Jo Creating My Odyssey - Liberating the Real Me After 30 Years of Depression & Anxiety
Five years ago I had my medication crisis. On Christmas day itself, and a week after being prescribed Prozac by my psychiatrist, who then buggered off on his holidays, I became suicidal. In describing how I felt, I can only say that my brain felt poisoned. I squirmed and cried in bed after waking up over a period of around three days. Intermediately I would feel slightly better and calmer, usually in the evening, then the following day, down I went again. I'd been very up and down over the years, but this time I'd never felt so bad.
My fabulous soul-mate Husband looked after me throughout this crisis, as he had done for over thirty years - which has left repercussions in itself. Through sheer luck during this appalling episode,
we were introduced to the brilliant mental health team who literally cured me of depression and anxiety, a journey that would take five years. They instantly - over the phone on initial contact - took me off Prozac. (Our GP had prescribed Quatiapine, an anti-psychotic that helped calm me).
A meeting was arranged with the team for New Year's Day. That was gob smacking - we'd assumed it would be arranged for three weeks next Tuesday (one of Husband's favourite quips). My new nursing practitioner wrote 'reasonably kempt' in his notes, which I was, if dozy as hell on Quatiapine. (I read the note upside down and teased him about it in later months). The team stabilised me. Then my new psychiatrist prescribed a higher dose of my anti-depressant Venlafaxine. Our GPs had declared that I was 'over-prescribed'. Wrong! Added to that was Mirtazipine. I began to feel better and better and better, although not a hundred percent, which would have been a miracle.
To finalise, I was given a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I brought home the bedtime reading from this, and Husband declared: 'That makes absolute sense! We can do this!' I have to add that it does help if you have the right mindset, which I do. An 'I'm buggered if I'm gonna let this thing beat me' mindset.
It took around three years to really feel better. The talking therapy lasted several months and brought me, more or less, to where I am now. I've never felt as mentally well as I am today. As calm (more or less!), as confident. Of course there are down days, but there's always a reason for this, and this is where Cognitive Behavioural Therapy comes into its own. The therapy challenges every negative thought, pulls it apart, and straightens it up. After years of distorted thinking, it's an essential tool for many people, with or without mental issues. With the help of scientifically-minded Husband (as it turns out, just the right bod to do this) I worked through it. When you feel depressed, it's not chemical reactions in the brain reacting, it's down to negative thoughts. What were you thinking about? Not: How do you feel? Difficult to identify. Very difficult, sometimes. That's where it helps to have a partner guide you through it. I was extraordinarily lucky.
I had always maintained that I didn't need therapy. 'It's clinical depression. A chemical imbalance.' How wrong I was! After two or three years of better-ness, we found an article on the mental health charity Mind's website with regard to so-called 'chemical imbalances'. They're suggesting that depression isn't caused by chemical imbalances, but that negative chemical changes in the brain are caused by years of negative thinking, in turn causing depression. So, they're suggesting, we aren't born with a chemical imbalance, but that happens if we've encountered years of verbal/mental/ physical abuse at the hands of whoever is our chief caretaker, for example. Here's what Mind are saying:
Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance?
Part of my therapy, and Husband's conviction, was the knowledge that I had to separate myself from my side of the family because I had received nothing from any of them emotionally or mentally. I had always defended them all. They were family, after all. But I always maintain that my life had consisted of lecturings and judgements. I don't remember much affection. I had received such from my parents, but the rest of them... I had felt like a stranger to them much of the time.
Then both my parents died within days of one another. They were both in their early nineties and had led good, active lives. But mother had developed severe dementia in her early eighties and spent the last ten years in a nursing home. Dad had lost her. He died on Christmas Day, a year after my medication crisis, and mother died five days later. All familial obligations had vanished as far as I was concerned, so I made the major decision not to maintain contact with them all. It's possibly the best thing I ever did. I had reached a point of wellness whereby I had decided that nothing and no-one was going to spoil my new-found happiness.
My own family - Husband, his family, daughter and her family, and our son - have been nothing but supportive, sympathetic and brilliant. Also protective.
Around a year or two after beginning recovery, I decided to start this blog. I wanted to share with other depression and anxiety sufferers my experiences, and show them that recovery was possible. That depression is one of the most treatable of mental health issues. The hard part is finding that treatment. I wanted to share the new, creative, sometimes adventurous lifestyle which we were going to develop. Showcase the creativity that had been hidden under that bushel throughout.
I became myself. My side of the family had stifled the quirky side of me. I was 'undiplomatic', over-excitable, too noisy, and various other superlatives. I had 'brought everything on myself', let things bother me... and so forth. I was brought up on all that, and it continued throughout young parenthood and into middle-age and late middle-age. Gee. Once free of all this, I could grow. And grow I have.
I haven't finished growing, and probably won't. I've got so many things on my bucket list, some of which I hope to accomplish. Learn to snorkel, visit more countries, finish my novel, get stuck into Steampunk. I'm working on the archery!
Ah, yes. It's all out there to discover!
(Ps. There's one factor I need to add here. The sub-conscious. It's very strong. You might have a rational realisation that life has improved, is getting better, but your sub-conscious mind doesn't feel the same way. It takes a while for the sub-conscious to catch up with the rest of you! It's used to feeling negative about things that have caused you depression and angst throughout the years, and needs to prove to itself that things have improved.
My prime example is the writing of my novel Alias Jeannie Delaney. For years I have written and edited it and been embarrassed about it because of its raunchy subject matter and violence. I had somehow persuaded my sub-conscious over the years that, because I had never really shown it to anyone, including Husband, it was a bad thing to write and it was childish writing. It took a long time - a couple of years at least after starting to recover - to persuade that pesky sub-conscious of mine that actually, it's really good! The subject matter is unusual, and my writing has matured and improved over the years. But, until fairly recently, I still reacted to watching westerns or anything related. I felt sad, depressed. Lots of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy required. My rational mind had, through loads of support and positive comments on Facebook and elsewhere, finally accepted that it was good. But the bleedin' sub-conscious took a while longer - months, a year or two - to accept that. I think I'm finally there. Husband's editing and suggestions have doubtlessly contributed big time as well. In recent times I've been feeling so much better about it. Maybe, finally, my sub-conscious has decided 'Yes - it's a great book with sensational subject matter and great writing!' Took its time, didn't it? But that's the invisible, cobwebby nature of the sub-conscious for you.)
Had a similar experience? Tell me all about it. I'd love to know!
CREATING MY ODYSSEY