Recently I was in a meeting, a mental health-related meeting, and an attendee was talking about his substance use disorder. He did so openly — as he should — and it got me thinking…Why don’t I talk about mine?
I’m so open about my other mental health conditions, but I tend to ignore my substance use disorders (for the most part). I did write a column about it months ago, but that’s about it.
But this man made me want to be more open.
So here it is — I have two substance abuse disorders: Opioid Use Disorder (Moderate) and Sedative, Hypnotic and Anxiolytic Use Disorder (Moderate). The last one means I was abusing benzodiazepines.
This was not a good time in my life, obviously. I had not recovered from postpartum depression. I had two kids under 2 years old, and I didn’t have a lot of mom friends. The women I did know with children that age didn’t seem to be suffering like I was. I tried to be like a close family member who is a wonderful, active and caring mom, always on the go, but I couldn’t keep up. My depression was a crushing weight and even worse was my anxiety. I talked to my psychiatrist, but he (wrongly) told me I couldn’t breastfeed and take antidepressants or meds for anxiety. So I stopped breastfeeding, another disappointment wrapped in guilt. But that I mean I could take antidepressants and anxiety medication, benzodiazepines. Honestly, those never really helped cope with my anxiety, they just made me feel numb. My anxiety would be waiting for me shortly after the high wore off. I took more and more to ward my worries and emotional pain away.
Now, the opioids. During my pregnancy, I had to limit the number of migraine pills I could take for the baby’s safety. My migraines still came though, so my doctor told me I could get a narcotic shot to help with the pain, which I did and it helped. The only problem is that I kept going back for shots after I had my babies. And when I had a “mommy makeover” years down the line, I abused the pain medicine I was given, even asking for a refill because the “pain was too bad.” I flat out can’t be trusted around anybody’s pain medicine, frankly. Even now.
Finally I got tired of it all.
I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.Writer Elizabeth Gilbert
I told my husband what was really going on. We had tried multiple treatments and doctors at this point, and my best friend had recommended we go to the Menninger Clinic in Houston. So I did. I stayed for six weeks. I’m glad I did — in hindsight, I should’ve stayed longer and dealt with my eating disorder and honed my coping skills, but here I am.
I’m not embarrassed about these substance use diagnoses, but these are harder to admit to (stigma). My husband says I’m an addict, but I don’t feel that way. I don’t spend time thinking about opioids or benzos. I don’t feel addicted. I don’t go to meetings, but if a bottle of pain meds somehow arrived at my house, I would take the pills, and take more than I should. I don’t know why. My therapist says I’m always trying to escape, which is weird to me because now I love my life and appreciate it more than I ever have because I’m in recovery and I can recognize that. But I guess my demons have really never gone away. And they likely never will. Odds are I’ll have depressive episodes and anxiety for life. I’m not being negative; those are truly the odds based on my diagnoses.
I guess I’m so used to wanting to escape from depression/anxiety it has now become a habit.
Maybe things will change and start coming up Heather.