It's about to get serious up in here, y'all! Super personal, and probably very long.
Today, something really hit me and I wanted to share it because I'm not sure how much I've really talked about this with much candor. I had an “aha moment” and it happened while in the waiting room of my psychiatrist and therapists office.
I have a major history of depression. And on top of that some whopping anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). When I was 10, I was sent to a child psychologist where we would play the board game “Sorry” and I suppose I would talk about my thoughts. As a 14-year old-barely-a-teenager, I was on my first antidepressant because I had suicidal thoughts. I really hated myself, and remember playing with a utility knife I kept in my closet wondering if it was sharp enough to slice through my wrists. I wondered if my mom's multiple migraine medications would be strong enough to do harm.
I promptly gained about 80 MORE pounds on my already-plump frame after starting anti-depressants. Unfortunately, no one put the association together about the weight gain and the particular anti-depressant I was on. I felt numb. If I got emotional, I was asked “did you take your medicine today?” which would piss me off even more.
In college, I stayed on anti-depressants until my senior year when I weaned off of them. Upon graduation, I gained another 150+ pounds – a mixture of my food addiction and deep depression.
Two years later when I went back to grad school (over 100 pounds lighter after a year of no carbs), I had a lot of family drama and had to bring my mom from Georgia to Kentucky to put her in a nursing home before she was 50. Enter University health care and a resident psychiatrist who worked with me as I tried 4 different combinations of psychiatric medications while I tried not to completely melt down under the pressures of a dying mom, trying to navigate the Medicaid system and maintain a decent GPA while trying to get my MBA in 1 year. We finally found a combo of an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicine that kept me stable enough to weather the times, and I don't know how I would have made it through that time period without the help of those medications and that psychiatrist at the University health center.
Since then, my depression and anxiety has fluctuated at different levels. And have I mentioned I'm a chronic insomniac? Throw that on the fire as well. Oh, and gaining back 150 pounds due to more uncontrolled depression and even worse food addiction was just AWESOME (did you catch the sarcasm)?
Back in October 2010, I had enough. I was still partly on the same medication that I was on when my mom died, and it wasn't working very well. I took it out of habit and didn't and ever get regular therapy to start dealing with the root of the cause. I was having panic attacks, deep mood swings, and out-of-control insomnia. After making such weight loss progress, I finally realized I couldn't accept these things and sought out help. I fought with my insurance company to find both a psychiatrist (who can prescribe meds) and a therapist (uh, who does therapy) so I could finally start to tackle both sides. Incidentally, trying to find practitioners I both LIKED and that took my insurance gave me a panic attack also. I ended up having to go with a therapist who does take my insurance while my psychiatric nurse practitioner does not.
Since I started seeing these folks, I have been on 4 additional combinations of medications as well as navigated through negative self-talk, family matters and un-realistic fears causing anxiety. Has it been fun? Honestly- no.
Today sitting in the waiting room, however, I started to think about what in the world I would talk to the therapist about. The depression, anxiety and insomnia has gone to such a low level that the little daily stressors that would previously send me into a tailspin are laughable now. I am getting so much more sleep (although I tend to want to write throughout the night), and I wake up not feeling like a zombie.
While I was in session with the nurse practitioner while we reviewed my progress on my medications, the therapist had called in really sick and couldn't see me. It was then that I realized how much better I've gotten. Do I still have issues? ABSOLUTELY. But am I in a much better place where I feel like I can control these issues? Without a doubt.
So why do I share this long-winded saga? I wanted to let people know:
- If you suffer from anxiety, depression and/or insomnia, you are not alone
- If you feel like your health attempts would be strengthened by psychiatric help, please pursue those options
- Do not feel shame if you have to take medication to control your symptoms. For years I hid the fact that I was on medications for “mental issues.” Today though, I know that they are essential to helping me maintain a “normal” lifestyle uninhibited by deep depression and crippling anxiety
- Do not be afraid to ask for help. I even sent people on Twitter messages asking for therapist suggestions. Reach out to whomever you need to in order to find resources for help.
- If you do not find a therapist that you click with, pursue others. You must be 100% comfortable in order to be able to open up and benefit from the sessions
- If you have feelings of hopelessness or that you may harm yourself or others, seek immediate attention by medical personnel
These are life-long issues for me that I will have to continually monitor. There is no easy cure. Today, however, I realized how much sweeter this journey is becoming now that my mind isn't dragging my body down as much.
Want to read some past posts half-way addressing the mental issues?