It’s Mental Health Day, so obviously this post will be about mental health (duh). Fyi, your experiences may differ.
The last time I wrote about my mental health was for Talk Nerdy With Us and it was for characters that suffered from depression. But this time I want to talk about my personal experience.
Growing up I always thought I just had a horrible temper. It wasn’t until I read Anne Wheaton’s post about living with a depressed partner that I realized something might be wrong with me. I would go grocery shopping and end up sobbing in the car because I couldn’t handle being around people. I once abandoned a cart in the middle of the store because there were too many people around me. I’d scream before and after my shopping trip because I was so angry. Why was I mad? No clue.
In May 2014 I was diagnosed with PCOS and infertility. About a month later I hit rock bottom when I contemplated ending my life. I mean, what could I possibly offer my partner since I couldn’t have children? I had a plan: I’d wait until everyone I loved, including the dog, had passed then I would join them in the afterlife. When I’d realized what I had just planned, I became sick and scared. How could I do that to everyone I loved? How could I waste the life that God had given me? The very next day I searched for a therapist because I knew I needed help.
After searching through my insurance’s website for therapists who accept BCBS, I found one who specialized in infertility. I called her to set up an informal appointment to see if we would mesh. We talked on the phone about what I needed and decided that she was the one.
Two weeks later I met with my therapist for the first time. I ended up crying so much, letting out all of the emotions that I had been keeping in. At the end of the session she asked how I wished to proceed, if I wanted to try medication. Now, I grew up thinking anti-depressants were for the weak and I certainly wasn’t weak. I said I wanted to try talk therapy first.
Fast forward to November 2014. I’d been having monthly sessions with my therapist and they were really helping. Until the week before Thanksgiving. I was attempting to play Mass Effect for the first time and was having a really hard time navigating the Mako on a planet (for those of you who have played the game, you know exactly the difficulty I’m talking about). Michael kept trying to give me advice on how to use the controller but all he did was succeed in making me angrier. After a few minutes I threw the controller and started screaming. I knew from the look on his face that something was seriously wrong with me. I apologized and we spent hours talking about my depression. I agreed to talk to my therapist about trying medication.
At my next therapy session I told my therapist about the video game incident and my hesitation to try medication. She understood my concerns and talked to me about how depression is a physical and mental illness and can be treated with meds just like any other condition (and yes, she used the example of diabetics and insulin). She named off a few types and gave me two suggestions, based on the fact that I was undergoing fertility treatments and needed something safe to use during possible pregnancy. Zoloft (sertraline) ended up the winner.
It wasn’t until about two months after being on medication that I began to notice small changes. I wasn’t angry all the time. Things like grocery shopping no longer sent me into a huge rage spiral. Sure I’d still get annoyed when people stood in the middle of the aisle, but it no longer made me Hulk out. Michael noticed the changes as well.
Six months after being medication I began to feel like “me.” I was worried that Zoloft would change me at the core but honestly it brought me back to Jenni Prime. I would often refer to my pre-antidepressant self as “Old Jenni” and would reference her whenever I began to feel angry. My therapist was supportive of this line of thinking.
After giving birth last year I was so afraid of developing postpartum depression, especially since the twins were 6 weeks premature. My therapist assured me that I would be ok, but to call her immediately if I felt otherwise. Thankfully I was fine, just the normal post-baby blues. But still.
So here I am, 3 and a half years post-diagnosis and 3 years medicated. I honestly can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to feel “normal” and not feel like I’m buried under a lead cloud. I still feel the darkness from time to time, usually at night when I’m trying to sleep. I just tell myself to reevaluate in the morning and usually end up feeling better when the day breaks.
At my last therapy session in August, my therapist was so happy with my progress that she thinks I don’t need to see her on a scheduled basis anymore. Now she’s my “at-will” therapist; I can make an appointment whenever I need. Which is great because my depression no longer feels like a burden. It’s a part of me, an illness that needs to be kept in check, just like my thyroid issues.
My life isn’t perfect. I’ll probably be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. But I’m managing. I’m still here. And so are you.
There are many resources for mental health. Please check out the below links if you need help.