My Personal Mental Health Journey

Part of me doesn’t want to post this. The other part is encouraging the share, as I’ve done it in the past and witnessed the impact words had on a community of people. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and through reading and relating to others honesty I feel vulnerable, yet responsible, to share.

I have been very open about my struggles with depression and anxiety, and have openly shared that I have been on medication and seen a therapist in caring for my overall health for several years now. Six months ago I went to pick up medicine and it was suggested that my medications were at a suspiciously high level. I was already weary of the professional I was seeing, so I decided to switch psychiatrists to get a second opinion and headed to Dallas. I picked a top rated group and after many forms and a lengthy consultation was told I most likely had Bipolar Type II. A large part of me felt relieved, having a direct diagnosis gave me hope, I thought with knowledge I had a way to tackle my issues. I wasn’t experiencing anything new, but antidepressants have aided my mental health, but never left me feeling completely “normal”. I was educated about the disorder, and we made a plan to wean off antidepressants and onto a mood stabilizer in order to alleviate more symptoms and more effectively control the disease.

For three months I worked to come off a potent antidepressant (it caused severe withdrawal symptoms causing me to substitute seizure medication to help my body cope). The shaking and dizzy spells caused daily functioning to become difficult, but I had hope the new medication would kick in and save the day.  September came and my brain chemistry changed, a new season hit and things started to go completely dark.

Medication was not improving my symptoms and all of the sudden I felt daily fatigue, lost interest in things, and started to have a difficult time concentrating and functioning. Monthly I was checking in with my doctor and updating her with the downward progress. I insisted the mood stabilizers were not effective and remained honest about the downward slide I felt I was quickly experiencing. After several discouraging months with several tried and failed medications, she decided to pass me off to another doctor in her practice.  This doctor and I ran genetic testing, reviewed more of my past health, and took a hard look at the failure of the changes. She determined I was in fact not Bipolar, but struggled with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). We cut the mood stabilizers and after testing three new antidepressants failing to kick the funk, I ended up back on my original medication.

That’s the general doctor and health piece. The personal piece is more difficult to write. I have struggled with discontentment and depression for several years, dating back to starting a family. Doctors have chalked it up to changing hormones, trauma, family history, and plain genetics. I was able to admit I had had challenges in my 20’s decade, but wasn’t convinced they were largely contributing to the discouragement I was feeling. After all, I have a beautiful family, stable marriage, and a job I love. Discontentment was something I had felt before, but I was unprepared for the cloud of hopelessness I was about to experience. The depression that started this fall was significantly different. I felt defeated, self-conscious, tired, angry, and hopeless. Each hope of new medication was followed by emotional suffering when no improvement showed up. I was on a downward spiral and although I could see my beautiful and privileged life, I had no desire to get up and live it every day.

I have used therapy for my health for 8 years, so it’s safe to say I have plenty of emotional-social coping skills in my toolbox. I was implementing what I could. Exercise, eating well, getting out, doing things for myself, not isolating, using positive affirmations and staying off social media, asking for helps and taking breaks. Nothing was helping. I could feel the chemical imbalance in my brain, but had no grasp on how to fix it. Not only did things feel difficult, they felt impossible. I was sobbing daily, angry that I was fighting something as trivial as my own mental health. I have had medical issues, but they felt controllable. And what pieces I couldn’t control weren’t my fault. You don’t blame a diabetic for having diabetes. This felt like something I should be able to fix, and I continued to beat myself up. I have high expectations of myself naturally, but the narrative I was putting on myself was full of self-hatred. I felt lazy, useless, and helpless. I worried my kids would notice me struggling, and prayed angry at God for undeservingly giving them a mom who couldn’t cope while secretly worrying one day they would suffer too.

I have learned a lot in these six months. I have researched, studied, found support groups, and been to group and individual therapy, and feel like I’m just now leveling out. It’s been six weeks since I got back on my original medication; the only one out of 10 I’ve tried that has provided relief. I have since seen another new psychiatrist in order to confirm my depression and anxiety diagnosis and treatment plan, and although I am not 100%, I feel the best I have since April. I am studying a new medication for treatment resistant depression, and we are currently weighing the options of this commitment.

I’m still frustrated with the journey. Confused why that was my fork in the road and still wrapping my head around the intensity of the struggle. There were months I was convinced it wouldn’t pass. Things I said and felt that break my heart to relive. I have learned a lot about mental health; the stigmas associated with it, the unfortunate guessing game most of it is. How far we have medically come, but how incredibly long we have to go. I have met some beautiful people along the way. I have read the numbers, seen the heart breaking statistics, and felt the reality of what hopelessness can do to a person’s life and soul. I faced the reality of how debilitating mental health can be, and felt weighed down by the delusion that only I suffered with that loneliness.

I spent three years blogging, sharing our life in hopes that others could benefit from reading and relating, just as I have with others stories and words. The last six months I couldn’t speak. Fear of judgment, misunderstanding, and negative fallout led to my isolation and withdrawal. Honesty has cost me loss before, and it created a spirit of panic that held me back.

I want to advocate for all areas of health, even the ones that are difficult to talk about. It’s what I feel called to do. Mental health is important to me and I am determined to use my lessons to make a difference. One of the most encouraging things I have stumbled upon is how large our community spreads. The community of togetherness. Awareness that others struggled too, and support I received from others gave me the courage to continue advocating for myself. And while I continue to work on improving myself, I will strive to give it back to others in any way I can.

If you are interested in education or support, this is a website that has provided a solid ground:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

4 thoughts on “My Personal Mental Health Journey

  1. Kelsie schiessler December 4, 2019 — 5:11 am

    Kudos, Alex! You’re so brave and tough! Great words and I hope and pray that you can continue to keep kicking depression/anxiety’s butt! Unfortunately, so many people deal with this same thing these days! I’m so glad you’re sharing your story! Much love!

    Like

  2. It’s ok to be beautifully broken. The first step to healing is speaking your truth. Thank you for sharing.

    I to struggle , isolate, anger, cry. I too had been on medication for years. One day I just didn’t go pick them up. For two maybe three months I was off. For the first time in years … I felt things , really felt. I wasn’t numb. However, this was to my own demise.
    Now I currently am on week two back on medication. Coming out of the dark. I can see the beauty in things again.
    No crippling panic attacks ,sleepless nights, mind racing. My dads mother suffered from depression it has always been fear to get lost as she did.
    By the Grace of God & self evaluation with medication I am staying in check.

    Like

  3. I have anxiety and depression. Finding what helps is very difficult. I stopped taking medication for the same reason. I felt worse and shaky.

    Like

  4. Thank you for always being honest, and so brave. You give us so much, I wish we could return the favor. Provide relief and inspiration thru words, and smiles every day, like you do for us. When I read these things, it makes me feel like I’m not alone. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind, and it’s very scary. I want you to know, I have felt that abyss, and have fought it my whole life. But it does get easier. Sometimes I don’t even notice when I panic anymore. Eventually, you will have processed every scary thought possible, and experienced every situation, and there will be nothing new left to fear. It doesn’t go away completely, but it becomes familiar, and less scary. Recently, I had a terrible anxiety attack in public, and have been isolating, and withdrawing more and more. I feel not worthy of peoples help, and want to wander off into the woods, and hope nobody notices. Then someone opens their heart in a blog, and shows us we’re not alone, and I get up, and start again. After I read this last week, I told some coworkers that I have anxiety for the first time in my life. I have been hiding it for so many years, and have never told anybody. I almost panicked when I said it, but afterwards, it was a relief to just be open, and admit that I’m not perfect. I am grateful, and I promise to face another fear this week, get out more, and try not to isolate as much, in honor of you. Please continue to do the same for us too. This town loves you, and needs you. Thanks for always being there for us. And we are here for you.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Michelle Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close