You Say it’s all in my Head?

So today at work I had an interesting conversation with a coworker about mental health. During this conversation I was informed that mental health problems were all in people’s heads. That the solution was just to relax and be stress free. Now I give this person major props for being “stress free” since he has a baby on the way and a 3 year old at home, but really how do I do that?

I know I have a disorder, and it’s not because someone told me that I did. I went looking for answers because I knew that how I was feeling wasn’t “normal.” I fought for a long time to not be medicated, because I believed that I could just get better if I believed I could. What happened was I got worse. Even during times of medication I still have bad days, weeks, and sometimes months. This to me shows me that it’s not all in my head.

Now I know that medication is not a cure for my condition, it is just a way to help control it. Medication, doesn’t always help, but it’s there, and does make a difference. When I am not on my meds I completely lose control of my world. I can’t function around people and have to be alone, which just increases the problem. Even medicated, I have days where the anxiety is so overwhelming I can’t drive, or leave my house. I have tried calming music, and relaxation exercises, for me they don’t help. The only thing that helps me calm down during an anxiety attack is reading. While this is great at home, it isn’t practical for use while at work or many of the stressful situations which I find myself in.

To “get better” I would have to completely change my diet, no caffeine, and of course no smoking. I would also have to avoid all of my stressors. Well the first part, is doable, difficult, but doable. The second part is impossible.

I have anxiety attacks for no reason all the time. However, I also often manage to stay very calm and collected when in stressful situations. There isn’t one set way which my anxiety presents itself, it likes to surprise me. Because of this disorder, simple tasks can become unbearably difficult. I would like to say that I am able to be a do it yourself kind of girl, I used to be, but now simple things can send me into panic. I couldn’t tell you why hooking up my TV could cause me so much stress, I have done it a hundred times before, but some days it does.

If this were all in my head, then I would expect the task to be a problem and then stress out about it. In my life it’s the opposite. I want to hang a picture, an easy task, but when I can’t find my hammer, suddenly panic, and for no reason. I will stand there knowing that this feeling has no basis, and no reason to be in my life, but it is still there. I try to breathe and figure out the task, but often I have to call a friend for help. It is embarrassing.

There are very few people who would choose to live like this and those people have other mental health disorders. I don’t like that I have to take medication to be around the people I love, but I have accepted it for now. One day, it might change. I know that tomorrow I will again return to a job, which is not meant for someone with my particular problems, and I will do what I have to in order to get through the day. I don’t know if I will have a break down in the next hour, or the next week, but I can guess that it might happen.

I am in a stressful place in my life. I live with a condition, which makes that stress worse, but the point is that I live. I am who I am, and I try to embrace the good, the bad, and the crazy. Sometimes I’m just fine, but that can all change in a moment. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to live with it, so I might as well accept it. This does not mean however, that I drop anchor and live out my days hiding in my apartment. I embrace the crazy, but I embrace my ability to challenge myself and my crazy brains. I will push myself forward. These are the things about me that are all in my head. I think it’s good that in my head I can make the decision to stop moving forward and give up, or keep living.

It’s not always easy, but not one of us was promised at birth that life was easy. We complain that it should be, and often we want it to be. I just want it to be a little easier at times. A little less stress and worry, a day without anxiety, and a night where I can actually sleep. That is what is in my head. The anxiety is in my chemical imbalance, and my heart murmur. If I could put it in my head, then I could chose to forget it. I can’t. It is part of me. Even if it is all in my head, it is part of who I am. As I grow as a person, this will always be an aspect of me, even if I find a cure.


Battles With Medication

I was first medicated when I was 16. My mother thought I was depressed and had our family doctor prescribe me happy pills. So my first happy pills were Paxil. I had a not so great response to the medication, well this I suppose is subjective, but for me I believe it was not a good reaction. This isn’t to say they didn’t work, they did, too well in fact.

The Paxil within a week or so had me happy and bubbly like a cheerleader or valley girl. This is not my normal personality and my friends were concerned. Nothing made me angry, and I laughed about everything. I thought it was fun for a bit, until it got worse. Now being happy doesn’t sound bad, but when it comes with an inability to focus and your grades start slipping this is bad. Also, I couldn’t eat. I would be starving, take two bites out of something and then felt so full I thought I would be sick. I lost a lot of weight from being on this medication.

My friends convinced me to stop taking the pills and I went back to normal, and pretended for a little while that I was still on them. I never regained my appetite and lost a total of 30lbs in six months. I swore off pills as a fix and decided then I wouldn’t take that route again. However, I did, and that has been a long road.

At 21 I went to my doctor for anxiety problems and he gave me a low dose of Ativan, only ten pills. It took me a year to go through this medication, and when I needed to go back to refill it was because my dog, Ballad, decided she was having an anxious day and ate my last pill, bottle included. Now when I went back, there was no record of the other doctor, who had since moved away, giving me this prescription. However, despite the fact that the nurse practitioner had decided I was a drug seeker she gave me a new prescription of Klonopin. This worked well enough and I stayed on this medication for several years. That is not to say that the doctors did not try me one several other medications first. I was on Buspar, which made me violently ill, and Lexipro, which also made me violently ill. So my doctor was stuck giving me small doses of the Klonopin. Then I got pregnant and I couldn’t take medication.

After the birth of my son, and the rise of my post-partum depression I want back seeking something to help me out. The doctors didn’t want to prescribe anything to me at this point and I went to a psychiatrist, who started me on Klonopin and Wellbutrin, they didn’t help. I was still anxious and depressed. We then switched to Xanax and Prozac, this had less results then the previous combination. Finally we settled on Time-released Xanax and Paxil, I figured it made me happy before so it should again. I was very wrong. The Xanax worked alright, but the Paxil made me super crazy and I lost it. I was so out of it one night that I had drank a few beers, got in a fight with my boyfriend and decided I wanted it all to stop, so I ate all my Xanax.

I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to feel normal again and I figured in my insane mind that if I overdosed that everyone would realize how bad off I was. After my 72 hours of observation I was sent home. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt drugged out and confused. I refused again to go back on medication and for the next year and a half I lived happily enough pill free.

I moved to San Diego and back again to Jacksonville in that year. My sanity was shot again from the return to Florida and I had to go back on medication. My new psychiatrist put me on Respidol, bad idea, all it did was make my heart race. Then I was back on Klonopin. This would have worked, but the company making the generic at the time, wasn’t outing any medication in the pills, so I went crazy again.

Over the next year I went through Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, and back again. I was also supplementing these with daily doses of other medications some of which I can’t even remember the names of. Then my doctor retired. I went back again to my old psychiatrist, new rounds of attempts to figure out what pills fix me.

We tried Xanax again since the valium was making me depressed, and then Klonopin, and then back to Ativan which is what I’m currently on. I had mention previously in another post that I had been prescribed a new anti-depressant, I couldn’t tell you how this one works because it is way too expensive to purchase. The recently released generic is $250.00, which is too bad because I have heard such good things about it. Perhaps when I get some health insurance I will have the opportunity to try it out and end the lingering depression I get from my other medication.

Until then I will leave you with this. Finding the right medication is as difficult if not more so than finding the right doctor. It is trial and error. Don’t give up. Just because one combination doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean another wont. My best advice is to remember that the pills are supposed to help and sometimes they don’t work after a little while, but there are always more out there.

I’m not promoting medication as the best choice for everyone, but for me it was, and still is. I have every intention of getting of my meds for good one day, but for now I will live with them, and try to take it one day at a time.

My brain is Chaotic and Shiny

So tonight was supposed to be a Chaotic Shiny night, but I could not decide on a prompt. After being given about twenty possible prompts, as well as religions, prophecies, and settings, I still had no inspiration. This is perhaps because my mind is trouble by other problems tonight. While fiction should get my mind off of my problems and move it into more interesting and less painful areas to explore, tonight it has decided to elude me.

My life itself has become more like a prompt from chaotic shiny. Where odd things are thrown together to make a story, somewhat believable. I don’t know when this happened, but it has been going on for a long time. My mom has told me in the past that my life would make a good TV show, and maybe she was right. These days however, the show would be fairly boring.

As much as I would again like to lead a fascinating life full of craziness, I’m actually happy that most of the drama is past. Now of course like everyone, there are some drama filled moments in my life, but it’s much more calm than it used to be. I prefer normal, boring days at the moment. Hanging at home or at a friend’s house is more appealing than bar hopping and getting wasted. Now these things do happen on occasion, but in the grand scheme of things, compared to my mid-twenties I don’t even drink anymore.

I am wondering tonight about friendships, much as I was last night. When I posted “Like attracts Like” I was in a very different mindset then I am right now. Same time of night, same chair and friend’s house, but with a different reality. It bothers me that this is bugging me so much, but someone who was a longtime friend, almost 16 years actually, just unfriended me on Facebook. This is where like repels like.

We have almost the exact same disorder, yet while I like to confront a problem and find its natural solution, my friend likes to pretend the problem has vanished, until she has gotten over it. By that I mean she avoids the source of the issue until she doesn’t remember why she was mad in the first place. It is frustrating, especially if what you really want to do, or what I really want to do is just apologize. So how do you apologize to someone who will not speak to you?

I have tried email, Facebook messages, texting, calling, and even tried buying an apology present. However, I have gotten no response and nine months in I discover the unfriending. Now I shouldn’t care about this, it is just a social networking site, it doesn’t mean anything. However, if it weren’t for her forcing me during my pregnancy to join FB, I wouldn’t be on there at all. Now if I just had anxiety I would take some medication, watch a happy movie and go to bed, but I am blessed with OCD, the kind which causes obsessive thought patterns. So not just my life is Chaotic and Shiny, but so is my brain.

Problems circle around in my brain on an endless loop like a song put on repeat, and it’s always a song that you hate. The questions are all why? Why is it like this? Why can’t I fix this? Why can’t I just move on and not worry about it? This is the one part of my crazy I do not like to embrace because then I can’t sleep. Not that anxiety is particularly fun to embrace; these thought patterns are only good for writing. They kill friendships, and my nights become restless. It’s like having a plot stuck in your head you can’t figure out, or a character whose motivations you don’t understand. However, instead of fiction, it is reality.

I try to own up to things which I have done to earn myself the anger of those that I have wronged. In this case however, I am not asking for forgiveness, just a moment so say “hey I’m really sorry this thing happened, and I know that I was in the wrong.” I wouldn’t even ask for another chance, it seems obvious that I’m not getting one. So with my crazy I end another great friendship, but all is not lost.

As I write this I sit with someone who understands me. I spoke earlier with another friend who also understands and speaks her mind. Speaking my mind gets me into trouble, but with a few people I never have to worry about judgments or wrath for being who I am. I screw up and they tell me as much and we move on, all forgiven, if not forgotten. We don’t forget so that we can remind each other of why we shouldn’t do that same thing again. It’s like knowing that you shouldn’t walk in front of a speeding car, but having a friend point it out if you forget. That’s comfort and safety, and support.

So to my friend who will not read this, I am truly sorry. To all others I have hurt I am also sorry. I am not perfect, and I never will be. But I will always be me, and that person still strives to help her friends no matter the situation, or the past. It is difficult for me to write someone out of my life. I just hope that in the end I have not been forever written out of hers.

Like Attracts Like

So in my life I have discovered that the people whom I get along with the best, tend to also be crazy. I believe this is because that those of us who have mental health disorders tend to understand others with mental health disorders. We don’t expect these people to always act “normal” and we don’t need to find the root cause for their actions. We just accept it. You’re crazy and so am I, any questions?
These friends which I have, all know their diagnoses, and many of us who have gone through the process of getting a diagnoses understand the meanings of most of the common disorders. We know, or learn which kinds of crazy mesh with our own. Two people with anxiety disorders can be easy friends, because they understand what it means to be anxious and have no clue why you are. Other disorders that are easy for those with anxiety to understand, in my experience, tend to be depression and obsessive compulsion.
Often people have multiple problems, like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, these tend to go together and can be easily understood by those with anxiety or PTSD. While all these disorders present differently in each person, there is a common understanding for those who have experienced one or more of the mental health disorders. Of course this is not true for everyone, in my experience like truly attracts like.
I have had several roommates with mental health problems from bi-polar disorders to anxiety and depression, and those of us with a similar disorder tend to have an easier time getting along. It isn’t always perfect, sometimes one person’s anxiety will set off another’s, but in the end there is a mutual understanding. Just because I act crazy, doesn’t mean that’s who I am all the time, and I cannot always control it. People who don’t have anxiety, and never have, don’t understand it.
For my best example of how like truly attracts like I will use my friendship of 12 years to illustrate this idea. When I first met this friend she and I had never been officially been diagnosed. I was 19 and thought that I was just angry and depressed. By the time I was 21, I started to understand that I was having anxiety and became medicated for the first time. While my friend has only been medicated and officially diagnosed for about 2 years, we both shared this experience. Like me she had always had anxiety problems she did not know what symptoms were actually part of the disorder.
My official diagnoses came about 3 years ago. I was given a diagnoses of Axis I Anxiety Disorder, with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Traits. My friend has a diagnoses of Situational Anxiety. We have the same medication, although at different doses, and we never have to explain the fact that I’m freaking out right now because of my crazy. We rant at each other when we are having issues. And through all the ups and downs I have experienced with my mental health problems over the years, we understand each other, and apologies for acting “crazy” are never accepted. If an apology is given, it is brushed aside as if one of us had just said the sky was blue. She knows that when I have my freak out moments, I don’t expect her to find a solution to the problem, she just listens. This is the best thing for me, and I expect many people with my particular disorder feel the same.
While it may seem difficult at times to find someone who truly understands our particular crazy, they are out there. You find them everywhere, at the gas station, the library, college, high school, or at a bar. We are out there among you, and if you look you will find us. Learning who shares your kind of crazy is important, because without the support of those who truly understand what it feels like to go through the day to day of living with these problems, we all get worse. Imagine it being like someone who loves only opera dating someone who only listens to hip-hop, the relationship would be hard to make work. When we share our crazy, beautiful friendships and support systems come from it.
So embrace your crazy. Embrace that sometimes there are people who will not get it and never will, but remember there is someone out there who understands. Even if this is the only place you find that at the moment, it’s a start. All journeys have to start somewhere, and living with crazy brains is one journey we should not have to travel alone.

Not Just the Baby Blues

It is hard enough for any mother to have a child and not lose her mind to a point, yet some of us completely crack. For the ones that crack it is hard to accept everything about being a mother, from the pregnancy itself, the birth, and finally the all-consuming responsibility of raising the child. Support is key and that doesn’t start with the birth it starts with the conception. I give praise to the women who decide they want a child and they do it all themselves, no fathers involved. I think that if that had been my plan, or story, things would have turned out very differently for me.
When I found out I was pregnant I was 25 and not ready to be a mother. This isn’t to say that I didn’t want children, I wanted kids, but I wanted to be married and have already finished college. These things were not in the cards for me though and my depression began almost as soon as the clear blue easy digital pee stick, boldly stated pregnant, without the first word, the word which I had always relied on being there. So I texted my roommate and ask for another box of advanced technology. (That’s how the pregnancy test was advertised and all of my female friends at that point loved the idea of peeing on advanced technology.)
Three tests later I was being congratulated and I couldn’t figure out why. Yes I wanted kids, but why is it a good thing right now? I was about to move to Boston and go back to school and make something of my life. These were things I suddenly felt I could not do alone and pregnant. So I resigned myself to having the child thinking everything would be just fine. Other women have babies without husbands and they are okay, right?
My roommate moved out, long story there, and I was alone in my house and sick. For the first five months of my pregnancy I couldn’t do anything without getting sick. I had a friend stay with me for a short time, but then she had to go and I was again, alone, depressed, and sick. If I hadn’t reconciled with my old roommate when I did, I’m not sure how I would have made it through that time period. She started getting me out of the house, and because of her I met a wonderful man.
I was six months pregnant when my friends made me dress up and go out for New Year’s Eve. That’s how I met Mike. He dragged my pathetic self out of my self-loathing and depression and made me start really living again. Although my belly was growing, and I still hadn’t accepted being pregnant, Mike became my perfect distraction, and to him I am eternally grateful for that.
My son decided that he was done with the whole being prenatal thing when I was 30 weeks into my pregnancy. He came out, natural as I wanted, and extremely healthy for being so small. When they showed him to me, with one of my oldest friends and my sister at my side, I said nothing, and I felt nothing. I could not touch him, or hold him, and I refused to let myself feel for him because if there was a problem, I felt that if I got attached, that would be the end of me.
This was my first taste of post-partum depression. Once called the baby blues, and still unrecognized by many old school doctors as a real thing. This state of numbness, was my first taste of the trouble I was going to have for the next four years. Even now, my son is five, I’m not sure if I have really come out the other side of all of this. My first step was feeling again, and being able to look at my child and feel, and miss him in his absence. There is a lot of rebuilding to do. In my depression, and my search for feeling I tore my entire world apart. I lost all sense of who I was, who I am. However, today I believe I am ready, ready to tell that story.

Killer Anxiety

For some unknown reason over the past few days I have had increased anxiety. It has become difficult to do much of anything with this anxiety. I suppose that’s why it is called an anxiety disorder. The biggest problem with this is that despite being medicated, it doesn’t seem to be working. Also, after years of anti-anxiety medications I now experience depression symptoms when I take my medicine.

I know it could be much worse, at least I can still speak to people, but today it has been bad enough that I was unable to leave my house. I don’t know that anyone enjoys feeling anxiety, but for me it makes it difficult to interact with my friends and family. I get extra moody and easily snap and people, which then increases my anxiety because I feel bad for my actions.

I attempted with my last doctors visit to add an anti-depressant to my current list of medications. However, the generic of the medicine cost $250. It is not right that medications, which can actually help people are not affordable unless you have really great insurance.

Now after writing this I am not sure that I am even making sense, but I’m posting it anyway. So hopefully my anxiety will pass soon and I can again make some sort of sense.