A friend on our Facebook recently sent this to me and I wanted to share it with their permission because any insight that we can have on depression and mental health helps us understand. The more we understand about what others go through the easier it is for us to listen and be able to give support. Sharing helps us heal and listening helps with healing also, when we can listen to someone sharing and understand what they are going through what it can accomplish is magical. Here is this share and I hope you get as much out of it as I did.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 10 years ago. I had troubled pregnancies. A miscarriage in between each of my three babies. And I was on bedrest with each of my three babies, my daughter's (our third and final pregnancy) was the most dangerous. My doctor's told me that if we did this again, it would kill me. My daughter and I almost lost our lives as I hemorrhaged and she was almost not born in time via my c-section. My bedrest with her was the worst. It was the longest. And I really thought the pain and ensuing depression was due to this bed rest and that after she came, everything would be better.
But after she was born, things just didn't get better. My pain was worse. I began suffering from extreme exhaustion. I just never felt rested. I had developed a sound sensitivity issue. I hated crowded places, restaurants, my sons sporting events and even my kid's open houses for school. I was struggling to find my words, losing my concentration frequently. To the point that I, a very outgoing social butterfly, lost my desire to leave my house and be around anyone because I became so flustered by my inability to find words in my head. Words as simple as "basketball" while sitting at a basketball game. I began to feel stupid. And very self-conscious about my ability to communicate. My doctor dismissed all my complaints, saying I probably had a small case of postpartum depression.
I continued to go to my doctor complaining of my ongoing pain. He ran tests. Checked for lupus. Thyroid issues. Arthritis. Even decided to check for MS and a possible stroke. All tests came back clear. It was then that I broke down in his office. Talking about everything...and it all came together. I have fibromyalgia. There are no tests to check for this. It is really a process of elimination. Which we had done. But, my doctor had dismissed my many other symptoms and was just focusing on my pain. It wasn't until we looked at everything that he realized what I was struggling with overall.
After finally being heard for everything I was struggling with, I was in the end diagnosed with fibromyalgia. That fibromyalgia knocked my mental status so far out of whack, I was also diagnosed OCD (when you are in so much pain, and it's so out of control, you feel the need to control EVERYTHING. I don't have a controlling case of OCD, but I do have to do things in my own order. My own way. Even down to how I walk through the grocery store. If I don't, anxiety takes over. When I get anxious, my pain flares. It's a horrible, vicious cycle), Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attack Disorder, and depression. We began the long task of trying to find a medicine that would work to help all I was dealing with, and not give me side effects that were worse than my original issues. Years we worked on this. For years I cried to my husband, "Why can I just not be happy? Why do I have to take medicine to make me feel normal? I have a really good life, we have a very blessed family...why can't I feel better?" I truly understand how people become addicted to medicines. And why they cannot come off of them. I have had my symptoms get so bad, my anxiety seems so overwhelming that I just thought..."Maybe one more Xanax would help" --knowing one more would actually make me high enough to just sleep off the anxiety, or "If one Vicodin doesn't fix it, maybe two would" Or as I was trying to wean myself off of tramadol that wasn't working and the shakes and nauseousness would get so bad I wanted to crawl out of my skin, I would think "Maybe just one to take off the edge wouldn't be so bad". I truly get addicts and the struggles they face.
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In those times, in those years, I wouldn't say I was suicidal, per say. But I did have days where I would just cry. Why did I feel like this? When would it stop? Days when I would just want to get in the car and leave. Leave it all behind. WIth no plan of where I would go, or if I would come back. I did good holding myself together in front of my kids. They never knew, besides the fibromyalgia pain, just how much I was suffering. Just how scary it was for my husband and myself.
Anyways, I was able to find a medicine that helped. I was able to find some natural routes to help. I do have my anxiety under control, for the most part. I mean, if I'm honest, it still does control me, and the way I live. But I've learned to LIVE WITH it rather than SUFFER FROM IT. So, I am down to just taking Xanax as I need it. Which isn't often at all. It will get worse once school starts and life gets busy again. But, I am finally off of a daily medicine and just on an "as needed" medicine.
Fast forward 8 years later. My social butterfly. My happy go, lucky 7th grader, started suffering from constant headaches and stomach aches. Begging to stay home from school. Calling from school begging me to come to get him. Grades falling. We assumed he was being bullied, but he swore he wasn't. I truly never, ever thought it was a concern. We ended up doing an MRI for his headaches. The doctor told him there was nothing physically wrong with him. And told us to watch his diet and make sure he was hydrated and getting enough sleep.
Summer was fine for him. Stayed at friends houses. Had friends over. Nothing seemed wrong. Then August came. We went to get his schedule for the 8th-grade year, and he had very few classes with his friends. I could tell this had visibly shaken him. But I did the motherly pep talk of, "You may find new kids you enjoy hanging out with", "You can still see them at lunch", and "We can always have them over to the house each weekend"....trying to make it seem like no big deal. Then he came to me during a family cookout, white as a ghost, unable to catch his breath, sweating, pale....and I realized, he was having a panic attack. A pretty full-blown, had-no-idea-why-he-felt-this-way panic attack. I called our family doctor the next day. We went in and she spoke to Jase and recommended we find a therapist for him. We started therapy 2 weeks later. He didn't want this. Was not happy with it. And just before we started it, we found some social media posts about suicide. I was devastated. Its been a long few years. More times than I can count I have slept in my son's bed for fear of what he would do that night because he was just having an unexplained bad day. He missed the last 3 months of his 8th-grade year. He simply could not function...and the school was of zero help. It was easier for them to just let him pass knowing he was struggling than it was to try to find a way to educate him. His thoughts of suicide and this overwhelming darkness would leave him curled up in the fetal position bawling his eyes out. But unable to tell us what was wrong. Eventually, our therapist was concerned enough she decided he needed to see a psychiatrist and be medicated. The psychiatrist agreed and against Jase's desires, we started Zoloft. That was a whole other fear. This medicine in youth can CAUSE suicidal thoughts. Here we were trying to fight these thoughts....with a medicine whose known side effect could be causing these thoughts. It was a terrifying time. I took a leave of absence from work. We never left out 14-15-year-old son home alone. My other kids sorta took a back burner, we were so overwhelmed with Jase. I fought with the school. I got him on a 504 plan, and eventually an IEP for his freshman year. We are doing some online classes and some in school classes. We are trying anything and everything to help him out. But its hard. It is so hard.
The doctors and psychiatrists think that the sporting concussions that Jase suffered from, at the same time that his body was going through puberty, was enough to knock his chemicals out of balance. Causing this anxiety and depression. He was diagnosed with Severe Social Anxiety and Manic Depressive Disorder. He is taking Zoloft and a medicine called Tenex that works similar to Xanax but is not addictive.
They have given us hope that he will outgrow this and it won't be something that is a lifelong struggle for him. But when one of his icons, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park took his life last year....it was a devastating blow to Jase's hope of outgrowing this. If Chester wasn't able to overcome it...would Jase? And then we had Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. How do you continue to tell your suicidal child, who has said to you "I don't want to do this anymore" "I hate feeling like I can't feel happy" "Its too hard and I just don't want to do this anymore"-- How do you continue to tell him how precious life is, and how much more there is to life...when the people he watches and idolizes hit their 40's and 50's and cannot overcome it? Who wants those bleak odds? Who wants to know at 15, it doesn't get easier? I mean, I can show him I overcame it...I can show him how I do it, what methods I use and how my life is liveable ... but there are also so many high profile people that he sees that don't and didn't.
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I have joined an online parenting support group. It has helped tremendously. Especially in his schooling concerns. It is nice to know I'm not alone. It is nice to be able to get others opinions and see how others communicate and what techniques they have tried.
We have become very outspoken about anxiety and depression. We have seen first hand the stigma, and the misunderstanding by so many. So many think my son is "milking" bad days for all they are worth. Think he is lazy and we are enabling him. We are fighting the stigma that mental illness is made up. We are fighting the stigma of taking medicine. I cannot tell you how many times I have used the analogy (With my son and others) that him taking medicine is no different than a diabetic needing insulin for their chemical imbalance. We are fighting the stigma that makes people feel that anxious people are just dramatic. These people with their stigmas, they don't see his panic attacks...when he's crying so hard, shaking uncontrollably and cannot catch his breath. They do not see him unable to eat at a restaurant because he is physically ill with anxiety that he is trying to keep from a full-blown panic attack. They do not see him crying out to us for fear of what he may do to himself. They do not know how many times I have called off work or taken him to work with me, because I cannot leave him home alone. They have not had the fear of letting him stay home alone one time, and then him falling asleep and not answering me when I tried to check in with him...they do not know how guilty you feel as a parent calling a friend to go check up on him, fearful they may find him dead. Its been a long and terrifying road. Right now we are ok. Feeling ok. But school starts next month, and this nightmare will begin again. And it is draining. On my son. On me. On my husband. In our marriage. In our household. And I try so hard to not let on that it is draining, to not make my son feel this is overwhelming. I try so hard to make sure he knows we get him, and we just need to change things occasionally to accommodate for his anxiety. No different than we accommodate for our friend who doesn't eat fish when we go out to eat. Or a friend that doesn't like to fly when we try to plan vacations. We make accommodations and they are no big deal.
"Anyways, I'm rambling now. There is healing in knowing we aren't alone. There is healing in knowing we are doing something to make a difference. There is healing in being supported. When we can reach others in this place, we know there is a purpose in our own pain, and that makes this a little less painful. So, thank you for doing what you are doing. For those living in it....for those that are suffering and feel like they are sinking at times...this work, it is life-saving.
It is amazing what others go through, this is someone that I have ties to before I ever started this business and mission. I would have never thought this is something they would be going through and goes to show we never know what the stranger next to us is experiencing. Remember the power of support and never be afraid to share your story!
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Special Thanks to Bonnie-Leigh Thornton for more info on pictures email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You have amazing talent and thank you for your support!