Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mental Health Awareness Day--my story

This Thursday October 10th is Mental Health Awareness Day, so in honor of that I have decided to share my story in hopes of raising awareness on an issue that is not only important, but very very overlooked.

I have been battling depression and severe anxiety for some time now.  For those who know me, even very well, they would probably not expect to learn something like this about me.  I am, for the most part, upbeat, happy, and overall fun to be around.  It is hard to keep that persona up sometimes, but I have always kept this quiet because for a long time I was ashamed.  Now I realize that it is nothing to be ashamed of, it affects millions of people, many of them do not seek help in hopes it will just "go away".  So even if my story only influences ONE person to talk to their doctor, friend, family member, or whatever then this post has done myself justice.

In March of 2010 I gave birth to my second child.  He was born a little early but had fluid in his lungs so he was placed in the NICU for five days.  It had been the second time a child I gave birth to was not healthy enough to come home with me.  I was devastated and blamed myself, even though there was nothing I could have done differently.  When we finally came home, I didn't feel like myself.  At the time I attributed it to changing hormones and maybe a small case of he "baby blues".  I loved my baby boy but I started noticing that I was becoming increasingly annoyed when he would cry, to the point that I didn't even really want to be around him.  I kept making excuses for myself, since I was breastfeeding I was basically his caretaker 24/7, except for the occasional time I would pump a bottle so my husband could feed him.  As every day went by I was getting worse.  I didn't want to see people, I wanted to sit in the house and do nothing.  I wasn't keeping up with the house, taking care of the kids seemed like a huge chore and I would cringe every time they needed me for something.  In December I got a night working graveyard and while I was there I loved it.  A part of me felt guilty for being happy to be away from my family, but it was true.  I felt important when I was working.  I had a LIFE outside of my house for the first time since high school.  After I started working I started to spiral out of control.  There were days that after getting off of work I would look at the freeway and think about just driving away somewhere and never going home again.  The thought made me feel happy and relieved.  For no reason I wanted to leave my husband and my kids behind and just pretend they didn't exist. One morning I after work I was in the left turn lane to get on the 15 north towards CA.  The light was red and I was staring at the highway like it was my way out.  That's when I realized I needed help, and fast.  This wasn't me. When I was little that's all I ever wanted to be was a mom, and have a family, and now I was just going to run?  It was time to accept that there was nothing wrong with asking for help.

I made an appointment with my doctor and told her everything.  She took my hand and told me it was ok and that I wasn't a bad person, or a bad mother.  She told me I do love my family and that's why I was there.  I was not a failure as a mother or wife.  She diagnosed me with postpartum depression, and severe anxiety nearly a year after I had given birth.  I was in shock and slightly relieved.  She told me it was treatable and we were going to get it all under control.  She put me on medication that really helped for a while, that is until I unexpectedly got pregnant again.  With all the commercials you see about meds giving babies birth defects I decided to stop my medication cold turkey (very much against my doctors wishes).  The withdrawal from the drug was the worst I have felt in my life.  I was sick, had what felt like lightening jolts running through my body, I was sweating all the time, it was horrible.  I felt ok after a few weeks and continued to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby girl.

I was paranoid when I gave birth again.  I tried to watch myself closely for any symptoms of depression to return and didn't notice anything for a while.  Then I did, AGAIN, and AGAIN I ignored it.  Denial is a terrible thing.  I didn't want to be a failure again, or a bad mother. I was embarrassed and felt like I was going to be judged.  I mean what kind of MOTHER doesn't want to be around her kids?  What the hell was wrong with me?  I felt like a piece of shit.  I started feeling like my kids deserved a better mother, a happy mother who did have the energy and want to play with them, one that didn't just sit around and watch TV feeling sorry for herself.  I never got to the point of attempting suicide, but it did enter my mind once in a while like "they would all be so much better off" "they deserve better" "I don't deserve this life".  My husband was aware something was wrong and started walking around on eggshells around me just so he wouldn't set me off.  I was making everyone miserable, so I put on my big girl pants, swallowed my pride and made another appointment with another doctor since by this time I had moved to another state.  When I got there the nurse was asking the typical questions, why I was there etc. and as I started explaining everything to her, I broke down.  I was hysterical trying to explain myself and why I was so ashamed to ask for help again.  She just let me vent handing me tissue after tissue.  When I was done she looked at me and said "If you think you are alone, you aren't. You are not a failure as a mother, you are doing this FOR your kids. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and we are going to get you through this again. Be PROUD of yourself for coming here." Some of what she said was similar to what my first doctor said but one word stuck out PROUD.  I hadn't been proud of myself in a long time, or happy for that matter but it was time to get back on track.

This time around has been a little harder, I have tried a few different antidepressants and anti anxiety medications but have finally found a combination that I believe is working.  It is important to communicate with your doctor if they prescribe you something and it isn't working.  Different medications affect people differently.  What may work for someone you know may not work for you.  Don't give up, if you keep at it you WILL get better and get your life back.

Some people do not believe in prescription medication, and that is ok.  If you want to try holistic ways that's just fine, but if it doesn't work do not be ashamed to try other alternatives.  Your health is the most important thing here.

I'll never understand why this topic is so hush hush in the media.  It is incredibly important to get the word out to people that they are not alone, and that they are not failures as mothers, wives, fathers, husbands, or even daughters and sons.  If you feel like something is wrong, or you aren't yourself you need to talk to someone, anyone.  Don't bottle everything up inside expecting it to just go away, because chances are it wont go away, it will just get worse.  There is no shame is asking for help, in fact it is a very selfless act, because you are not only helping yourself but you are helping those around you.

I didn't write this as a pity party for myself.  I wrote this in hopes someone out there says "hey that sounds like me" and get the help they need.  Do not be ashamed, there is hope for everyone.


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