I am usually not a fan of “What not to say” and “what not to do” type posts. I’ve always found them a bit annoying honestly. But I’m beginning to understand why they exist. There’s been this specific post that’s been going around for years that has always bothered me. Every time I see it, it gets a good amount of attention, and all around agreement. I’ve always been the type to avoid disagreeing with people, so I’ve always kept quiet about it. But honestly, this one can do some damage and I feel the need to speak up. Before I go any further, here’s the message:
Here i go again. I’m about to start taking yet another antidepressant and I’m nervous. Third times the charm, right? Or will this be three strikes, you’re out?
I used to be so naive about medications. First, I thought they were just these horrible pills that made people feel worse than they already did. I heard all the horror stories. I mean, seriously, how can an ANTI-depressant make someone feel suicidal? How does that make sense? How is it worth trying?
Eventually I reached a point where I needed to admit I couldn’t fight my demons alone. I started to fantasize about this little white pill that I would take every day and magically be cured of the horrible thoughts I’d had my whole life. The thoughts that were getting stronger, the ones that would eventually kill me. I realized that it was worth trying, because doing nothing was worse.
I finally spoke to my doctor and she immediately gave me a script for Zoloft. I left the office crying with relief. I was so relieved that I finally found the courage to talk about my problems. Then I went to pick up my new prescription and I felt so much anxiety walking up to the pharmacy counter.
‘This is who I am now. I’m gonna be popping pills my whole life. What are these people going to think of me? I don’t look like someone who needs happy pills, right? Maybe I should look sad. What will people think? Why am I doing this?‘
Despite my hesitation, I started taking my pills just as my doctor prescribed. After a few weeks of not feeling so great, the side effects began to wind down. I was still depressed, I was gaining weight, and after upping the dose a few times, my doc and I agreed that this was not the one for me.
Next I tried Lexapro. Same deal at first, with all the fun side effects as I adjusted to my new medication. I was already feeling pretty bad, so feeling bad wasn’t a big deal. Then I started to relax. I was feeling better. I got used to feeling better, and I got greedy. Once a month, when my pmdd flared up, my regular meds weren’t enough, so I convinced myself that I needed more. Plus, the weight gain from my first medication had continued through the second one. So then came the time to wean off my second.
It’s now been over six months since I started my
journey my roller coaster of crazy, easing up, testing the waters, then weaning off these medications that my body seems to be sensitive to. I’ve gained almost 35 pounds since the start, and now I’ve lost my last shred of self confidence as well as any remaining sanity I may have had stored away. I decided I’d had enough. I needed to take a break from it and try to deal with it myself.
And that was a DISASTER. As I came off of Lexapro, I started slowly feeling the anxiety that I used to deal with every day. Again, I was waking up very day exhausted after getting only sporadic bouts of restless sleep. I started feeling that lump in my throat at the thought of making a phone call or talking to someone I didn’t know well. Then I started having full blown panic attacks again. Hell, my voice was shaking when I had my best friend over. The one person that I always feel like I can share with, and I was on the verge of an anxiety attack hanging out with HER. It’s getting out of control.
I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb having an anxiety attack, so most of my symptoms were a lifelong normal for me.But it wasn’t until I went without them that I truly understood that the way I was living was not normal, and not okay. And then I finally realized how badly I want it all to stop and never come back.
So here I go. I called my doc, and as usual, she agreed to switch me to something that may be better for me. This one is supposed to help me lose weight as well as act as an antidepressant, so I’m trying to have high hopes. But now I’ve learned. There is no magic white pill. You can’t just “pop a pill” and feel better. Sometimes it takes months to find the right one. Sometimes you need more than one. Sometimes it takes years to find the right combination. Sometimes medication will do nothing but make someone worse. But for me, I need to believe that the right combination is out there. Because going at this alone is no longer an option.
It was after a few emotional months of torture that I figured out that I suffer from PMDD. I had slowly started feeling worse every month after my daughter stopped breastfeeding, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Eventually my symptoms were so severe that I would be convinced that I was pregnant again. One month I was so sure that I ordered a shirt off Etsy to give to my husband, announcing the pregnancy. I tucked it away to give to him along with the positive pregnancy test that I was sure would happen any day. Instead, I got my period.
We weren’t trying to get pregnant, so there were no big letdowns for us to share. But every month I would get all the symptoms that used to warn me about a baby, and every month my mind would go from “I don’t want a baby right now,” to “Maybe this would be nice.” As soon as my mind went far enough to fantasize about that imaginary baby and get excited about it, that’s when the illusion would shatter. Wanting more kids or not, it was hell going through that roller coaster of emotions over and over again.
I finally talked to my husband about it and he agreed that something was definitely wrong. I started doing some research and I stumbled on a video online of a woman explaining her condition, that I’ve never heard of, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. She mentioned 11 symptoms that someone may go through, and you need to check off at least 5 before a doctor would diagnose you. I watched the video through and mentally checked off every single thing she talked about. I was the perfect match for a condition that I had no clue existed.
Since then I’ve done a ton of research and spoken to my doctors about it, with no luck. My general practitioner, although a very nice woman, gave me antidepressants to treat my depression and didn’t seem to have any clue what I was talking about when i mentioned the thought of PMDD. I figured I’d try her meds since I was depressed anyway. And when those weren’t doing much, I moved on to my obgyn. He reluctantly admitted that I may be dealing with PMDD, and prescribed me birth control. It was horrible, and when I called to talk about it, he admitted that trying more and more bc pills may not be very helpful but if I wanted to, he’d be more than happy to give me a script for Prozac. He admitted that he didn’t know much about treating me, and suggested I look for a specialist.
After that conversation with my ob, I was working on my second antidepressant, so I gave that a bit more time and didn’t really notice that I was getting worse. After all the experimentation with new medications, I had gained 30 pounds on my small 5’2″ frame. Enough to put strain on my already weak back and make me feel worse. And my symptoms were still getting worse with every cycle I had. At this point, my boobs feel like they’ve been used as punching bags, the slightest look can make me burst out in tears, and the most minor annoyance can make me rage against the world as if I am SHE HULK. I’m not even gonna talk about how bad it gets during the last few days, because no one needs to worry about me that much.
So onto what I thought would be my best bet. I had finally found an obgyn claiming to be practiced in treating pmdd. His receptionist sounded less than enthusiastic on the phone, but he had good reviews and he was the only one who seemed to know anything about it after calling a dozen other doctors in my area.
To make a long, emotional story short, the receptionist was as bored and uncaring as she sounded on the phone, as were all the other women working in the office. The doctor himself, after making me wait way too long, batted his pretty eyes at me and apparently decided upon first contact not to take me seriously. I could see it in his eyes as soon as he smiled at me that he was gonna be no help. After asking why I was there, I told him about the PMDD and he goes on this long, textbook description of the difference between PMS and PMDD. You know, because since I came here for that specific purpose, I can’t possibly know what it is. Then he says, “It’s not a real diagnosis, it’s basically a small step up from PMS.” WANTING TO KILL MYSELF ONCE A MONTH IS A SMALL STEP UP FROM SOME MINOR CRAMPS? Tell me more about your unending wisdom!
Luckily for him, I am currently in my vulnerable, crying all the time stage and I got so defeated that I could barely speak. He asked a few more questions, talked over me every time I tried to talk, and basically bullied me into scheduling an appointment for an IUD that I know nothing about. Which apparently was too much of an inconvenience to explain to me. So in the end, he listened to nothing I had to say, and assumed he knew everything about what I needed. He tried to tell me that all he could do was prescribe me Zoloft or Prozac because that’s the only sort of treatment that can be done. And after telling him that I’ve already tried Zoloft and Lexapro, he started telling me with the most unfeeling, judgmental voice I’ve ever heard that I have too many issues going on at once and he can’t help me. I need to find a psychiatrist so they can work with me to figure out what doses of medications I need. When I tried to ask about other options(that I’ve done research on and I know can help tremendously) he cut me off and said no, there’s nothing else that can be done. It’s Prozac or nothing.
I wanna be clear, I think that he honestly believes that the only way to treat this is to throw antidepressants at women and hope for the best. Too many doctors don’t have any knowledge of this condition since it’s a fairly new discovery. Previously, women were diagnosed with bipolar disorder because doctors couldn’t figure it out!
My issues with him run deeper than a lack of understanding. With him, it’s about advertising on his website that he has experience in a disorder he knows nothing about. It’s about his horrific bedside manner, talking over a patient who’s clearly about to burst into tears in front of him. It’s treating her like she’s crazy, like she’s an idiot who doesn’t understand anything about her own body. It’s the fact that he was completely uncaring and wanted nothing more than to get me out of his office.
So doc, if you ever read this. Thanks for making my day. I was in tears before I even got my kids in the car. By the time I got home, I was having a full blown panic attack. It took me hours to stop crying. Today I’ll be calling to cancel that IUD that you bullied me into trying. And if I’m lucky, I’m going to find somewhere to let other women know what kind of doctor you really are. The kind who doesn’t care very much. The kind who makes a woman in pain lose hope of finding the help she needs. So thanks for that! When I do finally find a psychiatrist, I’m sure we’ll have a nice, lengthy discussion about you.
There’s big news for women who feel like they lose themselves every month and I wanted to bring that to you. I think everyone has heard of pms. It’s the brunt of jokes and the cause of many eye rolls. But what many people don’t know, is that it can get WORSE.There are those like me. It’s called PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. While most women get at least one symptom of regular pms, about 2-4% of menstruating women suffer from PMDD instead. How can I describe this?
Imagine your worst day with pms. Now imagine you meet Dr. Jekyll and without permission, he injects you with his serum to become Mr. Hyde. You rage at the world, eat every carb and piece of chocolate that comes your way, and hate yourself and everyone around you. Until it comes crashing down.
When the rage wears off, you slip off the edge of sanity and fall deeper and deeper into a pit of depression. You fall so hard, so fast that you’ve broken something. Something in your brain doesn’t seem to work quite right anymore and you start daydreaming about dying. Deep down, you know that there’s a part of you that definitely does not want to die. You know that, logically, things are fine and you will be okay. But you can’t FEEL that. All you feel is despair, hopelessness and a suddenly strong urge to leave this world. You may even think about how you’d do it.
Then a miracle happens. Aunt flow comes to visit, and she is a magical cure that brings you back to being you. You think back on how you treated the people around you, the horrible thoughts you had, and you get to endure another week of cramps and bleeding with a heavy dose of guilt for what you went through to get there. Through no fault of your own.
PMDD is so severe that many women have been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder in an attempt to find out the root of their symptoms. But thanks to the latest research, things can start to change. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t understand this stuff very much. I’m more geek than nerd, so I’ll include links below to pages that actually understand the scientific stuff.
But in basic terms, studies are now showing that women with PMDD are different on a molecular level. Women with PMDD and women without have the same amount of hormones coursing through our bodies. And during the time of the month that we experience surges of estrogen and progesterone, our bodies simply do not know how to fight back against the side effects that other womens bodies learn to fight off. Meaning there is a real, biological cause for our crazy. It is the fact that some women are biologically different and our bodies cannot handle normal levels of the hormones that we need to function correctly.
Meaning, hey doctors who wouldn’t listen, guess what? The difference is not in our heads. It is not weakness in certain women. It’s not some women making excuses as to why we can’t handle certain things. It’s not an excuse for being rude or mean. It is a very real, very scary condition that affects many of us. But now we have hope. Now all those brilliant scientific minds are taking this seriously. Very seriously. And instead of doctors throwing birth control and antidepressants at us randomly, hoping to “fix” us, maybe someday there will be a better way. Better tests, better questions and most of all, better understanding.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
This has always been my favorite time. The lights, decorations and Christmas songs, the family gatherings and the food! Everything about it makes me smile. I deck the halls as much as possible and can be caught singing obnoxiously to anything and everything labeled Christmas. In years past, December has always acted as a bright, magical band aid to the soul, healing any imperfections from the months preceding it.
This time, things are a bit harder. This time, I am not well. It’s getting colder, and I’m in pain. A stressful year is coming to a close and I have not coped well. I’ve struggled, fighting my own mind to try to be normal, trying to find happy. I’ve turned to medications to aid in my battle and even tattooed myself to have a symbol of my fight. Still, I’m struggling. My medications have not been the magical little white pill I was so naïve to expect. I’m hurting my husband, my family and my kids in my anger, my sadness and my inability to cope. A time that has always brought me so much joy is now tainted by the fog that clouds my brain.
While others are out Christmas shopping and making holiday plans, I’m hiding at home and making excuses. Others are calling family and friends, reveling in the joy of Christmas. I’m making calls to my doctor, sobbing at the slightest thing and wondering how I’ll survive another year. Friends are taking their kids to see Santa, and I’m putting on Christmas movies, hoping to have some time alone.
Instead of excitement and joy, I’ve got guilt and hurt. But let me tell you something. I’m trying. Even though I’m hurting, I still bugged my husband until we got a tree. I’m still buying presents, making holiday treats and putting on Christmas music. I’ve still decorated the house and made a wreath with friends. And when Christmas is here, I’ll smile and try my best to give my family the best day. I’ll even trick my husband into standing under some mistletoe. Christmas this year is hard. But I’m still here. I’m still trying and still pretending I’m okay. And that’s because I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be here when Christmas is over, and spending the new year trying to get better. I’m working on my resolutions for 2017 and if I succeed, maybe next Christmas will be better. Maybe I’ll be back to singing my heart out and I’ll be shelling out cookies instead of shedding tears. Because one thing that Christmas still is to me, is hope. And hope means maybe, just maybe, I’ll be okay.
You can also find this story on theMighty.
If you or someone you know need help this time of year, or any time, please reach out.
I am a warrior. I’ve never been in the military, never fired a gun, never even been in a fight. I don’t battle a physical enemy, or even one that anyone can see. My battle is tough, painful and invisible. So what am I talking about?
Every day I wake up the same. Tired, foggy, confused and a bit scared. I shut off my alarm and crawl back in bed, reaching for the remnants of my latest dream. I repeat this three times before I’ve officially slept too long. I need to get up and function. I get the kids some breakfast and chocolate milk. I’ll sneak away while they finish so I can get dressed. I yawn my way through applying some makeup. I wouldn’t want one of the other moms to think I was a zombie. I think about all the things I should get done, throw some clothes on the kids, and realize I’m running late. I’ll pack a quick lunch for my son and run out the door.
I’m usually awake by the time we get to school. I stay a minute to help keep my son calm if he’s having a rough morning. I give him a kiss and leave him to some wonderful teachers. I try to look put together, adult, thriving and working hard to support my son. I get back in the car and think again of all the things I should do that day.
Usually my day involves food shopping, going to the gym or chores at home. Tuesdays, a speech therapist comes over for my daughter. Sundays we go to church as a family. The rest of the time, I’m on my own, deciding what to do with my time. Whatever I do, there seems to be much more human interaction than I sometimes want. I’m in an area that is very crowded, so it’s easy to blend in and stay unnoticed. But I can’t live that way. I go to the same stores every week, the same laundry room, and the same school every day. I run into many of the same people, and although they are strangers to me, their faces become recognizable. And I’ve become a master at my disguise.
I don’t know how these strangers I see every day judge me, but I’ve been told that I give off an aura of peace. I appear unphased, happy and confident that I know what I’m doing. I must be a damn good actor! As I’m dropping off my son at school, I’m stressing because we were almost late. I’m wondering what his teacher must think of me. I’m worrying that the other moms are judging me because I look young. As I’m picking out items at the grocery store, I scrutinize labels, worrying that something in these foods are bad for my kids. Wondering if people will think I’m a total fatty if I spend more than five seconds in front of the ice cream. Then worrying someone will think I’m vain because, this time, I whispered to myself that I don’t need it and I walked away. I laugh with my daughter, act silly and dote on her to keep her smiling. Inside I’m practically numb, but a stranger doesn’t see that. They just see a happy young mom with a pretty little girl.
I’ve been wanting to get a tattoo for a long time. I went back and forth trying to decide what to do for my first big one, and I liked too many things to decide. But I finally made my decision after going through the worst depressive episode of my life. I got the idea for a sword. I thought on it and thought on it, and after a few months I realized that of all my ideas, this is the only one I actually pictured on me forever. Then I went back and forth trying to decide whether to add a semicolon to it. Even after telling my husband I was going to, I froze at the tattoo parlor and never brought it up.
I wasn’t brave enough for a semicolon tattoo. Maybe that sounds silly, because a small, simple semicolon would be a hell of a lot easier to get than the sword I ended up with. But there’s a reason for it, and one that I plan on changing soon. Here’s the thing. I love fantasy novels, so when I think of strength, I think of war. Of soldiers, fighting on horseback and battling evil enemies. Of battles that look impossible, and fighting again and again. Of keep going forward even though all you can see is grief and loss.
I feel like that every day. My depression has only gotten worse over the years and I fight it almost daily. My anxiety is ever present and agonizing. And I’m in constant physical pain from my severe scoliosis. Sometimes I wake up thinking, “What’s it going to be today? A haze of depression? Suicidal thoughts? A panic attack? Will my back keep hurting like this, or will my arthritis act up?” I know it’s not healthy to think this way. I’m just so tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of living inside a body that struggles to survive, battling against a mind that wants to die.
That’s why I got this tattoo. A sword, to me, represents my own choice to arm myself with a weapon. I choose to keep going. I choose to stand up even if it’s not strong, and even if I don’t want to that day. I choose to push past the pain and the despair and keep fighting. A tattoo means that no matter how down I feel, there was a time that I chose to make a permanent mark, declaring myself a fighter. I can do this. I can survive this, I can thrive. I will fight. I am a warrior, and every warrior needs a weapon.
It took 2.5 hours for this tattoo. I handled it pretty well, and I even enjoyed it a bit. But I chickened out on the most important part. See, to a stranger, a sword is just a sword. If I choose to, I can tell someone my story. But if I don’t want to, I can play it off. I can explain that I love the Lord of the Rings, and this is my representation of Sting! But people everywhere are learning what the semicolon means. And I’m just not ready to talk about it, face to face, with the world.
I plan on getting my semicolon one day. I want to, not just for me, but for anyone else struggling. I want to be that person with a huge smile, happily playing with my daughter in the grocery store that encourages someone just by flashing a tattoo. I want people to see it and to ask questions, or just to have a smile. If it encourages just one person to feel like they aren’t so alone, I want it. But for now, I have some healing to do. I’m taking up my sword, and I’m fighting. And I’ll let you all know when I’m strong enough to fight alongside everyone else too.
You can also find this story on theMighty
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out.
Between scoliosis limiting me physically, and anxiety and depression driving me insane, I had a hard enough time adulting on my own. Yes, adulting is now a word. Seriously, I did everything wrong. I couldn’t manage to keep my own room clean, let alone anything else. Doing chores seemed too overwhelming and balancing a checkbook impossible. Then I decided getting married at 21 was a good idea. Oh no. Then kids came along.
What the hell was wrong with me? After five years of marriage and two children, I still have a lot to learn. I still screw up pretty often. But I’m not ashamed to admit it and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. Nothing in the world can force you to grow up better than having children. And even though I started out my mommy life clueless in every way, I’d like to share a few things that have kept me sane. Ish. I’m not completely sane.
- Wake up early. I know, I know. We all probably need more sleep. But how does it feel to get up when the kids do? Crazy right? Like you aren’t prepared? Like you just wanna go back to bed? It sucks. Whenever I wake up late and the kids have woken up, my entire morning is shot. I’m so busy taking care of them that I forget myself until I’m a raving monster mommy from lack of coffee and food. Not fun. I decided a couple years ago to get up when my husband does, so we could have a coffee together before he left for work. His job changes all the time and now he gets up way too early for me, but I still get up almost 2 hours before the kids do. That gives me time to have a nice relaxing breakfast by myself, and read a bit while I’m eating. I have time for a shower, and by the time the kids are awake, I’m ready to handle them. Mostly.
- Get a hobby. You can’t make your entire existence about your kids. Or about your spouse. You need something for you. I’ve learned from experience. For years I got so caught up in taking care of everyone else, that I neglected myself and everyone suffered for it. I was cranky, short tempered and depressed. I still am, but nearly as bad as before! I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading whenever I can, and I’m even writing a book. *Please, God, say I didn’t just jinx myself!*
- Go out with friends. I don’t care if you have to move hell and earth to do it. Get the heck out of the house once in a while! If you don’t have any friends, I’m sorry, I can relate. But find some. Join a mommy group, a bible study, a gym, something where you can meet people. I’ve found a MOPS(Mothers of Preschoolers) in my area and it has been a lifesaver. Even if I haven’t gotten close enough to hang out with anyone one on one, I still join them for group outings, with and without kids in tow. And believe me, I know it’s hard. I attended these meetings for a year before I felt comfortable enough to speak up. And another year before I started going out with these ladies. Social anxiety tried to make me leave a thousand times but I was desperate.
- Make time for your significant other. Date nights never stop being important. And it doesn’t have to be fancy! My husband and I have a nightly routine of watching an episode of our current tv show in bed. Usually with a snack. And snuggles. Always snuggles. Did you know that just 20 seconds of a hug can release oxytocin? Which fights depression. We don’t get the chance for date nights out of the house that often, but we do make time for each other however we can.
Join a gym. Hear me out here. I didn’t like working out much either. I really didn’t. But I joined a gym to spend more time with my husband, and figured I’d try to lose some weight in the process. I’ve started a spin class, which sucked, until a few weeks later it didn’t suck so much. I’ve lost inches on my waist and thunder thighs, and I’m starting to feel good about myself. What has helped keep me going… Have you ever heard of runners high? I’d never heard of it nor experienced it until one magical spin class. I went nuts on that bike and all of a sudden, I got this euphoric breeze of beautiful feeling washing over me. I felt like I could conquer the world! And when that class was over I was disappointed. I felt like I could go another hour! I’ve never done any sort of drugs, but I’ve been chasing that runners high ever since. Exercise really does combat depression. It’s a terrible catch 22, because getting there is really the hardest part, I know. But believe me, it’s worth it. Oh, and I forgot to mention; childcare! I’ve gone to the gym a few times for the sole reason that my kids were too crazy and I didn’t have it in me to handle them. It’s helped tremendously. And no one cares if you prop up a kindle on the treadmill.
- Play with your kids! I often find myself not capable of doing much with my kids. The idea of taking them to the park or somewhere even bigger is just too overwhelming. When I do take them out, it’s like a miracle for me. I feel like a horrible mother sometimes. But you know what, our moms didn’t take us to a brand new park every day. We didn’t go to 5 different theme parks every summer and visit every zoo and museum before we turned 4. Kids don’t need to go to all these special places every single day. Give yourself a break. If you aren’t feeling up to the playground, play with them at home. If you aren’t in the mood to play with your kids, I get it, but do it anyway. When I’m in the midst of my PMDD (Oh yeah, I struggle with that too) I have no desire to play with my kids. I just want them to go away and I dream about how life would be with a nanny. But you know what? I get down on my hands and knees and I play anyway. If I don’t, they’ll drive me nuts and I’ll never finish dinner. But in the end, they are always happier for it, and it cheers me up a bit too. Even PMDD’s cranky face has to chill a bit after seeing my kids smile.
- Have a support system. Even if you only have people long distance, it’s still something. You need people around you supporting you, encouraging you, and listening when you need to blow off some steam. If no one knows about your condition, tell someone. I’ve suffered for 15 years with my depression and no one was around to help me through it because I hadn’t told anyone it was there. I hid it from the world and I honestly almost didn’t survive it. Now that I’ve got a few people close to me that know all about it, I have people watching out for me. Asking how I’ve been feeling. Offering to help. Letting me know they’re there and that it’s okay if I’m not okay.
- Which brings me here. It is okay if you are not okay! Keep going. Never ever give up. Know that you are loved, needed, and appreciated. But if you are not okay, you don’t have to hide it to make anyone else feel better. You don’t have to suffer in silence and there is no shame in seeking help. Remember how I said I suffered for 15 years before telling anyone my issues? That includes doctors. I just saw a doctor recently for the first time ever about my depression, and luckily she didn’t second guess me. She prescribed me Zoloft on the spot, and I’m two weeks into taking it. I’m still waiting to see if this is the right thing for me. But the point is that I tried everything else, and nothing was enough. I finally asked for help. Talking to a doctor or a therapist is not weak. It’s hard! It’s so so freaking difficult to talk about these things out loud and finding the strength to do it is something to admire.
Becoming a mom is a wonderful, powerful experience. It’s beautiful and sweet, frustrating and difficult. Add in a mental illness or chronic disease and it’s practically impossible. But there are more of us out there than you’d think. You are not alone. You can do this. And you are a good mom. Hell if you weren’t, you wouldn’t care enough to try to be better, right? Seriously, you’ve got this. I’ve got this. Our kids are teaching us and we will all be okay.
This past week has been depression awareness week and I bet, just like me, a whole bunch of people had no idea. We’ve got safety awareness for everything but bring up depression and anxiety and everyone gets awkward and silent. Including those of us suffering. When someone takes their own life, we call them selfish or say they’re taking the easy way out. I used to think the same thing, before my own mental health declined to the point where I could understand. Extreme sadness, anger, guilt, fear, all the emotions that can be described and more are so difficult when felt all at once, for no apparent reason.
But when you go days, weeks, months or God forbid years on autopilot, feeling completely numb… That’s when people give up. We are made to feel. We’ve got these big, beautiful, terrifying emotions that we cannot survive without. When you are living with depression, you put on a smile and a fake face around people out of self preservation. You need to express what’s going on but you’re terrified of actually doing it. So you fake it.
I’ve lived with this for almost 15 years. I’ve come out of it and felt fine plenty of times. But it always seems to come back. I had panic attacks for years, and just when I thought they had gone away for good, I came to understand that they had evolved, not disappeared. I had stopped hyperventilating, but my anxiety got worse and I would feel more and more overwhelmed until I would explode in an anger that just doesn’t fit my personality. I’ve had to leave social situations just because I felt too overwhelmed to be around so many people at once.
I’ve only been open about it over the past year because it’s been worse then it ever has been. I break down in tears almost daily, I get angry over the smallest things and I can’t find enough energy to accomplish anything. And the guilt that comes from my own emotions and reactions is debilitating. If I manage to leave the house for anything other than laundry or grocery shopping, I consider the day a success.
A bit more awareness for depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder won’t force those suffering to open up about it. But removing the stigmas surrounding mental illness can make the world a safer place to open up to. Maybe if more people understood the difference between myth and fact. Had empathy instead of judgement. And if mental illness was treated a bit more like physical illness. I’ve also lived my life in pain and despite the worst pain I’ve gone through, I’d choose that over depression any day.
Just a few weeks ago, I was at such a low point that I had a mental breakdown. Panic attack, depressive episode, whatever you’d like to call it. I tried everything I could think of to calm down, and nothing helped. So I took to my computer. Here’s the inside of my mind in the midst of this:
“Spiraling. It started before I knew it, an occasional drifting into space. Happening more frequently until I forget who I am, where I am, WHY I am. Temporarily of course. Reality always comes crashing back in. Not like reality is bad. My reality is actually pretty great. I’ve got a husband who loves me and the cutest kids in the world. I’ve got it great. My head doesn’t agree.
A concerned voice, “How are you doing? You were quiet this morning,” Was I? I hadn’t noticed. In my head, it’s never quiet. I guess I didn’t realize I hadn’t voiced anything all morning. That day came and went, getting a bit fuzzier as it went on. My husband, my light, made things glow a bit brighter for a few hours. Sleep, that wonderful restart to a new day, and a fast forward to. NOW.
Spiraling. Drowning, Suffocating. Hopeful. Doubtful. All desire and feeling slips away until a shell remains, and the shell doesn’t function well. The shell feeds the kids, changes diapers, makes dinner. The shell makes love and snuggles under the covers. The shell tries, but it can’t be real. The shell struggles to get up, eats too much and can’t exercise. The shell can’t concentrate, doesn’t care, doesn’t feel. The shell is cold; the shell is lonely. The shell is me.
The shell is not all I am. I am more than that, I just empty out sometimes. The rest of me is hidden somewhere, I only need to find it. I’ll come back when I do. Until then, the shell remains. I am broken but I am still here.”
But there is hope. God heals. He protects us, He strengthens us and He loves us through whatever stage or difficulty we’re going through. I’ve fallen away from God recently, and I find that whenever I do, I am vulnerable. I’m practically inviting my anxiety into decieving me again. I’m inviting the depression back into my life, because without God, I can’t seem to fight it. I’ve let too much dark in; it’s finally time for some light.
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31