This month I started my first round of anti-depressants. This may come as a surprise to some of my family and friends, but in hindsight, it all makes sense. In 2008 I first noticed a dip in my energy levels, and several changes happening with my body.
I went to an OBGYN to see what the situation was and if she could help. This was my first and last visit with her. At the end of my visit she prescribed me a low dose anti-depressant claiming she was excited because it was the first one she could prescribe without having to give me a referral to a psychiatrist. She said if it didn’t work, she would have to refer me so I could get a stronger dose.
That night I took the meds along with some antibiotics. My body had a violent reaction. It felt like I was coming off of a drug rather than trying to start something to make me feel better. My body shook but I wasn’t cold. I had to quietly rock myself back and forth on the couch to stave off the volatile queasiness in my stomach while my family played a board game in the background.
The next morning my body rejected the pill. As I slept through the night and I slipped into unconsciousness I could no longer rock myself back and forth. Upon waking up, everything bubbled up inside of me. To paraphrase Robin Williams it was as if my stomach had said to it’s contents, “Alright, everybody out, there are only two exits.” So out everything came. When I could finally open my eyes, there in the wretched former contents of my stomach lied the pill I had swallowed the night before. The coating was gone, but the pill remained.
This started my fear of prescription medicines.
At that particular point in time, I finally found a doctor who figured out I had low T-4 hormones in my thyroid. As it turns out, having low thyroid hormones can also cause you to go into depression. This was the first doctor who listened to me and what I had to say. As an added bonus, she was also the one to discover I had two sizable tumors on my thyroid glands as well.
For a while, the new thyroid medicines worked. Then slowly the energy drop came, I had the bouts of feeling horrible, and inevitably, as a result of the depression, it felt as if I only had a few people in my life who understood what I was going through.
Later on as I was going through a divorce a friend introduced me to boxing. Boxing was a saving grace for a while. It helped me channel my anger and frustrations that came with the aftermath, however it didn’t completely help me cope or deal with life. No matter what you’re going through, you can only punch a bag so many times and exercise so many times before all the problems finally work their way out and you are a blubbering mess in a tightly curled up ball on your couch at 3:00 in the morning.
I tried kidding myself. I tried telling myself that I just had to deal with issues. I just had to get through it, push through and it will all be fine. Eventually I completely shut down and became anti-social. I quit talking to friends who had initially helped me through my first mess and then for some reason anxiety developed and there I was again, curled up in a ball on the hand-me- down forest green couch which crawled out of my child hood and into my adult hood with me.
I was in denial it was depression.
I had a few doctors try to tell me I was clinically depressed but refused to believe them. So I moved back home. I moved where it was safe and not a whole lot of people I grew up with knew everything I had been through. They knew the gist, but they didn’t know when I was married I was in denial about disguising my drinking as celebratory. They didn’t know my binging on the hard liquor was my realization toward the end of the marriage that everything about it had been crumbling at it’s base from the beginning. (By my own admission, it takes two to make a marriage and in no way am I saying I’m perfect and am not at fault with some things.) They didn’t know the hazy wash of alcohol over my brain cells meant I didn’t have to deal with something for an hour, or two, or if it was New Year’s Eve a solid possible eight hours followed by a 24 hour migraine. If my divorce was the earthquake, then the drinking was the tremors. They didn’t know I felt isolated even though I was very much loved by people at my former job. They didn’t know that even though I still had family in the big city that I loved, for some reason I couldn’t admit to them what I was going through. I was ashamed. I was ashamed my life had turned out the way that it had. I felt like a huge disappointment to everyone in the big city.
So, I moved home.
After moving home, my friends from childhood and my parents helped bolster me back up. My spirits became raised and even though I was geographically distant from my friends and family in the big city, my communications with them became stronger and they slowly understood the purpose for moving away, self preservation.
After I moved home, a slew of other problems had started to take place. The job I was offered was now on the line due to unforeseen circumstances, so I immediately started searching for another job( which I still have! ). About a month after getting the job, my Grandfather passed away, the month after that one of my best friends passed away. Things were looking pretty grim. It was as if life had sucker punched me, waited for me to fall, and then kicked me in the stomach while I was lying on the ground.
For a short time life became good again, things were going well at work, I started dating my husband and shortly after we were married, my brain went berserk. Old things crept up. I started struggling with thought processes again. As I sat there, I could pin point all of the good things going right with my life, yet if a Freight Liner ran me over or a T.V. fell on my head or something, for some reason it seemed like that would be the better option, and my husband and family would be better off without me in their lives. I have no explanation for feeling this way.
Again I was ashamed.
It took me months before finally breaking into tears and admitting to my parents what was going through my head and that running in front of a truck was going to feel better than anything that had passed through my mind. Then as life would have it, my brain started playing tricks on me. It started feeling better.
The dark thoughts went away but were replaced by restless sleep, phantom aches and pains in the body.
The desire was there in my heart to go out, do my boxing routine, do the laundry, clean the house, but my mind had other plans. My mind demanded that I be tired and in pain 16 hours out of the day. It demanded I felt as lousy getting out of the bed, as lousy I had crawled into it.
Last month, my mother was perusing a website for a family member and stumbled across some medical information. All my symptoms sounded like Fibromyalgia. As a shot in the dark, I was desperate to do anything to feel better. I was willing to do anything to return back to the bubbly woman my husband fell in love with enough to marry her. I was desperate to be the friend my besties remembered who was the one you could always count on to make them smile when they were going through a tough time. I wanted to be able to focus on others rather than focusing on myself.
I made and went to the appointment last month. The doctor listened. She agreed it could be Fibromyalgia, however Fibromyalgia can go hand in hand with depression. The short version of the long story, she prescribed me anti-depressants. At first, I was dumbfounded. Even after I had told her the story of the pill coming out the same way it went in, she still suggested taking the medicine I had been dreading.
Reluctantly that night I took the pill.
It didn’t come up.
What did come up was three short rages of emotions, one in which my husband for the first time saw all the rage and anger that needed to work its way to the surface. The only thing he could do (or anyone could do) in that moment was stand in the kitchen and witness me screaming and cursing profanities at nothing particular while kicking a sandal I had just tripped on because I thought it had spited me. (For people who don’t know me, cursing is not my normal Modus Operandi.)
The next emotion came in the car when I called my doctor’s nurse back after she left a message the night before at her urging. She said the doctor couldn’t get the referral to the neurologist. We decided to wait a month and see how the medicine was working and if the Anit-depressants would help things in the meantime. After I got off the phone my eyes started leaking and I couldn’t control it. I was STILL in denial it was depression and thought my doctor was making excuses why I couldn’t see a neurologist. Then my husband had to talk me down. He understood all along what was going on but I didn’t.
Another small burst of tears came later in the day, and then I was done.
(By the way, did I mention all of this happened on his birthday?) This is a true testament to his character, he understands what it is like to feel pent up anger and rage and not know why. He understands that sometimes you have to get things out in order to feel better. He understood me…he too suffers from depression. I am not the type of person who would normally do an outburst on someone’s birthday and cause them distress. He knew that. I knew that and still couldn’t figure it out, but he already had.
Then I realized shortly thereafter, I was an Ogre. By that I am referencing the beloved children’s book and movie character Shrek who had many metaphorical layers
. Once the pain started fading, I had a jovial conversation with my Mom and then separately with my Husband, they both said the same thing. With this medicine, there will be layers removed that have been built up over time. No matter what caused it, whether it was self imposed or caused by things in life, it will just take time, and for once I laughed during conversation. Luckily, I have people in my life now I am not afraid to show what lies beneath those layers. They understand I am not always the happy-go-lucky person everyone used to think I was. I try to be that person, I want to be that person, but it is going to be a while in getting back to that person who is no longer jaded by life or a victim to her own brain chemistry.
Once I quit feeling ashamed of my emotions and what I had gone through and admitted to myself not everyone can be an over-achiever, I realized being an Ogre wasn’t such a bad thing. If being an Ogre meant having layers, then that meant sharing similarities to other wonderful things like, Onions, or Parfaits.
What have you gone through that you have had a hard time admitting to yourself you needed help? How did you go about getting help?