So last week was officially Mental Health Awareness Week. Which means I am late, and I hate that. So, let's just look at this post as getting a jump on Mental Health Awareness Month, which is in May. Crazy, isn't it?
Oops. I said it. "Crazy." A word that's becoming more taboo than slang. Because it's real.
Crazy. A word meaning "mentally unstable." Though, it can mean a slew of other things too.
"Let's go crazy."
"That dinner was crazy bad."
"These kids are driving me crazy!"
Okay, that last one was a little closer to the truth. Here's my story.
A few months after my third child was born, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). Not the "baby blues." I wasn't just sad; I was overcome. The time before I was diagnosed gave me a good look at how helpless a person is when she has depression that goes untreated.
Why was it so bad? What happens to me when things are bad?
1. The voice. It's my own voice, but it is not controlled by me. This is the worst and hardest part of my depression, and also how I know when it's getting worse. It starts with one sentence - a question -"So, what do you think?" That may seem innocuous enough, but it's a question without an answer. I can't think any other thoughts. There's no space to give an answer. This is immobilizing because when I realize the record is playing, skipping, I become anxious in my inability to think any other thought. I can do the reflexive motions of blinking and breathing, but I couldn't tell myself to blink or breathe. I'll find myself wandering from room to room, because my brain can't give a direction to do something. The stress of this is exhausting.
Sometimes, the question changes. But it's always in the 2nd person, which I find unnerving.
2. Negative thoughts. Sure I know they aren't true, and I do everything I can to keep them to myself so others won't yell at me for thinking them, but they flow through my brain like water in a stream. In my untreated condition, I hear about how ugly, fat, or dumb I am. For some reason every awkward or humiliating moment in my life seems to float to the surface. And again, it's always in the 2nd person - "How can you be so stupid?" "Why on earth would you do such a thing?" "You can't wear that. People might see you!" "You're too fat to go out like that."
"I hate you."
Either these thoughts are blinding, or depression truly affects your vision. I "see" myself as overweight. (Though I would NEVER say this out loud - I am completely conscious of young ears around me. I can't really even believe I'm blogging it.) Thankfully, I had a friend in college tell me, "Nobody who wears a size 6 can call herself fat." I know my weight, BMI, and cholesterol. I am aware I am not overweight. But I can't see that. I can only "know" it.
Even more than that, I'm bothered that my appearance means that much to me in the first place. (In my untreated condition.)
3. Anger and intolerance. If I can't see myself doing things right while in my untreated condition, neither can my family. My angry outbursts at my children was my number one reason for talking to my doctor. I never beat them, and really, they laugh at my spankings, but I yelled myself hoarse. I hope they don't remember that Mommy too clearly.
4. Tears at the ready. This goes along with #3. Inevitably, I would see how I yelled or believe the voices. It really isn't how I want to be, and remorseful tears would begin.
Then I started medication. Amazingly, everything went back to the way it was supposed to be. (Notice I didn't say "normal.") That was my first clue that the medicine was filling a gap of something missing in my brain.
My brain lacks the proper balance of chemicals. If they aren't righted, my brain/body doesn't function as it should. Just like if a diabetic doesn't have the right balance in his body of insulin, bad things could happen to his body too. Sure, he could pray for God to make the insulin in his body work, and I don't doubt He could do it. But maybe, God's answer is the medicine created to help get those chemicals in line. The same goes for depression.
Another point to make in my situation is that I have a small tumor on my pituitary gland (located: in the brain. function: control the release of hormones to the rest of the body.) This may or may not have any effect on the other chemicals released by my brain. It could be this way for many other women as well. Twenty-five percent of American women have such a tumor, and very few know it. (Mine was found after an MRI scan of my brain looking for a source of seizure problems.)
In case you missed it, yes, I said it. I take medicine for depression. Hopefully, you would never have guessed it, because I am good about taking my medicine. I take the lowest dose possible of venlafaxine. But on a day that I forget to take it, I can certainly tell.
Why am I so nervous about revealing to the world that I am on medication? Because some of you don't think I need it. Some of you are of the ilk that medicine is a drug, (okay, it is) and that drugs are bad. Sometimes yes. But not always.
After a few months on the medication, my doctor and I decided to discontinue it. I firmly believe when medicine can help, it should be used, and when it is no longer needed, it should be stopped. (Logical, right?)
You see, I tried going off a few times. Each time has been the same. Right back to the same voices and behaviors I experienced in in my untreated condition before. I tried to get used to it, to see if maybe it was some kind of withdrawal, but with symptoms increasing over the next few weeks, my doctor and I decided I needed to go back on.
To note: I've done the same thing with my cholesterol medication. My cholesterol skyrockets when I am not on meds.
Back to the issue of my faith. Tracy, Why don't you just ask God to help you through your difficult moments?
Although I see the VALUE of prayer, and I KNOW that God could bring me out of this pit if I ask, when the neurons are misfiring and causing the broken record to play, I can't find the room in my brain for any other thought, valuable as it may be. I literally cannot pray.
Will I ever get better? I have no idea. I'll keep trying to find out. It would be great to give up the medicine, and I am perfectly willing. But I'm not willing to live without all the proper chemicals my brain needs. If my brain will manufacture them on their own, great! If it needs some outside help, I'm okay with that too.
Why was it so important to tell you all this? Because to this day I am waiting to hear that someone else has gone through what I have. Hopefully the person who has was looking for me too and maybe now realizes that it's time to talk to a doctor. Every brain is different. Some just need a little more help adjusting in life.
*Note- This is based on my personal experience.
** Please visit the site below for more information and complete list of symptoms.
Passion Under Grace,