"Every so often someone will come along and gift you with the raw, honest reveal of their experience. A Quiet Strong Voice is that gift. Lee Horbachewski helps bridge the understanding of mental illness and brings forth a tremendous offering of tools in which one can begin to see their own quiet strong voice emerging. This is a gift to be shared."
-Farhana Dhalla, bestselling author of Thank You for Leaving Me
"A Quiet Strong Voice is a deeply personal and engaging story; it is a toolbox of practical and helpful tools, and it is a reservoir of peace and inspiration. Lee Horbachewski describes in delicious detail the tools and strategies she used to move down the healing path of denial, awareness, acceptance, and action. She pours her soul into the pages. Her insights dazzle and her compassion soothes."
-Gemma Stone, registered psychologist, author, and speaker
"A Quiet Strong Voice is a compelling piece of vulnerability, revealing the depths of despair, the dangers in depression, and the quicksand of suicide intention that can trap even the most beautiful, intelligent, and loving individuals. Lee Horbachewski bravely exposes the truth of her torturous journey through anxiety, fear, depression, and multiple suicide attempts. Her intimate description of frantic attempts to end her life pull you into the story, enmeshing your emotions, heart and longing for peace for this fragile woman."
-Annette Stanwick, award-winning author of
Forgiveness: The Mystery and Miracle
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A Quiet Strong Voice
A Voice of Hope amidst Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidal Thoughts
By Lee Horbachewski
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Lee Horbachewski
All rights reserved.
Denial: What Am I Pretending Not to Know?
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
Early on a crisp, beautiful morning in July 2003, we arrive at the hospital. The nurse goes in search of a doctor as she sends Neil to the admitting desk. Here I am, now in the delivery room awaiting the arrival of our second daughter. I am alone when a seven-minute contraction attacks ferociously. I attempt to climb up onto the bed, but I can't do it. I move from surface to surface, trying everything I can think of to survive the excruciating pain. I can't even muster an audible voice; under my breath, I am asking for someone, for anyone, to help me. All at once Neil, the nurse, and the doctor enter the room and discover that the unusually long contraction has increased dilation from two centimeters to ten centimeters and that our daughter is ready to enter the world.
In less than forty-five minutes after we enter the hospital, our precious little girl is born. I had envisioned a peaceful beginning, holding her in my arms and sharing with Neil the magical first moments. This was something we had missed with the birth of our first daughter, who had been born six weeks prematurely and had been whisked off to an incubator immediately. But again, it was not to be. Suddenly, the quiet and isolated room becomes a flurry of activity; our little girl has a large growth on the back of her leg, and the nurses and doctors surround her. After only a brief moment of holding her in my arms, I must surrender her to be whisked away too.
Neil and I have no idea what the growth is, what could possibly be wrong with our precious little angel. We must wait until the early afternoon to receive some answers. As the pediatrician places our daughter stomach-down on the palm of his hand so that he can examine the growth, I notice that her skin is turning a dark shade of purple. My heart is pounding as I cry with panic, "She's stopped breathing!"
The doctor continues to examine the growth and once again, but with heightened panic, I scream at him, "She's stopped breathing! Do something!" Then the doctor rushes from the room with her. Neil and I follow closely behind. In a sterile room, as the doctor holds her in his hands, he suctions the mucus from her mouth, and thankfully, she begins to breathe once again.
After this initial scare, we don't feel quite as worried about the lump on her leg, though we are eager to find out what it is. After several anxious hours of waiting, finally we are given an explanation. We are told it is a congenital hemangioma, which is a raised birthmark that had grown in the womb. It will begin to shrink. Knowing it is nothing serious, Neil and I are at last able to fully enjoy the tiny miracle in our arms.
Twenty hours later, we are making our way home with our bundle of joy. Within the next couple of days, I realize that I am experiencing the same difficulties with breastfeeding this new baby as I did with my first daughter. I am overwhelmed by a deep sadness as I recognize that I will be unable, once again, to breastfeed because my milk ducts have plugged, presenting the possibility of a repeat of excruciating mastitis. I decide that this time I will not subject my starving baby or myself to numerous attempts, remedies, and unrelenting guilt talk from the public health nurse. I have surrendered to the knowledge that I will never know the deep pleasure of breastfeeding. My disappointment is replaced immediately with pride and joy as I watch my four-year-old daughter feed her little sister with care, sensitivity, and gentleness.
Although life in the first couple of weeks has been filled with sleepless nights, it has also been filled with joy, pride, and happiness as I take care of our beautiful girls. Then, one morning, I wake up and begin to cry for no apparent reason. The joy and pride are replaced by a deep, ineffable sadness that consumes me. The simplest of tasks, such as taking a shower, making breakfast, or changing a diaper, come to feel like an unbearable burden. My energy level is radically low, leaving me deeply fatigued and extremely short-tempered, abrupt, and impatient. "What the hell is going on?" I ask myself out loud. "I was absolutely fine yesterday, and now this?"
I am confused by the abrupt and inexplicable arrival of such emotion. Then, within a couple of hours, I am back to being my normal self, so I shrug it off as though it is nothing more than new-baby sleep deprivation. I tell myself I am just tired. The "sadness" pops up again, though, randomly, with absolutely no rhyme or reason and with greater frequency. One minute, I am as happy as can be, playing joyfully with my girls, and the next minute, the tears begin to flow uncontrollably. I am terribly confused, and I am beginning to worry about these episodes.
When Neil comes home from work, he asks, "How was your day?" and I can see that he is excited to be home with his girls. At the same time, he is exhausted from getting up with the baby throughout the night so that I can sleep and then getting up early for a full day of work.
"It was okay," I respond, and then I quickly hand off the girls to him so I can disappear into the silence of our bedroom, closing the door and retreating to solace and peace.
With the increase in the number of outbursts, I begin to feel some new emotions: frustration, anger, shame, and guilt. I feel agitated and begin to take it out on Neil, often saying to him, "You have no idea how lucky you are; you can just escape to work and be with adults and have a break."
Unreasonably, I view Neil's work as taking him away from the girls and me. Resentment builds within me as he continues to say no to my requests that he come home early in the afternoons. I begin to see his work as a threat; feelings of abandonment surface because he chooses work over us. As soon as my resentment takes hold, I am filled with shame and guilt.
"I am so sorry," I say as I break down in tears and fall into his arms. "You are such an incredible husband and father. I am truly blessed to have you. I'm just tired."
Finally, the wake-up call comes, and I know something serious is wrong with me. It is the day before my brother-in-law's wedding. Neil and his two brothers are relaxing in our hot tub. They are chatting, laughing, and celebrating, completely unaware that my head feels as though it will explode, my breathing is growing erratic, and I am feeling thoroughly overwhelmed. The baby is crying, and my other daughter is crying for my attention too. I think to myself, I can't handle this; I am going to snap! I lay the baby on the floor and storm out ferociously to where the men are, screaming and yelling that I cannot handle all of this by myself. "I'm leaving!" I tell them.
I snatch the keys and get behind the wheel of the car, tears streaming down my face. I floor the accelerator, sending gravel and dirt everywhere, and begin to drive recklessly at speeds of up to 180 kilometers per hour, not knowing where I am going or what I am doing. I go into town and buy a package of cigarettes even though I have quit smoking. I sit by the river and smoke the entire pack while trying to make sense of what has just happened.
Eventually, I return home to an extremely worried Neil who has no idea what has caused my outburst or where I had gone. He is relieved, but he is also very angry with me. Like me, he is confused, scared, and worried. That is enough for both of us to sit down and talk about what I have been feeling and experiencing.
"Honey, I can't explain it," I tell him. "One minute I'm fine, and then the next minute, I feel as if the world is over and that all hell is going to break loose. I feel like I no longer exist, that my life is now diapers, bottles, crying, and no sleep. Then I have moments of sheer bliss and joy. I don't know what is wrong with me," I say, feeling a sense of desperation.
Neil doesn't know what's wrong either and seems even more confused than before. "I just don't know how I can help you," he says. "I get up in the middle of the night. I come home and take care of the girls. I help you clean. I don't know what more I can do," he tells me in a desperate attempt to express his own frustration. "Why don't we see if Marie can look after the girls twice a week?" he suggests.
With sheer gratitude and relief, I agree to his suggestion. I feel some hope and have a vision of much-needed time to myself while knowing the girls will be looked after lovingly by Marie, who has taken care of our older daughter in the past.
As I lie in bed, I think to myself, This is stupid; I am crazy, and I need to realize how lucky I am—quit it! I determine that no matter what, I will not cause Neil any more pain and frustration. I will make the most of the days the girls are at Marie's; I will exercise, get together with my girlfriends, and take time for myself.
Living a Lie
For the next couple of months, I am angry with myself each time I feel the emotions welling. I beat them back down, telling myself, Everything is okay. You can get through this; stop being weak and pathetic! I continually suppress my emotions, not wanting them to surface in front of anyone, not even Neil. I don a mask of bravery for Neil and the girls, hiding my tears, fear, sadness, and loneliness. I am now plagued by these emotions, and on the two days a week that the girls spend with Marie, I lie in bed and cry all morning, working like a madwoman all afternoon to clean the house. I learn that keeping myself busy and allowing no distractions actually proves helpful in taming the outbursts.
But ... My life is a lie.
In the eyes of others, I am the perfect mother and wife blessed with a blissful life. Indeed, I have an incredibly supportive and loving husband and two beautiful daughters. I could not ask for a more placid and content baby, and my older daughter dotes on her little sister; she is always eager to help me in any way she can. Yet, in spite of how wonderful my life is, in spite of the extraordinary support I receive, the darkness within me continues to grow and I continue to suppress it, hide it, and ignore it.
It is now October 2003. As I continue with my charade, I begin to feel the impact physically. Skipping breakfast and then filling myself with pop and other unhealthful foods has become the norm. Dinner is the only healthful meal I seem to eat, only because my family is all together. I expend so much energy suppressing my emotions, and I am so derailed by a poor diet, that I am becoming increasingly exhausted.
On this particular afternoon, I begin to feel nauseous. The very thought of food makes me gag, so I lie down on my bed. Little black circles appear before my eyes, and I feel light-headed and faint. "Just lie down and rest. This will pass," I tell myself.
Then suddenly, and for no apparent reason, my breathing becomes labored. I feel as though I am suffocating. First my breaths are rapid, then strained, and then I am short of breath. This occurs again and again like a yo-yo. I am sure that my heart is going to jump out of my chest. The pain is insufferable, and I am paralyzed with fear. The only thing I can manage to do is to wrap myself into the fetal position like a terrified child, sobbing.
"I am dying! I know it!" I call 9-1-1. The operator stays on the phone with me until the paramedics arrive and take me to the hospital.
After what feels like an eternity, a doctor finally gives me a diagnosis. I am suffering from exhaustion and dehydration, and it is possible I experienced a panic attack. Because of the extreme dehydration, I am admitted to the hospital and given IV nourishment. Throughout my stay in hospital, I remain in a drug-induced sleep, free of any and all responsibility. On the third day, I am sent home with a prescription for anti-anxiety medication to help me sleep and with a follow-up appointment with the doctor for the following week.
The antianxiety medication mercifully is helping me to sleep at night, which is of immense benefit. Waking rested each morning makes a wonderful difference. For the following two weeks, by the time I wake, Neil has already taken the girls to Marie's on his way to work. Thankfully, Marie has agreed to take care of the girls full-time until I feel strong enough to resume our two-day-a-week arrangement. I feel I have permission, especially from myself and a worried Neil, to take it easy and to rest.
What a difference these two weeks make. With the combination of the girls going to Marie's two days a week once more, weekly visits with the doctor, the antianxiety medication, and Neil's watchful, loving eye, I am feeling much stronger. The crying spells do not occur as often, and overall I seem to be coping well. I am filled with a renewed joy for life, feeling more in control of my emotions every day. The "lie" has been replaced by desire, love, and playfulness as I embrace the roles of mother and wife with more passion and purpose.
Christmas in Australia
Every couple of years, we spend Christmas in Australia with my family. This year I am looking forward to the trip with particular enthusiasm because everyone will meet our newest little girl. Selfishly, I am looking forward to receiving some help and support as well. Neil has only three weeks of vacation time, so we decide that the girls and I will leave three weeks ahead of him to give us more time to spend with my family.
Fortunately, both girls prove to be phenomenal fliers. My four-year-old keeps herself occupied with Play-Doh, coloring, watching movies, and even sleeping for a major portion of the flight from Hawaii to Sydney. My baby, now five months old, is amazingly calm and easy and sleeps a good deal too. This must be an unusual occurrence, because when the flight crew asks me, repeatedly, if I have drugged my children and I say no, they respond with disbelief.
My mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew are waiting eagerly for us when we arrive, showering the girls with unbridled love and attention. I am relieved. I did it; I managed to travel calmly and successfully for twenty-four hours on my own with two children. Now I can relax and enjoy myself. I am filled with joy as I watch the love and affection unfolding before me, and I'm grateful to see my family.
Mum and Dad have a beautiful acreage about an hour and a half southwest of Sydney. Their property is surrounded by majestic one-hundred-year-old gum trees, as well as by other native trees and brush, and is separated from the neighboring property by a creek. I love to come here to enjoy the nature all around. My older daughter is entranced by the variety of different bugs, and it takes little persuading for her to go on a walk with Nanny to catch specimens in the new bug catcher that Nanny and Poppy bought for her. It is very peaceful here, and yet, it does not take long for me to remember how remote it is too.
Sadly, after a couple of days, Mum must return to work, and Dad, who has his own business, must work too. My vision of having daily help and support with the girls evaporates, and I begin to feel resentful that they are at work and not around the house to help me during the day. I feel isolated and removed from everything and everyone. I miss Neil tremendously and am longing for his support in helping with the nighttime feedings and with getting the girls up and out twice a week so that I can sleep in and have time to myself.
By the second week, my resentment has become frustration and anger. I realize I must talk to Mum and Dad before I go mad. I wait for what I believe is the perfect moment: Saturday morning, when Mum and Dad are having their tea and toast and reading the newspaper on the porch.
I am emphatic: "Mum, Dad, I came here early ahead of Neil, in hopes that you would be able to help me out with the girls. With both of you working and not being able to help me during the night, I am having a really tough time."
My mum and dad raised my sister, my brother, and me all alone with little to no help and with little to no money. My cry for help simply does not make sense to them.
"I don't understand why you need so much 'me' time. We had no one to help us. Your mum gets up at 5:00 a.m., and I work a full day. We can't give you what you need. We need to earn a living," says my dad.
How can I argue with that? Mum and Dad work hard. The last thing they need is to be looking out for me. An uncomfortable silence develops among us, and it begins to eat at my insides.
Thankfully, I go to stay with my sister and brother-in-law for a couple of days. They help me with the girls and keep my younger daughter in bed with them so they can feed her during the night. By the time Neil arrives on Christmas Day, I am out of my routine and am consumed with self-pity. I have forgotten, repeatedly, to take my antianxiety medication and have been reduced, once again, to sleepless nights and crying spells. By the time I return home to Calgary, I have effectively weaned myself from the medication within a short six-week time frame. I tell myself that now that I am off the medication, I might as well stay off it.
Excerpted from A Quiet Strong Voice by Lee Horbachewski. Copyright © 2014 Lee Horbachewski. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Poem: A Quiet Strong Voice, xvii,
Chapter 1 Denial: What Am I Pretending Not to Know?, 1,
Chapter 2 Awareness: Facing the Truth, 13,
Chapter 3 Acceptance: Surrendering and Letting Go, 37,
Chapter 4 Action: Taking Baby Steps, 48,
Chapter 5 Back to Reality, 72,
Chapter 6 Living Life, 81,
Chapter 7 Your Personal Reflection, 85,
Chapter 8 Supporting a Loved One, 103,
Chapter 9 Resources and Help, 109,
About the Author, 123,
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