Friday, January 30, 2009

Sanity? What's That Like?

It's been a tough month. I debated whether or not to tackle this topic, but I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this stuff, and I'm hopeful that this can spark some conversation and support. This might be the first time some of you have heard this from me. Others have been a fantastic source of encouragement and strength when I am the middle of these struggles. But for everyone who reads my blog (which completely humbles me, by the way!), my hope is that I can provide some first-hand information on these issues.

So, for several years, I've struggled with anxiety and depression. It sucks. I think my first encounter with it was when I was 14. Thinking back, I remember that there was a period of about two weeks when I had no motivation, felt numb, and could hardly remember what had happened during each day that passed. I remember talking about it with a friend and saying, "It feels like I'm in a deep pit. I can see the top, but can't get out." There was no reason for why I suddenly began feeling this way, and I don't remember anything that helped me "come out of it."

I don't remember any other significant episodes until I was in university in BC. There wer a lot of external situations happening that did contribute to the depression from time to time. But to actually pinpoint the episodes and try to figure out why I would struggle the way I did, I eventually began to realize that there didn't have to be any rhyme or reason. I also began to see areas where the anxiety would take control and interfere. In high school, I had felt pretty comfortable and confident in myself for the most part, but suddenly in university, I began to see how competitive things could be (on-campus jobs, extra-curricular participation, internships and practicums) and that started me in on a pretty massive spiral of self-doubt that is still a massive battle in me. Throw into the mix, a very significant person in my life at the time telling me that I would never be a good counselor. Things like that aren't usually very helpful for people who already have self-esteem issues.

The depression and anxiety quickly began to escalate during my Master's. Without going into the story, about half way through there were some doubts as to whether I would be able to finish the degree or not. Well. This quickly became a really bad time for me. I had been working with a counselor during my undergrad, and decided to try something different and more intense. I went to my doctor and started some antidepressant/antianxiety medication and began some EMDR treatments (EMDR is something I'll write about in a different blog. It's not the simplest thing to try to explain and I want to make sure I'm doing it some sort of justice.). I should also mention, because this is such a big part of our relationship now, that Brynn and I had begun dating long-distance around this time. During our nightly phone conversations, I would quickly deteriorate into tears and ramblings of self-doubt and loathing. He explains now to people that when I'm "stable" (for lack of a better word), I am a pretty rational, logical person. But when I go through one of my "episodes" that rationale seems to go right out the window. Instead of A, B, C, my thoughts instead go A, Q, H, Z....etc.

Thankfully, within about 2 weeks, my medication began to work. (I'm a big advocate for mental health medications if it's used properly, is genuinely needed, and you are working closely with a good doctor. I'll write more about this on another occasion.) I did graduate and moved on to the next chapter of my life. And while the depression/anxiety didn't go away, I did gradually learn how to manage and monitor it. A couple years after graduating, I tried to (with my doctor's help and observation--don't EVER do this without working with your doctor!!!) wean myself off the med's because I was in a much more stable situation--regular income, no school stress, etc. I know now that one of the withdrawal effects of my med's is something called hypomania--super energy, fantastic mood, just basically a top-of-the-world feeling. It was awesome! Three months later, I felt like crap. So, back on the med's I went.

That was about 2 years ago, and since then, there have been small episodes, but nothing too major. Fast forward to this past October when we found out I was pregnant. Hello hormones! Yeah, I quickly found out that these hormones seem to exacerbate my dep/anx symptoms. Who would've guessed?! Then throw in the stress of my job working in the non-profit social services sector...down, down, down I went again. Which leads me to today. Brynn and I decided it would be best for my and the baby's health to start my mat leave early.

Unless you've experienced this kind of stuff, it is extremely hard to understand someone who is. So, I thought, rather than keeping myself stuck in my fear of being judged or people interacting with me differently, I'd start trying to provide some of my own experiences to help people understand and learn. And hopefully, it will help me, too. I actually based the title of this blog (Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sanity) on this part of my life in an attempt to be somewhat humourous, so it seems fitting that I'm finally going to add this topic to my "to write about"
list. There will definitely be more to come--especially since I'm unemployed!

4 comments:

  1. Good for you! It's a tough decision to make, but depending on the job you do, SO important! I'm proud of you for doing this for the sake of yourself and your baby. You are doing a good job - don't let anyone tell you otherwise, not matter what THEY did when THEY were pregnant. Everyone is different and your journey is yours. Enjoy mat leave with no baby - I never got to experience that since Aria was surprisingly early! I can't wait to meet your little one some day (btw - I think the ultrasound totally looks like you).

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  2. Tiffany - Thank you for sharing such a personal struggle. Thankfully I cannot relate exactly to your issues but when I was pregnant the first time, I had severe anxiety. I believe it was hormone related and never really pursued it. What a blessing to be able to begin your maternity leave early, to be able to fully focus on the well being of you and your little one. You are going to be a fantastic mother!

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  3. Deb--thanks so much for the support and encouragement! I'm so thankful for your friendship!

    Emily! Thank you! I know in my head that I'm not the only one out there who struggles with this stuff, but I need reminders like yours to make it feel like more of a reality!

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  4. Tiff... uh, reading these posts made my heart ache. We need to talk my friend. In terms of meds during pregnancy, I am 100% behind you going through very similar struggles in my pregnancy. My pregnancy kicked my emotional butt like nobody's business. Really, it was the hardest emotional time for me in my life.

    All I can say is that I am committing right now to pray for you and little Wettergreen everyday for the rest of your pregnancy. (And I'm not one of those "I'll pray for you" kind of people... but this one definately hits me right in the heart!)

    Take Care, get lots of hugs from Brynn.
    And remember, God chose YOU... YOU to be this baby's Mom, nobody else,... and he always makes great choices, you are the perfect person for the job.

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