I put “Illness” in quotes because I hate being called mentally ill, but let me tell you I was/am struggling. That is why I have been so absent. My anxiety has been to the point of depression. My motivation to create and to write was zero percent and every form of my social media projects suffered. However, I have no regrets in not posting I needed that time to figure me out and come up with a game plan on how to help myself.
2018 has been a year for my mental health. I have always suffered from anxiety since I was about 6-7. However, in different stages of my life anxiety started to manifest itself in different ways. When I was a kid I was always nervous about something but I just thought it was normal, the only reason I knew I had anxiety was people told me I had anxiety and doctors prescribed me medication for it. In High School I did begin to see it as more of problem but again was pretty naive to it. Come college it really started manifesting itself but I used drinking to distract myself from it. When I got out of college I had to break that coping by drinking habit really fast. Anxiety manifested itself in many ways, 2016 being at its absolute worst when my Uncle died (death is my biggest trigger, however I made a recovery and it wasn’t until this year it dipped way back down.
Stigma on medication:
My WHOLE life I grew up taking medication. I have had a lot of friends that came and went in my life who knew of my medication that I took. Unfortunately, this caused issues more than once. We all know that the friends we make when you are young and dumb aren’t always forever and when I had friends walk out of my life medication was often used against me. There were a few friends I got into fights with and they used my medication as a way to call me crazy. They would tell me to go take my crazy pills or something along those lines. When I was younger it did make me feel very ashamed but sadly I grew used to it and became a little more secretive for a while about what I was taking.
However, that is not why I used to want to get off of it. At the end of 2017, due to the “fitspos” I followed, I had convinced myself that I need to get off my medication. They had me convinced that I’d do better naturally and the toxins in my medication were slowly killing me. They had me say a big f*** you to big pharma and quite frankly my mom was worried. She tried to remind me that I needed my medication and I was lucky to have it. However, Instagram truly had me convinced that my weight loss, my overall health, my muscle growth was all going to be affected negatively by what I was taking. I started to see how things like natural vitamins and essential oils helped with my anxiety and sleeping. While they did provide a good cushion they definitely were NOT enough to replace my medication. At the time, I was still determined, Then 2018 hit and so did the fits of my mental health declining.
Fits of declines:
I have lost count of the amount of times but ever since January my mental health has had many fits of highs and lows. At first they lasted a week or so. Just outright going to bed every night with anxiety, being easily triggered, and living with being nearly depressed. Then as the months progressed so did these fits. The stayed for longer and came on harder. I was very open with my social media community about these highs and lows. I would tell them about how good I was doing and then a 1-2 months later back down I would go. To me, it started to sound like a broken record on social media. I am probably being my own worst critic but I truly felt like a broken record and that people were getting annoyed with me. I was having these ups and downs so often that I was worried people thought I was fabricating them for likes. This most recent one was by far the worst yet in terms of anxiety, in terms of length, and in terms of depression. Things that have never happened in my previous ones started happening. I was crying often, I was getting in my own head and self-destructing everything around me, convincing myself my life was falling apart. etc. I was in a horrible spot and I attempted to keep my mental health community updated. Then the fit took away my motivation to do ANYTHING on social media, which was actually a blessing. I told my crowd I needed to step back and figure me out and they were more than understanding,
Honestly, they were so scary I had never felt this low before. I had never felt flat and emotionless or extremely depressed. I never was worried about my mental health destructing my life. However, the more they came on the more worried I got. The deeper down a hole I went and honestly it was terrifying because with each one getting worse the thought of “Will the next one break me” was a very real possibility. My life was starting to come together at 23-24 but my mental health was not.
Finally opening up to my doctor:
Due to a very bad experience with my childhood psychiatrist my relationship with the one who I have been using for the past 10 years greatly suffered. I was careful not to indicate too much and I would answer his questions shortly and briefly to get in and out of appointments. Again, I had not yet developed an appreciation for how lucky I was. I didn’t believe that a change of medication is what I needed yet. It wasn’t till a few people really pushed me by saying if you feel this way you need to open up to your doctor about it that I thought maybe I should talk with him about it. I was extremely hesitant the first time around, but I did manage to talk to him about some increased anxiety. We went through the steps was I worried about self harming myself, what were my triggers, etc and in the end we ended up doubling my dosage, which helped for a while but not to much in the long run. I was scheduled for another appointment with the same doctor a few months later but when the latest mental health “fit” came on I called to make an emergency appointment. I couldn’t deal with the constant anxiety, depression, emotions, etc and I needed to see what could be done about it. I know that a lot of anxiety is identifying triggers but a lot of times these declines were brought on by nothing at all and I truly do think a lot of it was a chemical imbalance.
I vowed to myself going into this appointment that I would be as open and honest as I could. I wasn’t going to try to get briefly in and out I was going to take the time to be open and see what my doctor suggested. I walked in there and began to answer normal questions and I can’t tell you how hard it was to answer things like “Actually no, my anxiety is NOT doing okay” or to truly open up about how I had been suffering all year. If you are struggling to open up to a doctor about your mental health trust me I GET IT. It took me 11 months of suffering to finally admit I needed help but I am happy I did. As a result of our conversation we actually trippled (absolutely necessary I was on too low of a dosage for my anxiety levels) my anxiety medication. I am actually not to proud of it but I was getting so anxious that I was actually taking double the first adjusted dosage anyways in an attempt to feel better. I am aware that that was a possible opening to a dangerous path but I do think it speaks volumes to people who are desparate to get out of a bad mental health situation. In addition to that we decided it would potentially be good for me to go on a mood stabilizer since I was swinging through so many highs and lows this year. I have now been on them for nearly a month and can see how drastically my life has changed.
A new appreciation for mental health and medication:
Honestly, less than a year ago the VERY last thing I wanted to do was increase and add medication. Social media had me convinced that I could solve my mental health issues the “natural way”. After having so many episodes this year I am so glad that bias within myself is gone. I have completely changed my mindset. How many people are going through episodes like I did? 1/4 people suffer from mental health issues, so that number is extremely large. How many of those people do you think don’t have the option to have access to medication? While I don’t have that ACTUAL statistic off the top of my head I know its large and I know it’s a problem. There are people out there who would literally kill to have access to medications that make them feel better. Everyday people with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc suffer and they don’t get to feel a sense of stability in health from medication. I am lucky to have the option to have the right medication that makes me feel better and helps with my mental health. Yes I may be on a few different prescriptions but they improve my quality of living and I am happy because I will take that over these mental health fits any day.
I have taken my medication for so long that I had almost forgotten why I was taking it. It really took this year and the obstacles I faced to really have a renewed appreciation for the medication I was taking and the privilege I have to take it. Since starting this new medication I feel so much better off. I do notice that sometimes my mood can be mildly flat with the mood stabilizer, however my overall anxiety has gone down and I have been able to live a normal life again.
The hopefully last road to recovery.
I do think that I did have some form of chemical imbalance going on that the medication fixed. However, the scariest thing about getting better is every time I get better I never know if it is going to happen again. It has been such a pattern this year and like I said earlier each time I get into a new one it gets harder and harder to get out. I know I am strong I have fought myself out of every one of them and have just recently seeked out help from medication. However, I don’t know if I have the strength and energy to pull myself out of another one. I truly hope this medication will help prevent another mental health fit from happening. I still struggle with getting back on top of my projects and doing the things I love but I am trying to do better at it day by day.
Moral of the story, do what you have to do for your health. Take a break from what you feel you need to, talk to the doctor and have some trust in them, and fight for your sanity. Know you are not alone and you can always talk to me or anyone else openly suffering about it.
Thank you for being patient and understanding my absence.