Perfect Storm

Weathering my Perfect Storm

I used to run from difficult and harsh weather. I loved nothing more than a sunny day with blue skies. I ran away from home when I was five years old because I never knew when the next storm would hit. My family was like its own weather system, full or hurricanes, tornadoes and freak thunderstorms. One minute my mother was fine and the next minute she was screaming and yelling at me, slamming doors and telling me what a horrible child I was. I didn’t feel safe in my own home.

I didn’t realize that the storm clouds could follow me, so I kept on running. I was the only one of my four sisters to go away to boarding school. I couldn’t wait to leave home. In college I studied abroad in France and then travelled across Asia for seven months in my 20’s. Travel was my escape. I thought if I could just avoid the stormy weather system of my family, I could have clear sailing and sunny weather. Little did I know that I carried the weather system inside me!

It wasn’t until I was living in the South of France raising my three children that the perfect storm came.

My best friend, colleague and business partner abandoned me along with the company we’d created, and my twelve-year-old son was in crisis with his OCD. I felt like I had lost everything and most of all I had lost myself.

When this happened it was as if every storm or bad feeling that I’d stuffed away came surging up in my body like a tidal wave and completely overtook me. The more I fought to push the bad feelings away, the more they fought back until I was in full on panic attacks each day. It was like opening Pandora’s box and not being able to get the lid back on. I had held everything together for so long, desperate for no one to see the volatile system inside me. My body was now in full reaction, as if it were screaming “no more!”

One day, during this time, I found myself standing in the grocery store in Mougins, where we lived in the South of France. I was looking at the meat section wondering what in the world I was going to feed my children that night. As I stood there, shaking and trembling, my anxiety began to take over because I had no idea what to buy and even if I did, no idea how to cook it. I realized that I couldn’t take care of myself never mind take care of my family. I had no idea how I had gotten to this place! I didn’t think I could stand another minute of this storm. I couldn’t wait for it to pass. I needed to bring it to an end. So I made a plan.

Read more blogs by Lois Shannon

That afternoon when I got home I went straight to my bathroom and pulled out the many boxes of pills that had been prescribed to me during the many months of my depression. As I sat on the floor of my bathroom, pushing the pills out of the sheets with aluminum backing so that I could put them all in a small container for easy access, I decided that I would drive down to the ocean, which was only 10 minutes from the house, take the pills and walk into the sea. I did not want to fail at this.

I craved the peace and calm of the ocean.

That night I waited until my husband was sound asleep. I peeled back the covers and snuck out of bed. I went by the bathroom and grabbed my bottle of pills. I made it about halfway down the hallway to the front door when I heard my husband come up behind me and say, “Lois, sweetie what are you doing. Come on back to bed.”

As I walked back to the bedroom I could feel my body shaking with anger and desperation that I had not secured my escape. I got back in bed, feeling the tears rolling down the side of my face and waited for my husband to start snoring again. Once again I peeled back the covers and snuck out of bed even more gingerly. Again, I was almost at the front door when my husband interrupted me and brought me back to bed.

This happened five times that night. Between each attempt I would lie in bed wondering which would be better for my children, to have a mother that took her own life or to have a mother who was crazy for the rest of her life, just like mine was? I realized that if I left the planet my children would always have the same weather system.

The only hope for change was if I could stay and weather the storm.

Avoiding stormy weather was a family pattern. Denial and shame were the norm. I didn’t think I could stand another minute but it wasn’t about me, it was for my children.

When the sun came up in the morning and I hadn’t slept all night, I went into the bathroom. With a trembling hand I dumped the pills into the toilet and flushed. I didn’t want to be tempted again. I had made my decision.

As I walked to the kitchen to make breakfast for my children, I could still feel the storm raging inside me, however something was distinctly different. I was now prepared to stand and face the storm. No more running and hiding. I would change the system for my children. I would fight my way through.

And one day, I would find the peace and calm that comes after the storm…

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