For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Out of the darkness - My personal journey from sadness to joy.

At the risk of exposing my most private of moments, comes the thought that perhaps this piece could help someone who may be enduring the same thing. I'm often coaxed by my loved ones to keep my personal information to myself. In a world where image is everything and pretenses and appearances are kept up, it's rare that you can actually figure out who people are behind closed doors. It is my wish for a more honest society. There are people dealing with issues every moment of every day and although I do believe there is a time and a place for personal information, I also believe that sometimes it's okay to tell the truth. After all, people are so fearful of judgement. Nobody wants to be talked about, whispered about, categorized or not belong. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter as it's only people. It's not the end of the world if another human being does not agree with your choices or even like you for that matter.

For years I have battled with this thing. There is no name for it, no way for anyone to be able to understand since I don't understand myself. I once thought it was depression and asked a Doctor for help in which she prescribed me something so strong, I would fall asleep mid sentence and wake up in such a thick fog that I sometimes wonder how I managed to get dressed and go to work. A girlfriend of mine said that she would rather have the old me and deal with my up and down moods, rather than a robot who was just operating slightly just above functional. Nothing bothered me. My cat ran away and I sort of shrugged my shoulders and figured she would come back. BTP (Before the pill) I would have freaked. My animal was my buddy when I lived in Toronto. The cat came back and I started my life with Michael.

Michael, my boyfriend at the time would always wonder why I would fall asleep in the middle of a conversation we would be having. I explained to him that I was prescribed this particular medicine and how it made me feel. I was complaining about weight gain and how my clothes no longer fit. He looked up this particular drug, only to find out that a side effect of this particular medicine was approximately 30 - 50 pounds in weight gain. I guess everything has it's drawbacks but for someone who is supposedly depressed, a substantial gain in weight certainly isn't going to help that cause.

I decided on my own, to go off this medicine cold turkey. After all, I was not depressed, I was happy. I was in love. My troubles had seemed to vanish. For a woman my age, I have lived through situations that would shock you if I told you. Only those closest to me know the entire truth, and they, including the Doctor agreed that sometimes, it's okay to ask for help. My Doctor told me not to feel ashamed and that sometimes, through traumatic situations, anti- depressants will not make the problem go away, rather it will allow levels of coping so that a person is still able to go to work and operate at a high functioning level. She described it as "taking the edge off."

I have always been an anxious person. I've tried everything to deal with it and figure it out. I've read books. I've talked to specialists. I've taken pills. I ignored it. I prayed. I tried cognitive therapy where you change the way you think. After all, your thoughts become your reality. I've avoided events. I've faced events head on. I've cried several times. All the while, living in my own private world of grief and misery.

This confuses people as on the outside, I'm a bubbly, happy and fun person. I'm very much a people pleaser and always try to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in a social situation. With friends, I act like a silly fool, always able to poke fun at myself and tell embarassing stories to envoke an erruption of laughter. I am the life of the party and will start a conga line and dance until 4 in the morning. So, when I'm dealing with this thing, these same people will say "What's wrong?"

It creeps in at unexpected times. If I feel anxious before an event, in all certainty I will feel this way throughout the event, and then feel bad about it afterwards. I don't know what it is. I took all the blame and concluded that I must be losing my marbles. I would have panic attacks in the middle of the night and my heart would race in certain situations so badly, that I concluded I must be having a heart attack. I would need to flee that situation and get home to my safe zone.

One day, I started to cry at work. I simply could not get a grip. I told myself over and over "Pull it the fuck together, Wendy". My boss asked me what was wrong and I just shook my head over and over and told her I didn't know. She empathized and we had a long conversation where I realized I was not alone. I decided it was time for a change. I no longer wanted to endure this thing.

I made an appointment with a new Doctor that Michael and I started to see. I was initially irritated with her as she was always late for previous appointments. She gently advised that she was a different type of Doctor and didn't rush her patients and that if time was of my concern, perhaps we should find a different GP. It was my turn to see her. My husband came in with me. I calmly looked her straight in the eye. I knew I needed help, but I also know that Doctors are hesitant to just prescribe anything before seeking out different options or to really get a handle on the severity of the case.

With everything I had in me, I looked her straight in the eye. She needed to see my desperation. I needed her to understand that I was not leaving her office until she really heard me. I told her everything I had been through in the past 10 years. The woman looked stunned. She asked me how I could possibly think that any of this was my fault. She mentioned something that I had never thought of. She said that sometimes, a human being can only handle so much on their own. She said that sometimes, removing yourself from the bad people or situations that cause you stress, is enough to make you feel better on your own. She said that everyone handles things differently and that seeking help to deal with these shitty situations does not make you a bad person, it makes you an admirable person for wanting to rise above.

She also said that everyone experiences bouts of sadness and anxiety. It's when it trickles from one area of life into another that there is a problem. For example, if work related stress carries over into one's home life, then it's something that's a bigger issue than just a large workload.
She said that when anxiety or depression starts to mask who you really are as a person, it's time to try and resolve it. This is exactly how I felt. I felt so distracted by this thing, that it was getting in the way of who I really was at my core. How unfair to those around me who didn't get to see the real me. How unfair to myself to not get to be the real me.

She prescribed me something mild for anxiety. Hesitantly, I took my first pill. Psychologically, I wondered if I felt better for the mere fact that she said I would. Realistically, I know that's not true. Women are a complex batch of emotions with hormones running rampant and an increasing unattainable work/life balance. This quest for perfection is something that I'm slowly learning to let go. I cannot please everyone at all times, every day. In the past, if someone were to stop by my house and it wasn't perfectly clean, there is no way I would have enjoyed the visit. While chatting and smiling, in the background I would be thinking of the chores that need to be done. Now, even if I'm in a less than perfect mood, I still keep dates that have been planned. Like Marilyn once said, if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.

It's a slow journey but I feel as if the clouds have parted and the sun is streaming in, warm on my face. I'm happy. I'm productive. My creativity is flourishing as I think it was pushed down for so many years because of this thing. I thought it important to share this information with all of you. At the expense of my own private journey and insecurities being exposed, perhaps this could help someone else. I'm often amazed how many people contact me, thanking me for writing in such an honest way. It helps people relate, and not feel ashamed for being any less than perfect.

I'm often asked if I want to have children. People think I'm selfish when I shrug my shoulders and assume I don't want them because of a disturbance in my seemingly perfect life. People ask me what I have to feel down about. I have a wonderful husband, my health, a brand new home and a lot of friends and family. The truth is, in order to be a good mother, and appreciate the blessings that I have, I need to be okay with myself first. What kind of mother would I be, if I was constantly distracted by this thing?

I'm getting there. I feel more myself than I have in years. Modern medicine is amazing. It's not something that I ever thought I would want to rely on. But like a broken bone or a skin rash or a visible physical ailment, sometimes there are things that no amount of time or patience will heal. Sometimes you need help, and it's okay to ask for help. Who knows, maybe in time, as the bad situations are behind me and I learn how to live with just being me, the medicine will drop away, naturally.

But for now, I'm sharing my story to let you know that it's okay to just be yourself. It's okay to not be perfect. It's okay to have down days.

It's okay to ask for help. I did, and the feel of the warm sun is so much nicer than the dark rain clouds above.

* Thank you to my loved ones who have supported me on this journey. You know who you are.


Michael Lewicki said...

Beautifully said darling!

Anonymous said...

"What kind of mother would I be, if I was constantly distracted by this thing?"

I'm that kind of mother. I know what you speak of and I struggle. My poor children. I have done a lot of work with it and I feel that warm sunshine most of the time now...but to explain those other moments is not even possible. You're amazing...and I think you don't realize that the special person that you are shines through the craziness. I've seen it! xo

Elizabeth M said...

This brought me to tears reading today because I too have had a "thing" for the about the past year. I have felt depressed, run-down, no energy at all, look and feel awful physically and emotionally. I however am like you, I cover it up and put on a new face in front of others. I have always had a tough time discussing my feelings with anyone and have not really looked for help until just now. This past year I have discovered and really realized what it is that is holding me down and that is living in a "not-so-nice" relationship with someone. I'm trying to hold it together as best I can and knowing that someone is willing to tell about their struggles is soo helpful. Everyday a million things run through my head, what will i do, how can i make it, will my son be okay, what will people confidence is completely gone. Thank you Wendy I need all the strength I can get right now.

Elizabeth M said...

This made me cry reading today because I too have been dealing with this "thing" this past year or more. I have looked and felt terrible, depressed, no energy, no confidence, nothing. I cover it up though, no one would suspect a thing, i'm not that person to talk about my feelings. For the past few months I have gotten some courage to speak to a friend and in doing so I came to the realization of what this "thing" is. I am in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship and I don't know where to go from here. All I can think about is how I am going to make it on my own, how will my son cope with this and how can I be away from him when its daddys time with him, what will people think. Sharing your experience and reading it is helpful, I need all the strength I can get right now, I feel like I could crumble at anytime now. Thank you Wendy, even writing this comment is helping me get things off my chest.