I've began thinking a lot about my mental health and how it's waxed and waned over the years. I grow frustrated by so many things that surround mental health, including the stigma of it. Some people just don't understand what it means and I am almost thankful they don't, because that means they don't battle the same demons that I and many other people all over the world do.
I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, from the time I was little even. I remember worrying about things that a child shouldn't be worrying about, to the point of making myself sick. As I have gotten older, I feel as if those anxious fears have only been made worse by the demands of being a grownup in this fast paced, Pinterest perfect, keeping up with the Joneses world. Moving to Utah was pretty much the nail in the coffin for me, as I realized very early on that trying to keep up with some of the appearances would not be worth it, and so I literally gave zero fucks from that point on. It was liberating.
Now, when I say I just stopped caring, that doesn't mean I was able to let go of all those fears and anxieties. I wish that's how it worked. On the contrary, the anxiety intensified, the depression intensified, and everything felt so much harder. When Hannah was diagnosed with T1D and I began not sleeping at night, well, the issues were further exasperated, and it's been a slow downward spiral of self loathing, mania, and severe anxiety.
I am 34 years old and I have realized that to be a functioning person, meds have to be a part of my life. Just as Hannah has to inject insulin via her pump, that I purchase over the counter at a pharmacy, I too have to do the same to make sure I am around for my kids. This isn't just a phase or a fad for me. It's either take medication, or die. Those are my options.
It may seem easy to just throw open a bottle and start downing pills left and right, but it's not. Again, as with insulin, which is very much needed for life to continue, there are nasty side affects for Hannah, including death. Ironic, ain't it? The meds I am currently on have really been helping me to do the things in life that may seem completely normal and routine for others, such as shower, fix dinner for my family, make lunches for my kids to bring to school, wash laundry and make sure it's folded, clean bathrooms, keep my kitchen clean, etc. These are all things that a housewife should be able to do without thinking, but, for me, it doesn't work that way. The lack of sleep triggers some very dangerous things for me, and let's face it, I won't ever get a restful night's sleep until there is a cure for diabetes. Connor has been waking up more often at odd hours of the night and morning, so autism is part of the sleep issue right now as well. Think of the worst night of parenting that you can, where maybe multiple children were up puking their guts out, and you were too. No sleep, all night long, and constantly on guard waiting for the next kid to puke on you or themselves. Not fun, right? Well. That's almost every night of my life currently, aside from the puking part, because I am still sick, all the time. It's hard for me to continue to take care of Hannah when all I want to do is curl up and not move. When I look at myself in the mirror and convince myself that everyone would be better off without me, that's when I know it's time to seek help.
So I did.
I found a nurse practitioner that specializes in mental health for her patients. She has worked with mentally ill people for several years, has a good understanding of meds and their interactions with one another, and got a really good reading of me the first visit. I was put on an antidepressant that activates the fight or flight response, which in turn helps people to feel energized and able to get shit done. She put me on a mood stabilizer that has helped me experience less depressive moods, have less suicidal thoughts, and overall has given me back a little bit of joy. All of this sounds amazing, yes? So easy. Happiness in a bottle.
The antidepressant, that activates the fight or flight response, has doubled my anxiety. I go from 0-90 in about 3 seconds, with full on meltdowns happening over small things, like a stupid flat tire. I sit in my car sometimes and go from feeling fine to emotional over the tiniest of things, like Hannah's ability to live a healthy life. I was so thankful for it on her diaversary that I began feeling so overwhelmed and started crying in the pickup line at Jack and Connor's school. It happened in a split second. I went from fine and talking to Caroline, to full on sobbing in my car. The anxiety is so bad that I have had a hard time leaving my house, wanting to drive my van, or just being around people in public places. I prefer to stay home, but then I start to panic and wonder if I'm safe at home too. Do I need someone there with me all day? What if I were to just drop dead suddenly? What would happen to Caroline? Even typing these things out right now are making me shake. They are uncomfortable and irrational fears that I have that I can't make go away anymore. That's the price of taking this antidepressant for me.
The mood stabilizer makes me have upset stomach all day every day. This may be TMI, but, I've had to invest in a peri-bottle that they give you after having a baby, plus medicated wipes, so that I can deal with the pain associated with constant diarrhea. I can't walk into a store without having to run to the bathroom. I can't eat without feeling sick. The stomach issues are the least of my concern though. I've started getting hand tremors and blurred vision, which I already have because of my astigmatism, so I've started wearing my glasses again (I should have never stopped that). It also gives me all day heartburn some days, which I can't take Tum's for because it makes the stomach issues even worse. Yeah. I didn't think that could be possible, but, it is. There was talk yesterday of upping this medication to help offset the anxiety, but I told her I wasn't ready yet. The physical discomforts were enough for now and I needed to have time to get past it. She agreed and we will meet in 6 weeks to reassess the situation.
You see, I am damned if I do, and damned if I don't. This isn't a matter of just "not taking the pills". This isn't a matter of being fearful of side affects anymore, because the side affect of NOT taking the meds will be death. I have planned my suicide in my head before starting these meds. I have gone to therapy, been honest with my therapist, and now I am 100% honest with my doctor who is managing these meds for me. If I didn't think they were working in the slightest, I would have stopped them about a month ago. I told her yesterday that I hated that they were helping me function so well, because I despise the physical side affects I am experiencing now as a result.
I have a wonderful support system of friends that have saved my bacon more than a couple times these last couple weeks, once I realized the anxiety was heightened. I love them dearly for being here for me when I needed someone, and they know who they are.
So, what are the pros? Well. I am a human being again, a mother who is here for her kids, and has something to live for. Cons are obvious...physical discomfort in a couple forms, but it's a necessary evil that I must deal with at this time. I won't go back to the person I was pre-medication because she scared me. I knew that once I began being unable to talk myself away from the ledge simply for the fact that Hannah needed me to be there to take care of her, something was seriously not right. When I stopped feeling anything at all, I knew something was not right. When I began planning it out in my head, to the point that I needed to sell my 9mm to get it out of my house and away from myself, I knew.
It was time. No more living in fear of what people might think about my mental disorder. I had to be honest with myself, and part of that means I am honest with those around me. I won't make excuses or apologize any longer for who and what I am. You are not alone. If you are reading this and can find a sliver of hope knowing you too can get the help you need, then I am thankful. If you have considered suicide, know that I understand. Keep fighting. Don't let it win. If you need someone to talk to, contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or contact me.
Help is there, and sometimes it takes a while to find the right fit, be it meds or a doctor you can trust. It took me over a year to get to where I am today, but I am just glad that I did make it...
....even if I have become BFFs with every bathroom in every Target, Walmart, and Smith's in Utah County