I knew one day I would sit to write all this down, but I really thought it might be years from now. At least six months. Not six weeks since things started looking up. Not just a few weeks since I really felt myself again. You need more time than that to recover, think things over, write with some healthy perspective. But something in the back of my mind keeps nagging me. Write it. I want to shove it aside, as I have for several days now, and tell it to come another day when more convenient. Like never. But there it is. That stupid little voice. Write it.
Honestly I have no idea how this is going to come out. Maybe it will make previous posts make more sense. Maybe it won't. Part of me feels like this will be freeing. Part of me feels like this is the worst idea ever. And part of me knows, somebody out there needs to hear this. Sometimes people struggle with something they don't even recognize until they hear someone else describe it. And depression isn't something people like to talk about in detail. I don't want to give you too much, but I don't want to lie either. In this case, holding some things back would indeed be to lie. If you are willing to sit here with me and read all about my shit, you deserve the truth.
I can't tell you when it began-began, depression that is, but I can tell you I have felt it looming over me many, many times in my life, from a very young age. I can't tell you what causes it, or how to fix it. I didn't even recognize it until this last year when suddenly I realized, Wait. Not everyone feels this way? Last fall I felt my "winter blues" coming on. Really it's much worse than just being down. It feels more like dying. I felt it and it was upsetting, but also familiar. I told myself I wouldn't give in, I would fight it harder. I got all kinds of advice. I tried most of it. But slowly I felt the life being sucked out of me. I thought I was ok, because I was capable of acting ok. Then it got worse. There were days when I couldn't leave my house simply because it was too overwhelming to decide what to wear or where to go. I was SO overwhelmed. All the time. About silly every day things. I couldn't make decisions. Ask me what's for dinner and I might cry. Or scream at you. I lost my temper easily. I had no patience for my husband, my children, or myself. I felt angry all the time. When I wasn't angry I was sad.
Then the thoughts began. I would feel so overwhelmed, so heavy, so dead, I would just lay on the couch. Turn the TV on for Aiden, put some toys down for Gabriel, and just lay there. In my head all I could see were images of me ending my life. All different kind of ways. It didn't scare me because it felt normal. If you asked me, I would say I didn't want to die, I just didn't want to live. And it really was that simple.
Whenever I tried to talk to anyone about how hard things were (images aside), I was told this was normal. I am a mom of young children, it's a challenging time of life, etc. "Everyone goes through this... don't be so hard on yourself." I was told more times than I can count. So I believed it and continued on. When things began to get better and I got the energy, I began seeing a counselor. It was good at first. I felt like I was making progress and figuring things out. My counselor told me the same thing, this is normal, you're just too hard on yourself. It's true, I believe a lot of lies about myself. In fact, I have spent most of my life hating myself. It seems to be an unending battle for me.
Then things got worse. I couldn't take care of my kids. I would call Aaron and beg him to come home from work, afraid of myself. When he couldn't make it home fast enough one day I decided to drink some wine in hopes of calming down. Before I knew it I had finished the entire bottle in less than ten minutes. By the time Aaron got home I could hardly walk. I laid down, hoping to pass out, but soon I felt like I couldn't breathe. Then I really couldn't breathe. I tried to call out to Aaron, but I could barely make a sound besides my efforts to breathe. When Aaron walked in the room he saw me gasping for air, my eyes bulging, my limbs so oxygen deprived they were curled up and unable to move. He held me and tried to calm me down as he called 911. I thought for sure I was dying.
Family took turns taking the kids. I was hospitalized again for another severe panic attack that was so scary I thought if it didn't kill me, I'd kill myself just to make it stop. That time I was kept over night, but I was still in denial of how bad things were. Unfortunately, the hospital staff didn't know how to handle me. I was quiet, polite, kind. The nurses asked me, "You don't really want to hurt yourself, right?" The doctors told me, "You're just to hard on yourself. Learn to give yourself a pat on the back." I left feeling defeated. Hopeless.
Hospital visits aside, it took me 6 weeks to get in to see an actual psychiatrist. They gave me drugs to help with the anxiety and the mood swings (I remember thinking mood swings??). I took them religiously. Even when I wanted to give up, I wanted to survive. At first the meds seemed to help, but then I realized it was just another pattern. Up for a couple weeks, then crash again. Each time I crashed it was harder and darker than the time before. I began to take extra xanax just to help me get through each day. Each day it became more and more of a temptation to down the whole lot with a bottle of wine. I tried to get in touch with my therapist, never heard back. Tried to set up appointments in Charlotte. It all felt so difficult and if I couldn't get through the first time, or if they couldn't see me right away, or if they didn't call back, it was just further hopelessness. At this point I should have been admitted, but I wouldn't tell anyone how bad it was because I didn't want to be admitted. I found myself planning how I would "do it" each day if I felt I couldn't go on any longer. It was no longer just images replaying in my head, but actual planning out. Getting someone to take care of the kids, some way I could get away, and then how I would end my life.
After several weeks of this, things finally started to look up again. We were about to move into our new house and I felt this sudden motivation to get better. Of course, now looking back, I can see the only reason I had any motivation to try to get better again was because I was in fact getting better. And by getting better, I simply mean, a good period was coming again. It was disappointing when I ran out of xanax, and being a controlled substance, I was not prescribed any more. I had never taken anything like xanax before and had not been warned by the doctor to wean myself off it, or that I would have withdrawals. So withdrawals began. I already didn't feel like I could handle stress when I was on xanax, much less suddenly having to quit cold turkey after months of taking it. The next week involved almost constant panic, nausea, dry heaving, headaches, sore muscles and joints, a general feeling of losing my mind. I tried to call my psychiatrist several times and couldn't get through to them and no one would call me back. I would wake up in the night unable to breathe, terrified, formulating plans on how I could get xanax, even by illegal means. I didn't care, I just needed it to stop.
I got in to see a new psychiatrist in Charlotte who prescribed me a new medication. I was hesitant because I didn't feel like he had diagnosed me correctly. I mean how do you decide exactly what's wrong with me after talking to me for a total of 10 minutes, and cutting me off every time I get the slightest "detailed" about any one thing? But I was also desperate, so I tried it anyway. Even at it's lowest dose the medication was too strong. First I would feel like I was drunk, then 45 minutes later it would be difficult to breathe and swallow. Both nights I took it I was unable to sleep and if I did drift off I would wake up every few minutes gasping and completely panicked. My mom would try to talk me through it and Aaron would take me on walks at ungodly hours in efforts to calm me. The first night I thought it was just panic attacks, but by the second night I could tell it was directly correlated with the drug. So I called the doctor right away and told them I was worried I was having an allergic reaction to the medicine. No one called me back. I called again the next day. No one called me back. When I finally got in touch with someone, they told me they couldn't see me until the following week. By this point I was pretty frustrated, and was so tired of feeling panicked and being afraid of having anxiety attacks I didn't think I would even make it to the next week. Thankfully I did, albeit miserably. When I finally got to see the doctor and I told him what had happened he told me to try taking half a dose. I told him I'm sorry but I could never make myself take that medication again. He looked annoyed and told me he really thought I should. I told him I did not think it was right for me, and as silly as it may sound to him, I was simply too scared to go through that kind of anxiety attack again. Then he said, "You realize anxiety attacks won't kill you, right?"
I left his office in tears, so terrified of taking the meds, but feeling as if I had no choice. The nurse stopped me in the hall and asked me what happened. When I told him, he pulled me aside and whispered, "Listen, in the end, it's your choice." That was all I needed to hear. The receptionist saw my red, blotchy, tear-stained face and asked me if I had a bad visit. She pulled me aside and I told her what had happened. She immediately told me she would get me an appointment with a new doctor.
The next few weeks were a process. It took about 3 weeks for me to see the new psychiatrist, and during that time I slowly felt more and more like myself. When I finally met with the new doctor we met by TV screen, as she was in Durham, even still she was 100% better than the last two psychiatrists I had seen. She asked my story, didn't rush me or act annoyed if I gave too much detail, in fact she asked for more details. She asked me what I wanted to do medication-wise. It actually felt weird to have a doctor who seemed to care.
This brings me to where I am now. I feel back to "normal," but I also feel like I'll never really be the same. In a way I lost a part of myself; an innocence, a naivety about life. But I also feel like I've gained something, like a cover has been removed from my eyes and my heart. I am experiencing life in a new way. I see the world differently, I see God differently, and I see people differently--self included. Is it worth it? I think so. Regardless, this is my life. I am not really trying to get anyone to understand or even trying make sense of it it all myself. I'm just trying to live honestly, taking each day as it comes. Trusting God to always be faithful in spite of it all.