April Warrior – Hope

April Warrior – Hope

Hello! And welcome to my next Warrior of the Month. This month’s Warrior, Hope, is a friend of mine. We met on instagram and we quickly connected over our love for literature, and our mental health struggles. Read Hope’s story below:

I was a pretty emotional kid – I cried easily, took everything to heart, and cared too much what people thought of me. I was told I was too emotional, to lighten up, or that I was over dramatic.When I went into high school, I started having episodes of insomnia that would last for days –  sometimes I would be awake for so long I would start hallucinating. Other times I would crash into a sleep so deep I lost whole days, sleeping through alarm clocks and every attempt by my mother to get me out of bed to school (including her destroying various things in my room). I lost control of my emotions, would cry or suddenly be enraged at the slightest provocation. After repeatedly telling me that I was lazy and she wasnt tolerating it, my mother took me to the doctors to “prove” that there was no reason for me to be like this.
I was tentatively diagnosed with type II bipolar, also called hypomania, and referred for counselling.

As I was still a minor, my mother had full control over my health care. She accompanied me to therapy where my illness was explained to her in detail. The therapist went on to explain how her methods of “handling” my manic and depressive phases were not only unhelpful, but harmful, and could exacerbate my symptoms. My mother proceeded to lose her shit on my therapist, told them that they were “making excuses” for me and that we would not be coming back.
I was a minor – I had no say in the matter.

For the next ten years I struggled on my own trying to manage my highs and lows. In retrospect I should have started looking for my own care as soon as I was old enough to be medically emancipated, but it is hard to see and think clearly when you’re in the thick of it and have been made to feel that nothing is seriously wrong and you’re just a terrible, lazy, burden on your parent.

When I became a parent myself, I started to notice my mood swings becoming less aggressive, but my anxiety suddenly was front and center. I catastrophized everything, and saw the inevitable dangers of life everywhere. It felt like living in a Final Destination movie waiting to happen.
What if we get into a car accident and the car catches fire and I can’t get the baby out of her car seat in time?
What if we are walking to the park and a car jumps the curb and hits the baby?
My brain cycled and cycled with all these terrifying thoughts and scenarios. I would randomly be overcome with anxiety so extreme that I couldn’t breathe. I would have to leave places to go sit in the car and cry. And the more this happened, the more my mood deteriorated.

I didn’t even realize I was depressed until after I had my second daughter. I remember lying in bed calling into the school for my oldest, saying she was sick, when really I just couldn’t face the day. I kept her home for a whole week. I don’t remember doing anything, just floating down to the kitchen in a daze to feed my kids and then went back to bed. I don’t even know what my oldest did to occupy those days, she was only 6 years old. That week was the lowest point, when I finally realized I needed help.

I went to the doctors and after several visits, was re-diagnosed with severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression, and I started my uphill battle with medication. One thing that I have always had problems with is medications. I am allergic to most major antibiotics, and over the years have developed a theory that I may be allergic to something in binding agents for pills because I vomit 20-30 minutes after taking anything from vitamins, supplements, or medications. So I was wary about starting any medications knowing I was likely to have problems, but I was so desperate for help that I had to try.

First we tried Cipralex. I was told it was a new medication, well tolerated with minimal side effects. The first week on it, I was sick to my stomach with nausea and dizziness. The doctor said that would pass as my body adjusted. After the sickness went away I was exhausted. A deep bone tired, like I spent the day walking around with led weights strapped all over my body. The exhaustion was so all-consuming that I became a shell. I started falling asleep on the couch as soon as I got home from work. I tried going to bed earlier at night but it didn’t help, my husband had to shake me violently in the mornings to wake me up for work. I was so tired that often, just breathing felt like an effort, that I didn’t even have the energy for autonomic responses. My brain was in a constant fog; I would ask the same questions repeatedly and I had trouble recalling common-place words. I started to forget things, like as soon as they happened my brain would just let the memories go rather than convert them to long-term storage. We realised how bad it had gotten when I forgot my oldest daughter’s ninth birthday, and couldn’t understand why she was telling me she was turning 10. That was the moment that broke me, that I knew I had to come off of this medication. My anxiety wasn’t better, I was just too exhausted and out of it to feel anything. I was numb.

We went back to the doctor and he switched me to Wellbutrin, hoping maybe things would get better. My fatigue did improve even though it never fully resolved, but it was burning off to reveal something even worse: rage. I was so angry all the time. I was shouting and throwing things, I would scream until I could taste blood in my throat. I broke down in self doubt so badly, thinking I had to surrender my kids to CAS because I thought anything would be better for them than me. I cannot imagine what would have happened if my husband hadn’t been there to reassure me that this wasn’t who I really was, and suggest that maybe I wasn’t tolerating the Wellbutrin either.

My doctor weaned me off Wellbutrin and referred me to a psychiatrist hoping that an expert could provide some insight and come up with a medication solution that would suit me. I met with a psych and he confirmed my diagnoses of severe GAD and depression, but he also diagnosed me with something I had never heard of before: obsessive compulsive personality disorder. The biggest problem with OCPD he explained, is that our society values the traits of this personality disorder so highly that people do not even realize that anything is wrong. Extreme perfectionism, extreme organization, high grades, hard worker… all of those things sound great, but the problem with OCPD is that we strive to achieve these accomplishments and successes even if it sacrifices our health and well being. I walked away from that appointment with a new diagnosis, a stack of reading materials about my disorder and CBT and DBT techniques to manage it, and a new prescription for Effexor.

The Effexor was probably the least problematic of all the meds I had tried, but it gave me such bad heart palpitations that you could see my pulse jumping in my throat, and it would get so string that it would set off my gag reflex. So off the Effexor I went.

It has been about a year since I came off my last medication, and I have been managing as best I can with talk therapy and CBT/DBT techniques. It is not perfect. There are still nights I lie awake with racing thoughts, or times I am so depressed I cancel all my plans and cry and cry. I am still fatigued although it is not as debilitating as it was. My doctor speculates that my issues with Cipralex caused a permanent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that I will likely struggle with for my whole life. I never did get back whatever memories I lost during that period of my life. And although maybe my mental health isn’t stable, it is getting better. I am learning to recognize my feelings and do what I can to prepare myself for the wave that is coming. My husband has learned how to watch for my tells when my mental health is suffering, and tries to effectively disrupt my negative thought processes or give me an out to extricate myself from a potentially triggering situation.

My mother is still a major stressor on my mental health, and that will never change. No matter how many years we put between us and that first doctors visit, she still refuses to admit that she was wrong, or that she was ever part of the problem. She stands firm in her belief that my doctor encouraged me to continue my destructive behaviours, and refuses to acknowledge that therapy and medication could have made me much more capable of existing without struggle. I do my best to emotionally remove myself from her, and I monitor her interactions with my children carefully to ensure she keeps her manipulative behaviour to herself. She will never change and in therapy I have learned that to try to change her is only detrimental to myself. 

I have come a long way from where I started, and having others to talk to who suffer from similar disorders can be so empowering. To hear that others have been through or go through the same things I do helps me to realize I am not a broken human. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with me as a person, and after spending the first 14 years of my life being made to believe that I was the problem, it has been so healing to learn that there are others on various stages of the same journey and that I am not alone. 

I enjoy spending time with my family and I no longer feel the need to separate myself from them to protect them from my mood swings. If I have taught my girls nothing else, it is the importance of mental health, and of saying your sorry when you make a mistake. I am trying every single day to be a better person, a better parent. I don’t always succeed and sometimes I have bad days, but at least I am trying. And I think that counts for a lot.
Miss Hope, I love you girl! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and my readers. You’re such a trooper and I truly am inspired by you. Your strength and persistence never ceases to amaze me.
See y’all next month..

One Reply to “April Warrior – Hope”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a warrior! Keep up with those activities that give you piece of mind:)

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