If you’re just now joining me, as I share this five-part series outlining my journey with mental illness, please check out the more detailed information about this series in the beginning of the Part 1 and Part 2 posts. Seeing as how I did not edit the original version of the manuscript in any way before posting here, the blog that I reference towards the end of this post is in regards to this blog, First You Must Begin.
And now I share with you some of my darkest hours in life, as I continue my Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 3 of 5)…
Three years since my diagnosis of PPD, I started to notice new and different patterns. Perhaps it was because I was not properly or consistently medicated during this time and had to face the illness in a raw manner. I began to recognize highs and lows that I hadn’t picked up on before. I started to yell at Abigail unnecessarily. I became easily agitated and frustrated, only to find that I could be equally happy and perky in a few short hours. Emotions seemed heightened somehow. I had extremes that I wasn’t aware of previously. My husband brought to my attention that I was having obsessive thinking. I couldn’t let things go. I would continually obsess over future plans for our family and how to fix our financial struggles. I determined that a move to a more affordable area would be the key to our success and continually pestered my husband on the matter – so much so that we made a decision to purchase a townhome twenty miles away from everything that I knew. That’s when it began to get the ugliest and darkest to date. It was at this time that I seemed to be sinking in to what I would consider severe depression.
The first month in our new home and new area was one of the scariest times in my life. Depression, as I had previously experienced it, was child’s play compared to what I felt at this point. Anxiety attacks came on to the scene without any warning of their arrival. Driving became a fear out of nowhere. I would try to hide my panic, tears, and hyperventilating from my girls as we drove between our old area and our new one. I spent countless hours trying to figure out a way to sell our home and move back by my family and friends. My obsession of getting our new home was now replaced by an obsession of how to get out of it. Fear began to paralyze my every move.
The interesting part about my situation, though, is that I can hide it for the most part. There were a few times that my closest loved ones were able to witness my debilitating situation firsthand, but I’m really good at putting on smiles for the outside world. And, if I can’t pull the smiling face off, then I stay at home and hide.
That’s what I did for a good eight months. I spent the larger portion of my day sleeping on the couch while my children watched TV. I clung to the safety of my couch thinking that somehow I could escape pain if I just stayed there and slept. My heart sinks thinking of all the lost moments of life fully lived. It aches when I think of how my girls were so neglected during that time period and how the relationship with my husband became so strained. There were brief moments where I could find joy or see the blessings in my life, but most of my days were filled with anxiety and hopelessness.
During this eight month bout with severe depression, I can recall two distinct times that I felt certain everyone’s life would be better if I were taken out of the equation. My knowledge of the Gospel was the number one reason I knew I would not go through with such a thing. However, I found myself fantasizing about taking every pill in my medicine cabinet arsenal to take the pain away for good. One night in particular, I saw no end to my misery. I have never felt so worthless and alone than I did in that moment. I called my dad, who was traveling, and left him a barely audible voice-mail through my sobbing. I just wanted to hear his voice and know that he loved me. I then called my husband, who worked nights, saying that I wasn’t going to do anything drastic, but that I wanted to desperately. Even now, I get emotional thinking of how utterly dreadful that moment felt and how grateful I am today that I made phone calls for help instead of giving up completely. My husband knew my phone call was literally a cry for help. Almost immediately, I received a phone call from my brother, my sister-in-laws were on my doorstep, and my husband came home from work. I can’t reiterate this enough: Emotional support is crucial to survival in one’s darkest hour. The days following my “darkest hour” were filled with lots of family check-ins, multiple psychiatric appointments to correct my medications, yet relatively little hope of relief. However, within three weeks, I began taking yet another new medication that was designed for Bi-Polar Disorder II. Previously, I had only been treated for chronic depression and anxiety. This was a new direction and it was a game-changer.
I remember the exact moment when something clicked in my mind and I felt different – a good different. I was standing in line for the “Midway Mania” ride at Disney’s California Adventure theme park with my husband, sister-in-law, and my daughters. All of a sudden, I stood up straight. It seems so trivial, right? So, what? You stood up straight? Imagine feeling so defeated in your daily life that there was never a reason to stand up straight. The world was literally weighing me down. I had no idea I was continually slouching until I finally made a deliberate effort to stand up straight. My life was worth standing up for in that moment.
Through the eyes of another, it must seem so ridiculous and unbelievable that I battled, and continue to battle, anxiety and depression. I have an amazing husband, healthy beautiful children, a roof over my head, and I get to be a stay-at-home mom. But, alas, on most days I was not able to see beyond my incessant feelings of anxiety and debilitating depression. It’s our misconceptions of others’ lives that I feel is the biggest culprit to feeding the flames of depression and anxiety. We’re bombarded with social media outlets that tend to highlight the peaks in our lives and omit the valleys. I know for me, reading blogs and perusing Facebook became a ritualistic recipe for misery. Logically, I have it on good authority that nobody is perfect nor are they living a perfect life free of strife. However, emotionally, I sometimes feel like my Facebook friends are forever vacationing, those I follow on Pinterest are always doing fun crafts with their kids, and the blogs I read are comprised of families living the perfect life.
Sadly, for years I was even at fault for portraying this false perfection on my family blog. I posted blog posts during the ups of my bi-polar cycle and conveniently omitted or blunted how dark and terrible my behavior was through the lows. That stopped during my darkest year when I gave up trying to fake that I was okay. I don’t suggest that we should air out our dirty laundry onto a social media outlet. However, I feel strongly about being honest about who we are in real life and in our personal blogs, when applicable. As we become more honest with ourselves and our loved ones, we afford ourselves more opportunities for joy and mercy. I still find comfort in the comments I received in a blog post on my personal family blog where I asked for prayers on my behalf. The power of prayer is real and tangible. The support that can come from friends and family that are aware of your situation is immeasurable. Countless services were done on my behalf to give me hope. We can each be a part of the answer to someone suffering from depression.
We must be honest with our loved ones in our efforts to work through our trials. Honesty shared is what alleviates the feeling of isolation. The most refreshing part of opening up and sharing your vulnerabilities is finding that you’re not alone in a lot of the things you feel. Over the years, I have made a greater effort to reveal my true feelings with the hope that I might be able to help someone else who perhaps feels as hopeless as I once did.
I don’t introduce myself with a list of my short-comings and vices. However, as people take the time to get to know me, I take the time to share me – the real me. In fact, that was the driving force behind my decision to write a separate blog back in May of 2013. I wanted to share my journey. I started the blog with a desire to share positive insight to promote self-growth. My hope is that it will help encourage individuals to live a more confident and emotionally healthy life; to start from within and begin moving forward. I want to assure others that they are not alone and that there is hope. I know there’s hope because I no longer live in the midst of utter darkness.
Check back here next Wednesday for Part 4 of my Mental Illness Awareness Series.