Sunday, February 19, 2012

It. Is. Chemical

I write this post in clarity, knowing that this is a hard thing for people to talk about while they are in the midst of it and a tough topic to even bring up in the company of friends, let alone through a blog post. But I feel the need to make my situation public so that I will then be forced to do something about it.  For years I have tried, with little results, to use specific coping skills that I have picked up along the way, trying desperately to avoid the inevitable.

But alas, I have reached that breaking point, that ultimate low that tends to come and go every month, and this time I have had enough, I just can't stand to go on living life fighting to come up for air, with that overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

My husband has finally convinced me, yes ME, the chick who is pursuing a career in pastoral counseling, the girl who has a BA degree in psychology and worked 2 years in a state run psychiatric facility, to seek professional help.  I guess it gets the best of us, that awfulness called anxiety and depression.

 I have tried therapist after therapist and even couples therapy, but nothing has really helped.   I have tried all kinds of coping skills like limiting caffeine, running, vitamin supplements, meditation/prayer, journalling.........   but nothing seems to really help during that very low low point that comes every single month, for 2 whole weeks.  It is exhausting, frustrating and numbing.

So, here I sit, with my husband by my side (he is literally sitting right beside me as I type this) making this struggle public, putting a face to this awful condition of anxiety and depression, telling you all who take time out of your day to read this, that I have finally decided to get help.  Go figure, the girl who believes so much in anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressiants to help others, has been so apprehensive to try them on herself. I guess I have just been hoping this whole time that I could take control of this condition on my own, but I can't, it's chemical.  It. Is. Chemical.  

I am so nervous about what THIS means, this decision to go public with something so private, this decision to step into a psychiatric office, this decision to take medicine for something I have been struggling with for so long.  A part of me feels like a failure. Somewhere in the back of my mind I feel like a failure if I "give up" and take medicine for this condition.

While explaining this sense of failure to my husband (he is such a wonderful person), he grabbed me by both shoulders and gave me a light playful shake.... 
"Jessica, you have an iron deficiency right?  and a vitamin D deficiency right?  And you take medicine for both of those things right?  To help you feel better, right?  And they make you feel better, am I right?   Does that make you a failure if you are low in iron and have to take an iron pill?  NO!  No, it doesn't.  So, how is this any different?  You have a chemical imbalance and there is medicine to HELP YOU with that. To HELP YOU Jessica."

There ya go, I have finally decided to look into finding me a psychiatrist. I am making this public so that I won't chicken out when I start feeling better in a few days.  That's how depression goes, it comes in waves, around the same time of the month, then slowly, after about 2 weeks, slips away, leaving me EXTREMELY HAPPY yet confused.   It's only during the end of the depressive episode that I have enough pain and enough clarity to know that THIS isn't normal. During my happy days I forget how awful the awfulness was and is, and during the really low points I don't have enough clarity to really KNOW what is going on.



  1. As always, I think you are incredibly brave and lucky to have a loving and supportive husband like Roger. "Virginia Bluebell" is one of my favorite songs...I seriously listen to it on a loop some days. One of my favorite lines is "...all you ever wanted was a sunny place to grow." It is the line that went through my head the first time I went to your house in Etown. You have your sunny place, now you just have to get to growing. This is a big step in the right direction for you and I want you to know I love you and will do whatever I can to help along the way. We still on for our soul soak on Wednesday?

  2. from experience, i know how hard it is to succumb to the thought that i am a failure because i can't 'control my emotions.' you are where i was almost exactly two years ago. i had to call my dr from underneath my bed sheets because i couldn't muster up the will power to get out of bed (actually, i was supposed to work that day, too, and couldn't collect myself enough to go to work). i went to my dr who gave me some trial pills, and the next day i ended up in my pastor's office telling him they were in my purse and asking him to convince me to take them. i went to him because he had preached a sermon on depression and admitted to a congregation that he suffered from the disease himself (imagine how you felt while writing this, and having to read it in front of a congregation, but twice for two services. makes me cringe, lol). i needed him to tell me why it was right. he explained to me that a Christian doctor of his told him a story. while the dr was in med school, he was holding a human brain in his hands and God spoke to him. He reminded him that the human body is born into sin, rendering it imperfect. just as a heart is imperfect (as you well know), it needs assistance in correctly working, so does the brain. the effects are moot and the manifest of the symptoms is of no concern; what is important is that there is a malfunction that needs corrections because the symptoms are abnormal. it just so happens that they affect your emotions.

    like you, i've got a psych degree and have done some counseling on the side through the agency i used to work for, and always felt strange that i worked in a therapy office when i had my own issues. but who knows better than us that suffer? how much more can we relate and empathize with those we counsel who suffer in like manner?

    there is no shame in admitting that your body doesn't work correctly. like roger said, you take an iron pill and can admit it because there is no shame in admitting that your body doesn't work correctly. this is the same, only that a chemical imbalance is taboo because it effects your emotions. my two cents: you don't have to tell anyone about it if you don't want to, just like you don't have to tell anyone about your iron deficiency because how your body works is really of no concern of others. however, if you choose to tell those around you, the rewards will likely outweigh the risks involved. if people can't grasp that you have a chemical imbalance, a run-of-the-mill medical condition, then they may need to be reminded of all the Biblical characters that appeared to suffer from your affliction (Job in Job 3:1, Elijah in I Kings 19, Moses in Exodus 32:32, and many more, which is also something my pastor reminded me of). Here's a site:

    you are not alone in your suffering. if no one else understands, Christ does. hang in there. and some practical advice: don't stop trying medicine until you find the right one. it may need to be a combination. i've tried pristiq, cymbalta, zoloft, and wellbutrin. for anxiety a lot of people take prozac (which is potent, so i'm leary of it) and zoloft. i'm mostly just depression and it doesn't follow my cycles (which makes me wonder if you may have pmdd). i took pristiq for a year, and while it worked well, it made me lethargic and i gained weight. shortly before i got pregnant i was on cymbalta which was better than the pristiq so i'll go back to it when i'm finished breastfeeding.

    i'm proud of you, girl! it takes a lot of courage to give up the battle to win the war. you've got a lot of good people on your side, i'm sure. keep us posted on how things go ")