Tag Archives: depression

this time we go a little lower

My lifelong battles with depression & anxiety are well-chronicled on these pages. Just words.

Last week I fired up a limping laptop that I haven’t used in a number of years, looking for specific photos to move for future use. While scrolling through a untitled album that contained roughly 1000 photos, I found a series of self portraits taken when I was in my deepest, darkest places around 2006-2008. Before the hospital, before therapy, before medication. They knocked the breath from me. So often we don’t know how bad it is until much, much later.

My photo editing skills have dramatically improved over the years, and I must have deleted the original files, as I’d edit them much differently now. Maybe that’s okay. They speak for themselves, to specific point in my life. A place I don’t want to revisit, but always lives in the fringes.

Dr. Bat’s Last Word

re·sil·ience

   [ri-zil-yuhns, -zil-ee-uhns]  Show IPA
noun

1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position,etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression,adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
Apparently this is a quality I lack, according to my now ex-psychiatrist.  Let me explain.
When I cancelled my therapy appointment on Tuesday to spend it with my husband’s family as my brother in law died, my therapist called me to check in.  I gave her the quick & dirty, then she cracked a joke “So I see you have an appointment with Dr. Bat tomorrow. Getting in on her last day, huh?”
What.The.Fuck.Chuck.
I did not know that my psychiatrist was leaving MyTherapyInstitute.  A bombshell.  Yes, I have had my arguments, disagreements & butting of heads with Dr. Bat, but in the past six months, I had to learn to trust her. So I was fairly pissed off at not being notified of her impending departure.
On Wednesday I showed up for my appointment with my jaw set & a crappy attitude.  Part petulant teenager, part seething adult.  She noted my sarcasm immediately and was dismayed that I had not received the letter that was sent out notifying her patients.  I grunted at her in acknowledgement.
We went through my meds & decided, just for kicks, to give one last spin on the Medication Roulette wheel.  Wheeeeee! While I gave a rousing “HELL NO” to the Ritalin regime she offered, I did concede to switching out one anti-depressant for another. So it’s still four meds, just a brand new flavor.
While she wrote my scripts, I eyed the clock, noticing I had about 7 minutes left.
“So in ten minutes you’re no longer my shrink”, I stated.
“That’s right”
“So tell me, straight out, how I can get better?” I asked.  Like I thought she’d been holding out on me these past three years.
She leaned back in her chair & looked me in the eye.  After apologizing slightly for not feeling like she was truly able to help me, she laid the word out.
“Resilience, Barbara”
And then she continued, “I have a patient, a woman with MS who is wheelchair bound, who comes through my door smiling every time…”
She prattled on, but I had already tuned her out.  I failed at being a good, functioning nutjob.  Isn’t that funny?
At one point during the session, she confessed to not really knowing me, or knowing enough about me to truly help me.  But I only saw her for 20 minutes at a clip, a few times a year.  She only asked about my medications, a few general life questions, and if I had any suicidal thoughts.  Like clockwork.  It’s my therapists job to “know” me, and my psychiatrist’s job to chemically “right” me.  At least that’s how it works at MyTherapyInstitute.
I’m not resilient? I’m alive.  I’m breathing.  I have a job.  I pay my bills.  I am in a healthy, stable relationship.  I have hobbies and friends.  I’m nice to small animals & most children.
I’m not resilient? I’ve lived though rape, choosing adoption for my only child, divorce, miscarriages, deaths of loved ones.
I’m not resilient? I’ve owned a small business (or two), read voraciously & make weird magnets and things.
She handed me my scripts and I stood up.  I walked over to her, shook her hand, and wished her luck on her future endeavors.  At reception, I was given an appointment for the next month, with the doctor’s space left blank.
I never really saw eye to eye with her anyway.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fryer

A few weeks ago, The Bloggess posted a call to action about mental illness, about “coming out”. It has taken me some time to get it together enough to put fingers to keyboard.

I’m mentally ill.

Not a shocker for most of you that know me.

I’ve been in & out of therapy for 2/3 of my life, did a stint in rehab, staked my corner in behavioral hospitals for varying durations.  Been on meds, off meds, on meds, off meds.  When untreated, my illness takes physical form.  Over the years I’ve created quite a bond with my gastroenterologist, probably putting his oldest kid through private school.

At 19, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression & PTSD: the result of a violent childhood assault. I took the meds, I did the therapy, I felt better.  What happens when someone like me “feels better”? I stop taking medication.  Incidentally, it’s quite a daunting task to wrap your head around the fact that you may have to take medication for the rest of your life when you’re 21.

In 1998, I gave birth to the most beautiful boy.  Because I believed that he deserved a mother “better” than me, I chose adoption.  (note: this decision had very little to do with anxiety or depression) Many of you know that I had a blog for about 5 years about adoption, how it affects me in all aspects of my life.  There is no “getting over” it.  The more time that has passed, the more guilt & loss I’ve experienced.

Given my predisposition to depression & acute anxiety, grieving the loss of my son & the two miscarriages that followed in 2008-9 were pivotal moments for the Great Mental Health Crisis of July 2009.  It didn’t happen all at once – it took years.  My friends & family watched me slowly spiral downwards…for years. At the end, before my 3rd trip to the ER in the span of 6 days & an eventual voluntary committal at a hospital up the road, I hadn’t slept or eaten in days.

Major depressive disorder.  Acute anxiety.  PTSD (the diagnosis so nice, I’ve gotten it twice!).

And yet I’m still here.  I take my meds, see my therapist.  I pay my bills, own a small business as well as work a full time job.  I can do things like…going to the store for groceries, meeting friends for drinks, going to a Phillies game.  All things I couldn’t think about doing for years.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m far from “cured”.  Just a few weeks ago, driving to function that was really important to me, I simply froze.  I had friends waiting in the restaurant & I worked myself into such a panicky lather that I couldn’t get out of the car. I drove home sobbing, frustrated.

I have people in my life that love me, people that I love.  Sometimes it’s really a struggle to keep it together.  I’m fortunate to have an amazing spouse & incredible friends who support me when the skies turn dark.

I’m not ashamed or embarrassed.  Some of this is genetic, some is residual fallout from traumatic experiences.  But it’s part of who I am.  I can only strive to move forward.

If you’ve gotten this far, I strongly encourage you to please go view Michael Kimber’s video.  He’s much more succinct that I can ever hope to be.