It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged. I miss it. I don’t know if this will be the start of me getting back into the swing of things, or just a one off. But, I wanted to talk about something – about me, really – and hopefully share a piece of writing that’ll help others.
Over the last few months I’ve started to become more comfortable with talking about my mental health. I think part of that is the bloggers and educators that I’ve surrounded myself with since moving back to the US. Folks like JoEllen Notte and Crista Anne are so open about their mental health goings-on, and how they intersect with their personal and working lives, it’s really helped me sift through the layers of shame that I’ve had. That we all work in a similar field and have the same values also helps. So I’m ready to talk about what’s going on with me.
I come from a family that all have their own dealings in the mental health world. Two of my three brothers live with depression in various forms. My father is a functioning alcoholic that also takes antidepressants. My mother is a not-so-functioning alcoholic who I believe may be bipolar and sometimes takes antidepressants. If you follow me on Twitter, you may know she had a breakdown at Christmas time that pretty much shut down my whole family for about 6 weeks while we dealt with the fallout. She’s more stable now, back on her meds, but the eggshell walking is still there.
Then there’s me. The first time a doctor told me that I should really talk to someone about my mental health was when I was in my early 20s. I was in a job that I loved with coworkers that I hated, living with my parents, in a transatlantic long distance relationship and not coping well with many things. I was anxious all the time, to the point where my shaking was constant. I used Benedryl to get to sleep at night. I went to one of those cattle-call screenings where a computer asked me questions and spat out a report to who I assumed was a doctor. That started me on 20mg of Lexapro for the next several years.
When Em and I decided we wanted to start a family, I started the 9 month process of weaning off the Lexapro before starting the insemination process. It sucked. But, my mental health during my pregnancy was pretty stable. I had a really rough spell of postpartum depression and was about an inch away from asking to be put back on meds. But, I was able to push through it and for the last six years or so been medication-free.
Self employment has helped. I love the work I do, and the folks I do it for. The things that set off spells of anxiety and depression that I was facing in an office setting have pretty much disappeared with working for myself. I work with (for…with…for…I never know how to phrase it) a great company now and while there is pressure, it’s mostly my own doing. The healthy sort, though. But mental health wise, things have taken a downturn since we moved back to the US from the UK 18 months ago.
At first, it was a couple of times every other month or so. I’d have a really shitty day, I’d get angry, my chest would hurt, and I’d have trouble sleeping. I’ve have that fight-or-flight feeling. At one point, a few months ago, I had an anxiety attack so bad that I thought I could be having a heart attack – heart palpitations, pains in my chest, neck and arm, and stars in my eyes. Em took me to the ER and it was put down to a potassium deficiency. So in the last few months when I’ve been getting those same pains, I’ve been popping over-the-counter potassium supplements. Sometimes it helps, but it could be a placebo thing.
Then my Mom had her breakdown at Christmas, what was a few-times-a-month thing turned into a few-times-a-week thing, and in the last month, an every-other-day thing. I have body pain all the time. I can’t sleep, but I’m exhausted. Everything around me triggers an ‘I need to go curl up in a ball and hide from the world’ reaction. My nephews being loud makes me want to cry. My parents’ dogs barking sends me into a panic. I’m constantly apologizing to Em for things I don’t know why I’m apologizing for. My motivations for everything was gone – even things I knew I *had* to do. I had those thoughts that I’m still not ready to think out loud. Things are…were…are not going well.
But I didn’t want to go back on meds. I hated being on them – the side effects, the self-imposed shame, the ‘I don’t want to turn out like my Mom’. I was grateful when a conflict came up and I cancelled my annual physical because I didn’t want to do the depression screening that I knew would send up red flags. I told Em I was scared that the way things were going, I’d have to go on them. I tried.
But, I failed. At least the fight to go it sans medication.
Slowly, I started to become more OK with the possibility of getting back on meds. I missed my wife and son from my self-imposed bedroom exile. I started reading more of my peer’s blog posts about their own mental health dealings, and started to cut away some of that shame. I wanted to stop being in physical pain from always tensing my muscles. I wanted to stop hiding when I was crying.
I rescheduled my physical on Tuesday and had it this morning. I was honest on the mental health screening. I talked about the meds I used to be on, and what was going on with my body and my head. We made a decision as to how to move forward. I’m starting a new med for me, Celexa, as well as a take-it-when-you-need it med
that I can’t recall the name of at the moment (but I’ll update when I get the bottle later today) called Vistaril.
I feel defeated, but I also feel releaved.
To moving forward.
Filed under: The Body of Ruby
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