at all. Not able to make any decisions on my own. People had to feed me, clothe, me, bathe me. I had a colostomy bag for a year which was a whole trauma in itself. I was a slug. My son came every day during that time to make sure I was following the decisions of doctors, nurses, aides and physical therapists. Being stubborn, I fought this waste land of a body. I tried standing and walking too soon, joining the Frequent Fallers Club. So I had to learn that stubbornly acting against the wisdom of others in this case was working against me.
The experience forged an independence of spirit in me. Every day was a struggle and even though I was still battling Major Depression/Bipolar, I couldn’t let it claim me. I had to get better. I had to believe that God had saved me for some purpose or I wouldn’t be there. I learned to walk first on bars, than on walkers, then on my own. No wheelchairs. I was responsible for my own steam. For a long time a walk of any length once I left the rehab, required a walker which was embarrassing but essential. Sometimes my legs would just give out on me, especially embarrassing in church, although there were a lot of prayers sent my way from both coasts. But I got better and after a year I was rid of the colostomy bag – a miracle, there was only enough space left in my intestines for them to be connected.
Now I prefer the life of an independent person. When I do turn to others’, it is for advice but the decisions are mine. I am financially responsible for myself. I work part-time in service as a caregiver to others even though I still have disabilities impeding me. I don’t appreciate being told by others what to do but I will listen respectfully then make my own determinations. As I stubbornly didn’t let others control my life, my relationships improved. I work hard to keep a lid on the Depression even though I feel it within me at all times, it does not dictate its’ force upon me. Activity helps. Working helps. It is an esteem builder, even though my job can be very difficult. I just need to be aware of my limits.
Independence has given me a life worth living, one with purpose and meaning.