Happy Mental Health Day! Wanna Hear My Mental Health Journey?

I just saw that it is world mental health day, and coincidentally also the day after I took my first mental health drug! So I thought I would briefly share my own journey, just to do my little bit wedging open the conversational door.

You know how you wake up with a sore throat and then you do a quick body check to decide “is this a normal morning throat, or am I getting a cold?” And if it’s a normal morning throat, you have hot tea with breakfast and that fixes it and you go about your day, and if it’s a cold you take a tylenol and maybe call in sick to work. I always thought of mental health like that. If it’s a normal morning throat kind of mental problem, then I deal with it with hot tea and don’t bother the doctor. If it’s something extra, then you bother the doctor.

I had a couple patches of real depression when I was a teenager. Which is normal. Teen brains are a mess. And when I say “patches”, I mean literally a couple of hours maybe, or less than a day. And when I say “depression” I mean not “I feel sad” but “I can’t think straight”. Anyway, it was SUPER useful to have had that experience, gave me a baseline for the rest of my life between normal sad and “my brain chemistry is broken” sad. I also had a stretch of getting strep throat constantly in first grade, which is similarly useful when I have to figure out if I have a normal sore throat or need to go in for a strep test.

This, for instance, is not Morning Throat. This is an actual cold and she really needs to see a doctor

Part of growing up was getting used to my “normal” kind of mental health adjustments. If I was worried about something, or didn’t get enough sleep, or had too much caffeine, I would feel slightly anxious or worried, and then I’d have a cup of tea (works for normal anxiety, and for morning throats), and feel all better. I chugged along like that for years and years and years.

5 years ago I think, those little patches of worry started happening slightly more often. But they still were in the “morning throat” kind of category. They didn’t feel like being sick-sick, they felt like just my bodies normal behavior, but happening more often. And more and more and more and more. And my “hot tea” cures had to get more elaborate, it wasn’t just hot tea, it was leaving the TV going while I fell asleep, buying a bunch of sunlamps, getting a dog.

I’d bring this up at doctor’s appointments and they would sort of brush past it, because I never really pushed or explained clearly. I wasn’t SICK, like not with something really shockingly clearly wrong, I was just slowly getting worse and worse. It wasn’t until my foot surgery that I FINALLY decided I had to go to a specialist and really say what was wrong and see what they said.

The thing with the foot surgery was two fold. First, I don’t know if you remember this from blog posts, but the lead up to it was setting off all my anxiety triggers (loss of control, dealing with new strange situations, unknown future, blah blah). I was in a really bad shape thinking “I can’t keep on feeling like this, I’m not functioning.” But the other second part was the bit that really made a difference, I started to realize that my mental health was just like my foot.

With a foot, or loads of other physical ailments, we are used to this sort of slow progression of “normal” body stuff that gets slightly off. There’s the stuff like a real external thing, like breaking a bone, and then there’s all the stuff that just comes from inside, for whatever reason some small thing that gets worse and worse. It’s not really a problem at all, and then it’s a minor problem and you adjust around it, and then you finally go to the doctor and they say “oh yeah, we can totally fix that” and you think “well, why didn’t I come in sooner?”

Like Shahrukh finally going to the gypsies and getting his muteness fixed, easy-peasy

But it hadn’t occurred to me that mental health could be like that. Not the actual real sick-sick dramatic changes, but just slow shifting of “normal” stuff that you begin to adjust your life around, and you can handle it yourself, but it’s harder and harder. I did that with my foot, and finally came in and the doctor knew just what it was and took care of it. Why couldn’t I try the same thing with my brain?

So I made an appointment with a psychiatrist and he didn’t give me any stupid “lifestyle” suggestions, along the lines of my general doctors who told me to stop drinking caffeine if I felt anxious, or to buy comfortable shoes for my foot. He said it was completely normal for people to feel anxious sometimes, and he wanted to help with that, and suggested a pill to take as needed when I started to feel panicky, and a daily anti-depressant. And then I was very brave and said I didn’t want to take a daily anti-depressant, and he was okay with that too. Actually listened to my concerns and suggested we start with the other pill first, and maybe add the anti-depressant later. It wasn’t scary or hard or anything, and he didn’t tell me I should take better care of myself and not use pills, or that I should take the pills he says because he knew better.

That was maybe I month ago, and I started taking the as-needed pills like he said. It took me a bit to figure out the best way to take them for myself to make them work, but then I did, and it was great! I took maybe one a week when I started to feel bad (almost always at night), it made me feel all calm and sleepy and safe, and then I would wake up in the morning with this leftover happiness. Until the past week or so when the sun started coming up later and going down later and I suddenly I was taking one a night and thought “eh, I should call that doctor again”. And he was great! Totally fine with giving me a new prescription for daily pills, even though I said I didn’t want them earlier. I took my first daily pill last night, which was very exciting since there was always the slight possibility of a bad reaction. But instead I had no apparent reaction. I woke up this morning in the dark feeling depressed but then I started to feel really happy, and kind of peaceful.

I went for a walk this morning, feeling happy, and trotting along for almost half a mile without any foot pain, thinking “why was I so scared to ask for help? Why didn’t I do something about my foot, and my brain, ages ago?”

15 thoughts on “Happy Mental Health Day! Wanna Hear My Mental Health Journey?

  1. I took Zoloft in college, and again later. And it was great. It didn’t change my personal problems, but it helped me get out of bed so I could change them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Like taking steroids to treat the symptoms of an infection, at the same time you take the antibiotics to cure it.

      On Sat, Oct 10, 2020 at 11:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Thanks for sharing. In my family the topic of mental health really came to a head when my mom tried to overdose on her antidepressants. So since then I have become quite wary of the ways I tend to overtaxed myself like her.

    Having a kid has also both increased the stress level and showed me what I can do. I am still learning to actually have my daily cup of tea. See, I have started to have shoulder aches, both from stress and from carrying around a two-year old. If I can do my little routines against that throughout the day, I can also do five mindful breaths in the morning to help monitor myself.

    Just yesterday, I was at a seminar about finding your dream profession. Part of that was writing down the seven pillars that carry you through life. And I realized that taking care of my mental health, increment by increment, has actually become one of those pillars.

    By the way, that seminar has also made me realize that I am actually right now the closest I have ever been to my childhood dream of becoming a novelist. I have an outline written out of a story that I feel confident about getting published once I actually fill in all the meat. So I have made a commitment to make that a priority for now. I’m giving myself until the middle of next year to get it into “send out to publishers” shape.

    I expect that experience to be therapeutic; which is all the better since it will limit my time with this blog and all the good it has done for my mental health.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nooooo! Don’t limit your blog time! we would all miss you 🙂

      But yes, daily little time for mental health is just the same as daily little time stretching your muscles to prevent aches.

      On Sun, Oct 11, 2020 at 6:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Thanks for the appreciation. I won’t be able to fully stay away anyways. But just in case I seem a little less engaged in the coming months, that’s why. And obviously, I’m also gonna write an English version and send it to you all.

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  3. Thank you for your upbeat post, Margaret.
    My father was a physician and not averse to judiciously prescribed pills. And, as an old hippie, neither am I. Whatever it takes as long as nobody’s hurt.
    Good luck with your writing, eva e.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good for you for going to a psychiatrist and getting on an anti-depressant. As I mentioned earlier, I always want to share my story in case it is helpful. It helped me to get on a mild dose of anti-depressant (daily)and a benzodiazepine (as needed). Medications affect me more potently than most people and a sub-therapeutic dose of the both the anti-depressant and 1/2 the benzo as needed made a huge difference for me. Given that the as needed medication is a controlled substance, I am very very careful about taking it. My husband has to basically force me to take it when he sees that my anxiety is preventing me from sleeping multiple days in a row. I just wanted to say good for you for having the courage to talk to a psychiatrist and get on medication. Despite being in the mental health field, having depression and anxiety from a very young age, and having it run in my family (everyone in my family has at some point been on the same anti depressant), it still took me years to be comfortable taking the medication. But what I found from being on the medication is how a brain is supposed to function normally. The medication just cleared my head and helped me handle the world in a much better way.

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    • Thank you for sharing! There’s this backlash now against drugs, stories of doctors just pushing meds instead of therapy, or people who start taking something and can’t ever get off it, and all of that made me a little scared to push for medication. So I wanted to share my story of “oh, this isn’t scary or hard at all!” and I appreciate you sharing yours as well. Good to have all those majority stories of lowkey meds that help you to handle the world, to balance out the minority stories of “I just took a bunch of meds instead of dealing with my problems”.

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  5. Yes, very good for you. I just wanted to add a supporting voice; myself I refused the meds for years, trying all sorts of therapies and counselling instead… or just staying under the duvet for geological periods. It wasn’t a total waste of time, I learned and grew. But having finally given in and taken various drugs at different times, I would say that sometimes a chemical imbalance is just a chemical imbalance. The right drug (and I was prescribed a couple of wrong uns) can interrupt the negative mind-spiral, and give you that much-needed break from dealing with your own head on top of everything else. Such a relief – like effective pain relief. I hope the meds you are taking bring you lasting relief. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! And yes, pain relief sounds like a good comparison to me. Some times you have an underlying life problem, but before you can do anything about it, you need the pain to stop.

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  6. I’ve been on antidepressants since I was 18 – around the time Prozac first came out. My family (on both sides) deals with hereditary depression, but as far as I know, I’m the first to actually do anything about it. I’ve kept a sharp eye on my kids; two have intense anxiety, 2 have low level depression, and one has bipolar disorder. He’s been on meds since he was 8 – the thinking being that the meds could help shape his brain to “grow out of” some of the symptoms. And, it has worked. He finished college in 4 years, never self-medicated with alcohol or drugs. I took a lot of crap from family and friends for “unnecessarily” medicating my kids. But, it was the right thing to do. We give insulin to the kid whose pancreas doesn’t make any, and mood stabilizers to the kids whose brains are deficient in serotonin in and epinephrine. What’s the difference? Now, with my neurological issues, I take 3 separate antidepressants just to maintain a relatively even keel. Can’t imagine going without. I know I am crazy without!
    As an aside, I did put all my kids on vitamin D to see if that helped. Most people are deficient for a variety of reasons, but it’s necessary for mental health. The recommended levels for D have changed over the years. You need a lot more than you think you do!

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    • Vitamin D, I keep thinking it’s impossible for me to get enough. Because I work 9 to 5, and live in an urban place (so most areas are shadowed by buildings), and have my skin covered in clothing most of the time, there’s just no way. Maybe for a few weeks every summer I can get it naturally, but there is just no way I’m not running on a deficit the rest of the time.

      On Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 9:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • You can get a fairly good amount with a small daily D3 + calcium tab. I was actually put on a prescription dose of 100,000 IU per DAY. Even being outside watching softball, football, etc, I was still super low. I think some people just don’t process it properly.

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        • Yeah, I had two winters in a row where I had to take the prescription stuff. But that was after not taking any supplements and it being February. Trying to get ahead of the game this year by taking it every day while it’s still not too bad out.

          On Mon, Oct 19, 2020 at 11:20 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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