April 04, 2013

My journey towards mental health

Since January I have been going through depression, or at least I thought I had.  My General Practioner who is a friend and a person that I entrust took me as far as he could in helping me. Last Saturday when I was taking a shower I started to think that I was feeling no better after being on Celexa and a small dosage of Valium for 5 weeks.  I had been on Paxil prior to that for 10 days and had horrible side effects (anxiety and panic attacks) to the point that my husband took off work to be with me.  

Well I am a Christian and I only say that because sometimes you encounter people at church, exchange phone numbers during Sunday School and establish friendships and acquaintances.  I got out of the shower last Saturday morning and it is like God spoke to me and told me to text this lady from my church.  She works at the local hospital in their Behavioral Services department.  I texted her at 9:00 a.m. and within a few minutes she called me back.  She talked to me, got information from me and then within a couple of minutes I received a phone call from the physcian's assistant who was on call at that time to get some more information from me about the medication I was on.  The P.A. called the psychiatrist on call and she suggested I take 1/2 pill of valium a day to get me through the weekend.  That was Saturday and throughout the day the initial lady from my church that I had contacted, me kept texting me and telling me that there was hope and that I would get the right treatment and be well again.  

On Monday I went to the Behavioral Services office at 8:00 while they were having clinicals and reviewing cases including mine.  I took my Kindle with me as I knew that they had back to back appointments and would be fitting me in.   At 10:15 I met with an in-take person.  She is a kind individual who listened to what I was going through and asked me tons of questions.  I was then given a 2:30 appointment for that afternoon to speak with the individual who was their med specialist.  I was assured that she knew her job well.  She understands brain chemistry, dosages, and what drugs interact with other drugs.  

So back I went at 2:30 and met with the med specialist.  I told her that I now understand that depression was not my problem.  I had a problem with anxiety and anxiety attacks, but with the anxiety left untreated I become depressed.  She spent close to an hour with me going over all sorts of information and questioning me a lot about any medication I had taken in my entire life and side effects and so on.  In the end her diagnosis was that I have been on the wrong medication all along.  I am now being weaned on Lexipro and my Valium has been increased as the Valium dosage was actually so low that it really only worked for a few days.  When the Lexipro is entirely in my system, I will be slowly weaned off of the Valium.

I told the med specialist that I had never felt this way until being diagnosed with hypothyroidism 3 years ago.  Here is what she told me and my friend who is a therapist told me, I am a classic case.  I am now 54 years old, pre menopausal and have hypothyroidism.  Many women go through anxiety and/or depression at this time in their life.  I also shared that I am a “stuffer downer” the kind of person that deals with problems later and pushes them off. Well, now that I am home full time, those things that I have stuffed down are coming to the surface so part of my treatment plan involves therapy and meeting with the med specialist to monitor my medications.

In the meantime I have changed my schedule.  I used to love being home all the time, but now being home is a little hard for me.  As I am being weaned on the Lexipro and getting to the full amount and through therapy, that will change.  But I realize that while I had enjoyed being home, I also enjoy volunteering my time.

My new schedule is getting up and getting ready, walking the dog and then I am out the door at 9:00 to noon to volunteer at my church.  I then come back home at noon to have lunch with my husband and then at 3:30 I head back out the door to either work out or go back to my church and sit in a room that I am considering my office to research possible women’s ministries and outreach ministries for our ladies group.

I think it is so sad that I waited so long to call a mental health provider for help.  There is far too many “stigmas” out there that people get hung up on and they let get things to the point of perhaps becoming suicidal. I was never at that point.  I just knew I was feeling awful and not my normal self and that I had to get help. 

To hear that my age, being premenopausal and having hyprothyroidism was a classic case for anxiety which could lead to depression makes me wonder how many of my followers are in the same boat that I am in. 

Brain chemistry and getting on the right meds is a tricky thing.  Seeing specialists in which that is all they do is the best thing that you can do for your health and for your family.  Don’t suffer.  At the hospital where I go for “behavioral services” you go through an outside door that is labeled “2” in which anyone that drives by the hospital and sees you go in that door knows where you are going.  Well, that is their problem.  I could care less who knows that I am being treated and getting help. 

Please don’t suffer for the 3 months that I suffered.  I am not there yet, but I know that being on the right meds and seeing a therapist is going to bring me around. 

I have shared with a few ladies at my church what I am going through and guess what – they have been through the same thing.  Having a mental health issue does not make you a bad Christian.  It does not mean that you can’t turn all your worries over to God and move it and are a lesser person.  It simply means that just like a diabetic needs insulin, God gave Psychiatrists and mental health providers the gift to know what you need to help you lead a full productive life. 

Please, please, please don’t suffer like I did for 3 months.  Get help.


Pam said...

I really can not understand the block that means that people do not realise that the mind can become ill just as the body can. We all get run down and physically tired, we get cold sores, acne, dandruff, heat rash and so on.I have suffered with depression and used medication and prayer along with excercise and took up new hobbies. I am well at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Martha,
I really enjoy your blog but have never commented before. I take Lexapro too. I feel like it has helped me with my anxiety a lot, hopefully you will have good results with it. The good thing is it does not make you a zombie or change who you are, it is a fairly mild drug I believe. Good Luck!

midlifemom said...

I lost my father about a year ago and I am also going through some perimenopausal issues. I've been to my OBGYN to test my hormones which affect anxiety and depression also. I am a teacher and work full time but I am also trying to fit in some new routines like exercising and eating better to help me through some tough times. Good Luck to you and thanks for sharing

Terri said...

From age 14 until 34 I fought depression with meds, without meds, with therapy and without therapy. I had two nervous breakdowns (untreated) that lasted for a few months each. I did the best I could under the circumstances. I was blessed to have the depression lifted from me about age 35.

However, at around age 45 I began having major panic attacks each evening. I remember my husband coming in from work and having to sit on my hands to keep from screaming my head off in pure panic. I didn't let on to him what was going on because he had enough pressure from his job (he's a paramedic) and didn't need to hear my sagas each evening. However I was fortunate to find info on the web that helped me understand I was in the throes of periomenopause. I found a supplementary product that quelled the worst of the anxiety/panic attacks. After a couple of years, I felt strongly that it was time to come off that supplement, which I did. No more major panic attacks.

With my history of depression etc. and the history of suicide in my family, I am very mindful of the need to seek help when and where available. I am so glad that you have found your way! Awareness of depression and mental health has a long way to go be made less a stigma and more of a health issue that can easily be remedied with medication, therapy and time, just like any other illness.