This day is actually more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks, being an advocate for mental health, supporting people with mental illness. I just didn’t think that reading so many people’s stories would hit me so hard. I’ve found myself very distracted today. Staring off into space a lot. Taking deep, cleansing breaths, staving off the anxiety. I even went out to run errands so I could get some fresh air. I can’t focus. Can’t do my work. Why? Because it’s a lot to take in. It’s a lot to remember. It’s a lot to realize how many people out there are suffering.
Ever since I was “officially diagnosed” almost 7 years ago, I have been fairly honest and outspoken about my journey. I joke about it a lot with my friends and family, because that’s my personality. I like to joke. I had forgotten how to joke for a while… Anyway, I guess we should start at the beginning.
I had always known that I was a bit different than my family and friends. I was a “follower”. Always worried about what other people thought about me. I suffered from extremely low confidence (and still do). I wanted to be popular, but blend in with the walls at the same time. I had amazing friends but never felt like I fit in. I wasn’t smart, I wasn’t athletic, I just… was. I struggled with my weight. I cried a lot, but I just thought that was teenage angst. I drank a lot too. The weekend binge drinking started in high school and continued into my 30’s. I moved apartments, I changed jobs, I moved cities and even countries. I was always looking. I was always searching. But for what? For love? For some kind of validation that would make me feel “good”?
Don’t get me wrong, my family is friggin amazing! Always have been. They are my biggest supporters. They love me with all their hearts and I love them right back. I had a great upbringing, I really did. I will tell you that mental illness runs on both sides of my family, but that’s their stories to tell. My immediate family is very close even though geographically we are quite far apart. My siblings are the best brother and sister that a gal could ever ask for. My parents are still together after over 55 years! And my friends… don’t even get me started. They are completely amaze-balls! My husband is my rock. My kids are my life. My village is top notch!
So, why did I feel so alone all the time? Why did I cry all the time? Why was I always looking to feel validated? Why did I change jobs constantly? Why was I always searching for the “perfect love”? Why do I STILL find myself searching endlessly for these same things? What am I missing when I have everything?
Turns out I’m not missing anything. I have everything I’ve ever wanted and much, much more than I need. What I do have is Depression, Anxiety and mild OCD (my family and I have a good laugh about that last one). In a nutshell, my brain likes to play tricks on me. That bastard.
After having my son in 2009, I suffered from postpartum depression (PPD). All the years of not understanding my brain finally came to a head. I was miserable. I cried constantly. Every day, multiple times a day. I felt heavy. That’s the best way for me to describe it… heavy. I felt like I couldn’t stand completely upright because of the constant heaviness I felt. I felt like Pigpen from Charlie Brown, except the cloud above my head was sadness not dirt.
I never wanted to hurt myself or my son, but I was convinced that my new baby boy and my husband were much better off without me. I was weighing them down. I was a horrible mother and wife. They would be so much better off without me. I fought every, single day to stay. Just one more day I’d keep telling myself. One more day. You can do it. Get through one more day. Every night, I would lay in bed thinking up my escape plan. Where would I go? How would I get there? Should I leave them a note and explain? No, they’d be better off not knowing. Let me get Sam off breastfeeding (which I was “failing” at btw), and then I can go. Once Sam is on a bottle, I can go. Just one more day.
My brain didn’t stop… which is interesting because my memory was gone. I couldn’t remember anything from my childhood, my teenage years, nothing. No one tells you that your memory goes when you’re depressed.
It was during a routine baby wellness check for Sam that my Nurse Practitioner looked directly in my eyes, put her hands on my shoulders and asked me how I was doing. ” I’m great!”, I said and then immediately started to cry. I use the term cry very loosely. I’m pretty sure I was hysterical and I’m eternally grateful that she didn’t commit me right then and there. All I remember is that I could barely string a sentence together and I blubbered something about “one more day” and needing a shower and a plane ticket. That was the beginning of my “awareness journey”, as I like to call it.
We talked. I went waayyyy over my half hour appointment time, but she didn’t care. We talked. I blubbered. She handed me tissues. She offered medication, I turned it down. I wanted to try “other methods” first. It started with just talking, her and I, on a regular basis. She would actually call me on the phone to see how I was doing (I told you my village is amazing). My journey led me to yoga, mindfulness and meditation (which I continue to struggle with, but keep at it).
Fast-forward to a year and a half ago and I was still really struggling. I wanted out of my marriage, out of being a mom, out of being anything with any responsibility for anyone or anything. It was too much. I just wanted to be somewhere no one knew me and just be alone. The responsibilities of caring for people and my family depending on me… it was too much. One day I noticed that I said to myself “just one more day”… I immediately called my doctor and she saw me in right away. I had cried every day for a full year. Every. Day. It was time to get the help I really needed.
That day I walked away with a prescription, an appointment with a Psychiatrist, and a lot of fear. But at this point I wanted to save my marriage, save my family… and save me. I just wanted to feel real happiness again. I wanted to really laugh. I wanted to enjoy being with my husband again. I wanted to enjoy my kids, my family and my friends. I wanted to enjoy life… and I wanted to enjoy living that life.
After 3 days of feeling like absolute crap (I was told some meds will do that to you at first), I actually started to feel noticeably “better”. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I started to feel “lighter”, the “fogginess” was lifting. I didn’t cry. I didn’t even feel like I wanted to cry. I actually smiled a real smile because I didn’t want to cry. Ironic right? I felt BETTER! Wow, who knew I could feel this good!
This is when I finally opened up about my struggle. I told my husband. I mean REALLY told my husband. Everything. It was scary. It was liberating. Kudos to my hubby for sticking with me all this time. My son knows a little bit, but not too much for his 7 y/o brain to handle. THIS is the real love I had been aimlessly searching for all my life. My family, my friends, I started sharing it around because who knows, maybe someone else out there is struggling too.
I still have bad days, and some very bad days (those are the days I allow myself to stay in bed), but I’m here and I’m fighting. And most of my days are good. And some are very, very good. I have my monthly appointment with my Psychiatrist. I continue to learn. I am here. I am living. And I am enjoying living.
Please, if you feel sad, helpless, hopeless, tired of life, please reach out and talk to someone. Talking really does help.
I don’t know if this blog post even makes sense to most people, but please know that you are not alone. I am here. I am here for you.