See you later, alligator

So, I’m taking off the next 6 to 8 weeks. I talked it over with my therapist and husband and we all decided I needed to be inpatient at a mental health facility this past week and, lucky for me, the clinic had an opening in the program starting this Monday that I wanted to be in and that was the best fit for me. One that focuses on my treatment-resistant Major Depressive Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and PMDD, and emotional eating. Even substance abuse, because I’ve abused my anxiety medicine in the past.

The clinic is Menningers in Houston, which is well known in the psychiatric arena. I’ve heard such good things about it and I’m hopeful. I should be – the program cost a damn arm and a leg but now’s the time to get better. Nothing else has worked.

The one thing I’m worried about is ECT is not part of my program and I really want to do it. The program leader said I can meet with the doctor to see if I’m a candidate but I don’t know who else would be a better candidate. I’ve tried multiple medications (Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Lamictal, Rexulti, Saphris, Doxepin Lexapro, Cymbalta, Abilify – just to name a few), TMS, ketamine infusions and now Spravato. I’ve been depressed (way) over 5 years, so really how can they turn me down? But they could, so good thoughts please. It’s really my one shot. I wont be able to afford a place like this again and I’m not willing to be away from my children for this long again.

That’s the only thing making me nervous. My babies. I know my husband and mother-in-law (and my mom and dad are helping too) can handle everything, I’ll just miss them so much. I’ll miss my son’s birthday and I’ll miss the first day of school. It’s just hard. But when I come out I’ll hopefully be way better and won’t have to miss anything else, because let’s face it, I’m barely living now.

I won’t have access to internet, other than email., so this is so long for the next 6 to 8 weeks. I will miss blogging but I guess I’ll have some stories when I get back.

Stay well, my friends. See you on the other side.

Hindsight

I can tell you now that I’ve always had anxiety, even as a child, and I can pinpoint signs of depression as early as middle school. Either that or I was facing some wild ass hormones, compliments of puberty, although my cohorts didn’t seem to have it that bad.

When I was in college my Mema passed away after a battle with colon cancer. It was very hard on me and I started seeing a therapist.  It was during therapy that I knew I’d always been sad but I didn’t realize – or maybe I was in denial – about having depression. I didn’t continue therapy, I just dealt with my problems with what I now know to be negative coping skills: binge eating, compulsive shopping or skipping class and trying to sleep my anxiety and stress away.

Unfortunately those “skills” are still employed when I’m stressed or going through a depressive episode, which is a lot. Don’t worry, I’m in therapy weekly.

Graduation night in 2006. I had no idea what I would come to face in the next couple years. Er, decade.

There I was in my mid 20s. I was so sad most of the time. I was constantly anxious. I thought it was normal because nobody else ever told me it wasn’t. I knew I was more emotional than my friends, but I had always been emotional since childhood.

Finally, after I had graduated college, got a job and health insurance I saw a doctor who told me – you have depression and anxiety.

Where am I going with this? Depression and anxiety plagued me almost my entire life yet I knew nothing about it except that people who look antidepressants were crazy (so said family members and friends). I told nobody except a friend in pharmacy school that I was started on medication. I definitely didn’t tell my parents. When I quit my first job and was back on their health insurance I said I had PMDD, premenstrual disphoric disorder, (which I do have but didn’t know then) but it was easier to explain that I had severe mood swings during my period than depression.

Now my parents know. I think being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts tipped them off. And while they’ve never experienced depression and may not understand how it feels, they are very supportive. I’m just sad it took me so long to admit that I needed help.

Again, that’s why this blog exists. The stigma of mental illness keeps people from seeking help when they need it the most. It prevents people from being educated about one of the most prevalent diseases in the U.S. and I simply want to shed light on it.

So, let’s talk.

Unruly Neurons

I started this blog because I’m fed up with the bullshit surrounding mental illness.

What compelled me to start writing and blogging was when fashion icon Kate Spade (and later celebrity chef and humanitarian Anthony Bourdain) died of suicide. I was so upset about Ms. Spade’s death. Not only did she take her own life but also she didn’t didn’t seek help because she allegedly thought it would hurt her brand.

I was also pissed. I started pounding on my keyboard and opining a letter to the editor to our local paper, the Caller-Times. Here was a wealthy woman who had the means to seek treatment anywhere in the world – treatment that isn’t always available to the average depressed person but she was afraid of what others would think. The stigma of depression is what killed her and is what has to stop. We have to start talking about depression like it’s the deadly disease it is. It’s no different than diabetes, lupus or even cancer. I don’t mean to be dramatic but it’s not just two celebrities who died. I need to confirm this through Veterans’ Affairs, but 22 veterans die each day by committing suicide. It’s an epidemic, people. One that’s largely ignored and considered taboo.

What I don’t get is it affects 1 in 5 Americans – that’s about 44 million people – yet it’s all still “hush, hush” if someone has more than just the blues. Why does this bother me so much? Because unfortunately I have skin in this dark, ugly game. For more than 15 years I have been fighting depression and anxiety. My exact diagnoses is treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD) with generalized anxiety (GA) and social anxiety. I’ve also been diagnosed with Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder or PMDD. It’s a real party.

The worst thing for me about having all these fun acronyms is that for the longest time I didn’t tell anyone, even my family, because of the stigma. People think if you’re depressed or have anxiety that you’re weak. That you have no willpower. That you can’t simply think yourself better, that you’re just lacking fresh air and sunshine. But it’s far from the truth. I’m one of the strongest women I know. It’s hard to go down a deep, dark hole where you feel hopeless and not so much like living anymore. It’s hard admitting you need help, and with that, pull yourself back into the light. It’s nothing but true grit to struggle through each day just to get up and do it again and hope for better. For all of you going through that now – know that I’m here, I understand and that this is a safe place.

I’m Heather. I’m 34 years old, happily (yes, you can be happy and depressed at the same time) married with two children – one girl and one boy. I’m a decent wife, great mother and a pretty good friend. But I do have unruly, misfiring neurons that can make this life pretty hard to lead this time.

Welcome.