I feel like I should start this off like a season premiere of a TV show that ended on a cliff hanger.
(I’m not sure what my show would be called. “Hot Mess”, maybe.)
But if you’ve been following me on Twitter (or periodically here), you’ve SEEN what’s happened over the past year (or you did. I’ve gone back and deleted the majority of my tweets). I ran into some bad luck, experienced some loss, and dove into the deepest depression I’ve had since… well, since probably high school, if I’m being honest. It got really, really bad.
Until I finally got scared enough, and HAD enough, and got myself to the doctor and a new therapist this past month (I’ve hopped around to a couple over the past year but the first session with this new guy was pretty major). I’m on medication (for the first time in a LONG time) and getting help. And while I’m not, like, cured or anything, it’s helping. I feel better. The despair has lifted.
And so here I am, back on the keyboard, back on my blog. I suppose this is just another form of venting, but… I wanted to write something that I wouldn’t feel like I needed to delete later, which meant I wanted to write something honest, but positive. All the stuff I’ve deleted has been my issues and depression banging at my brain-- which, at times I’ve felt that I SHOULD post, because mental health needs to be talked about more. But it’s too negative, too angry. I have to shift my focus on the positive, and try and relearn how to hope again, you know?
So if it’s possible (I suppose I’ll find out soon enough), I will try to be honest and open about my issues in a positive manner. And though part of me still wants to focus on the past, on how I GOT here, because I’m still really angry… what’s done is done, and I learned some important lessons.
Let’s get the informational aspect out of the way: my medication. I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s good information for those who have mental health issues and are considering/wary of going on meds.
There are a bunch of different options for antidepressants, and the list basically keeps getting longer every day. I have taken two different types of antidepressants before: SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors).
MAOIs basically affect your neurotransmitters. They’re not really used much anymore because they have a lot of side effects and interact poorly with a LOT of other medications. I was taken off them, for example, because you literally can’t even take cold or allergy medicine with them.
SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin available in your brain, and are most popularly prescribed for depression. I didn’t find any relief with SSRIs, really. A mix of therapy and my own work on myself seemed to be more beneficial.
I’ve also been on medication for anxiety-- benzodiazepines (Xanax, basically). I HATE this stuff. THIS is primarily what turned me into a zombie-- so I mean, it definitely works, but I definitely wasn’t feeling much of ANYTHING when I was on it.
So, my doctor suggested bupropion hydrochloride, which is considered an “atypical antidepressant”. It’s a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI) which increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Apparently the side effects are less harsh (though there is the usual risk of getting worse and a flurry of other symptoms), and the sedative-esque qualities are almost non-existent.
My meds have helped. A LOT. Like, I probably should’ve been on this YEARS ago. Sometimes I feel... not exactly loopy, but kind of scattered? Particularly in the morning. But it’s temporary. When I first started taking it, I found that my irritability SKYROCKETED (like, I don’t usually get angry or annoyed TOO easily, I don’t think)-- I snapped at a manager at work, and literally had to go sit down and breathe when I couldn’t find one my socks. That worried me for a bit, but I seem to have it under control now.
I was also told I was gonna get crazy cravings (a little, not often) and that my sex drive could increase (nope, and frankly, my husband is relieved).
But really, it’s mainly just taken away the despair. Meds should never be looked at as a miracle cure, and sometimes it can be a battle to find the right one (been there, done that). But I’m able to recognize that I have issues that need to be worked on without crumbling under the weight of them. I can be sad without feeling like the world is ending. Things seem to matter again. I want to TRY again, even though I don’t know what to do or where to start.
Which brings me to the next part of my road to recovery (or, more realistically, road to management): therapy.
I’ve had some bad luck with therapists in the past. I had one call me “obnoxious” when I was in middle school, another tell me to stop talking to my best friend (when I was SUICIDAL, no less) when I was in high school, and most recently, another suggest that confrontation was key in getting over, like, EVERYTHING that bothered me (a TERRIBLE idea). Finding a good therapist is an exhausting process, and when you’re already exhausted from your issues, I can understand why people don’t want to bother undertaking it.
Do it anyway.
I was kind of dreading going to this new guy, because going through the whole “here are my issues, here is my past” thing is really emotionally draining. And as much as I’m clearly willing to talk about stuff (I mean, look at this post), I don’t really like dredging up my past, particularly when it comes to my dad.
You know when, in Rogue One, the rebels ask Jyn about her dad and she says, “I like to think he’s dead, makes things easier”? I FEEL YOU, GURL. Harsh, but true.
Nevertheless, I went. Some of it wasn’t fun (he wanted to know very specific details about my past suicide attempts), some of it was okay (talking about my family came easier than I thought, and was fairly painless), and some of it was awkward (explaining WHY I had fallen into a depression continues to make me feel embarrassed and idiotic). He listened, mostly. But he threw two truth bombs at me-- not forcefully, but they hit me like a *sings* SLEDGE-HAMMAH.
The first was, after he listened a bit to how my parents treated me growing up and my relationship with them now, that he wanted me to come to terms with the fact that my parents were abusive.
I told that that felt a bit dramatic-- “abusive parents” sounds like I was beaten as a kid, which wasn’t the case.
But he told that emotional abuse is still abuse, and can inflict just as much damage as physical abuse. Then he said he wanted me to specifically work on using that word-- “abusive”-- when I thought about my relationship with them, because he thought it would help me understand how serious the damage is, and how to look at them and deal with them going forward.
I’ve been calling my relationship with my family “toxic” until now, and yeah, he’s right: being told that you were, essentially, abused as a child is… a lot. I think so many people have general issues with their parents/families that we tend to just brush bad behavior off as normal, but… in ONE session, this guy was calling their treatment of me “abuse”. And I knew it was bad, but that word DOES sort of change things, in my head.
(I’ve been wondering ever since what my sister would think of that. What my mom would think of that. But those are conversations I will never have.)
The second truth bomb I’m less inclined to talk about because I feel so embarrassed and CRAZY (which is something that we’re going to work on, apparently).
But FUCK IT, if I’m going to write posts about my mental health and say I’m going to be honest, I have to practice what I preach (after all, I HAVE been banging on about that forever).
… maybe this was evident to everyone (except me), but apparently I hardcore gave away the empty Dad Slot in my heart to someone that I shouldn’t have, and my inability to move on from the COMPLETE DESTRUCTION of his part of my life and happiness it brought me is basically Dad Abandonment 2.0 in my brain.
Full disclosure: when my therapist threw this at me, I literally yelled, “NO. WHY. THAT’S IDIOTIC. I HATE IT.” And he said some stuff about how children from abusive households or even just absent households always seek to find people to fill the spaces left in their hearts by parents, siblings, whatever. He was actually surprised it hadn’t happened sooner with me, that I hadn’t found a male figure of authority and admiration and thrown every single one of my dad issues at him BEFORE my thirties.
So yeah, I basically dadded a dude I barely knew. Good job, Shannon. Like, I was VERY aware that I was clinging to the first bit of support and encouragement that I had EVER gotten from someone that gave me mentor vibes, but I didn’t know that my brain had basically went, “CONGRATS, YOU’RE MY DAD NOW”.
But it happened, and while I work on forgiving myself for it (my go-to so far is trying to switch from yelling at myself to laughing at myself-- baby steps), my therapist tells me that my struggle with moving on is because I’m having dad-level emotions about the whole situation. More specifically, I am looking at this loss and not only feeling disappointment, but also thinking, “What did I do wrong? I tried really hard to be a good daughter, I promise!”
(This is almost a direct quote from my therapist, and I gotta admit, when he said this, I WAS THISCLOSE to crying. Goddammit.)
So that’s… a whole thing.
But the bottom line is that this double whammy of meds plus therapy is definitely doing the trick, so far. I am feeling better. I am feeling healthier (I haven’t been able to start eating healthy again yet, but… it’s coming. I can tell). I also can’t drink much on these meds, and THAT’S a good thing (I was getting a little too reliant on it at the end there, honestly).
Life will always be hard. I will always be mentally ill. I will never fully escape my past and my issues. But I can try, and that’s what I have to focus on.