The Results Are In

Last night my husband and I had a long talk about the depths of my most recent issues. It was the first time I have really come completely clean with everything going on inside my head. I didn’t want to go into the full depth of my depression with him because I was afraid he would worry too much about me or feel some sort of responsibility for my mental state, or worse, he would treat me differently–like a toxic and fragile thing to be handled with the utmost care and a healthy dose of fear.

I’m still not positive he won’t treat me differently, but he did remind me that we are a team and that as married people that is pretty much the entirety of our responsibility to one another. To be teammates, to listen, to understand, and to work through it. I love that guy, he gets me. Even though this is all new territory, he is kind and gentle and cautious and understanding.

Today my blood test results came in. I apparently have a slightly elevated MCV level. They want to do another blood test just to see for certain if it’s a folate or B12 deficiency or if maybe the blood just sat too long before they tested it.

The MCV level was the only abnormal aspect of my blood test, and those levels weren’t enough to be the cause of the depression and anxiety issues. So the doctor has prescribed Zoloft.

After reading all of the literature on it, I decided it would be better if I started it on Saturday since it can cause dizziness and sleepiness and things like driving aren’t recommended. Also, no drinking on it.

No drinking is going to be tough, but I’ve been working on the toning down the drinking for a little while now, so hopefully it won’t be bad. And if I have to trade my wine for some sanity, I’m willing to make that trade. Anyone who knows me, knows that means my desperation to feel better has reached a monumental level.


 

I was texting with one of my best friends today and we were discussing how we rarely talk anymore and how much of it is due to my depression. I realized that back in February or March I was having a lot of really great days, then when I finally sat down and wrote everything out about the anxiety and depression and really thoroughly examined everything, things started to slip.

The funny thing is, I think even with as bad as things have felt lately, that first moment of detailing what it’s like to live inside of my head during my general anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, blew the doors off of the proverbial closet I was hiding all of my mental shit in. It’s like I’m an emotional hoarder and now the doors and windows are all open and I pulled everything out and now I have to sort through it all.

It sucks when depression cripples you. At first it only feels like a sprain, or maybe a fracture, you’re still functioning. Then, before you realize it you’re paralyzed.


 

I am fortunate that my brain claws at life with a beautiful rage. That rage is what has given me the strength to seek help, to fight for living.

I went to yoga on Tuesday night for the second time in a month. That is more than I’ve been in years. The entire day was difficult. Everything felt hopeless and exhausting, but I kept reminding myself that I had yoga to look forward to. Even if it would have been easier to skip yoga and go home and wallow, I had to look forward to it. I had to convince myself that my very survival depended on it.

Funny thing about rage and pain, it needs to be inflicted. I was in such misery and being propelled by rage and I wanted nothing more than to lash out at someone. I wanted to inflict intellectual and emotional torment on someone so they would be equally as tortured as I was.

I wanted the power of fear.

And on some level I think I attained it.

Working through the postures, I remembered:

I am powerful beyond measure, even in my weakest moments. 

I proved it to myself through two 90 minutes hot yoga classes in the last few weeks, stepping back on to my mat and making it through as if I hadn’t been gone more than a few weeks.

The first class nearly brought me to tears with gratitude and relief, waves of absolution rolling over me. I wondered if that’s what confession felt like to a sinner. It was the final lock on the final closet door. Everything was finally out.

The second class was about harnessing my power, no matter where it came from, to pull my shit together and clean it up and make room for healing, discipline, and compassion for myself.


I’m finally realizing I have more than one or two tools in my toolbox and that those tools can be used consecutively to really and truly help me through this mess. While I’m nervous about the zoloft, I am excited about getting back to yoga, working through talk therapy, and having maybe an extra boost from the meds to help me iron my shit out and get back to good.

I have hope of getting back to good. It’s so fucking exciting.

 

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What is Really Going on Inside My Head

UPDATE: I’ve revised and republished this article at The Well Written Woman. 

I read an article by a (I assume) fairly prominent yogini. Even though I’m mostly out of the yoga circles these days, I do still dip my toe into the articles that occasionally make their way into my various social networks. I like to try and at least keep up with what’s going on in the greater community I’m still on the fence about rejoining.

Today I was reminded why my mat is still rolled up and shoved in the back of my closet.

In a community that touts itself as compassionate, empathetic, and free of judgment, I’m reminded quite often that there is still so. much. judgment.

Reading Hemalayaa’s article, honestly, I was pissed.

Of course, the first thing I did was post it on Twitter and Facebook.

Yogi-life-coach-gurus like this are why I find it so difficult to return to yoga. While most of my yoga teachers were compassionate when it was revealed I was on anxiety medication, the greater community response was more often than not a “Well you’re obviously doing something wrong if you have to take medication!” or “You need to change your diet, meditate more, do more yoga!” I know this comes from a place of wanting to help, but it often does more damage than good.

What I *need* is for my brain to stop spazzing the fuck out, I *need* to stop waking up from a dead sleep convinced the world is caving in and I am dying. I *need* yoga-mat psychologists who have never lived inside my head and have never had to fight a CONSTANT battle between their rational brain and their instinctual brain to shut up and listen when I’ve found the courage and vulnerability to discuss what I’m going through with them.

This was harsh, I know. But it’s REAL.

Hemalayaa, a few friends, and I had a twitter discussion, where she did very much admit that she didn’t choose her words wisely and that she was still learning about the reality of mental illness. She held fast to her belief that antidepressants are prescribed too often based on various articles she read, and she may be right. (She has since posted an update and apology)

I don’t know, because I don’t know what happens between those taking antidepressants or other drugs for mental illness and their doctors.

I hate the term mental illness. If there is a better term leave it in the comments. I don’t consider myself “ill.”

The “Happy Pill” concept is pervasive not just in the yoga community, but in society in general. There is this idea that those suffering with anxiety or depression just need to suck it up, pull themselves up by their bootstrap, and get on with life.

Because you know, everyone gets sad or scared about stuff sometimes!

Then you remind those people it’s nearly impossible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps because you can’t even get out of bed to put your gotdamn boots on.

Just do more yoga, pray and/or meditate more, eat healthier! More blueberries and spinach! Drink lemon water and green tea!

If blueberries, spinach, exercise, and meditation was the cure, my 3 A.M. night terror panic attacks wouldn’t exist.

I haven’t written very often about my anxiety or depression issues. Usually, it’s only around the holidays when I feel like the pressure of everything will boil over unless I burp the pot a little. And once in the greater context of recognizing I have anxiety and panic attacks and why I walked away from yoga.

I don’t write about it much because, honestly, I’m ashamed. I shouldn’t be, but I am. I have always been strong-willed, determined, and able to accomplish anything I set out to do. To admit that I couldn’t…can’t overcome anxiety and depression through sheer mental fortitude makes me feel weak. When strangers, and sometimes even loved ones, tell me I just need to get over it, I feel as if I have to hide so they don’t see that weakness and judge me.

Sure, I joke about it sometimes, but I joke about it in the same self-deprecating way you joke about anything embarrassing. As if it’s in the past, or just no big deal, to deflect–but also test the waters to see if it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Well, here’s my moment of truth:

I have panic attacks. I have an anxiety disorder. I have depression issues. I take medication. 

General anxiety I can manage.

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Physically, it feels like I need to yawn a lot, I sweat like I’m having a hot flash, and I have a hard time focusing on minutia. I think the only way I might be able to put what’s happening in my head into reference is to ask you to imagine the feeling you have when you think you left a curling iron on or the door unlocked, but instead of just the curling iron it was the gas stove and oven, and instead of an unlocked door, you are pretty sure you left all of the windows and doors open. You know are fairly sure you didn’t, but it still feels like there is a 30% chance you did. Either way, you’re just counting down the minutes until you can get back home and be absolutely positive.

General anxiety makes it difficult to relax and accept moments of joy. There’s always the nagging reminder of “Don’t get your hopes up, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t enjoy this too much, something bad is bound to happen.”


 

Panic attacks are considerably worse. 

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Actually, that’s a huge understatement. Imagine the most terrifying experience of your life. Now multiply that by at least a thousand. And not only are you completely paralyzed, but you’re being suffocated while the walls close in around you. Your rational brain knows that this is a fight or flight response gone haywire. Neither your mind or your body can decide whether you should fight or run for your life because there is no actual imminent danger to face. Since there are no wild beasts to fight off or tsunami’s to run from, the somewhat rational part of your brain attempts to assess other possible threats in rapid fire succession.

Because there is no immediate external threat, but all of your physical senses are at Defcon 5, all of those senses immediately turn inward.

Headache from the surge of chemicals: Diagnosis – undiscovered brain tumor IMMEDIATE DEATH

Tingly fingers and arms: Diagnosis – heart attack IMMEDIATE DEATH

Shortness of breath: Diagnosis – lung cancer IMMEDIATE DEATH

The rational part of your brain that knows this is a panic attack, is now in an epic battle arguing with itself over the umpteenbillion reasons why those things are or are not real.

It feels like you are blindfolded, handcuffed, chained to a chair in a closet, on top of a bomb big enough to blow up a city block, and in order to even begin to neutralize the threat you have to open a puzzle box containing an infinite and unknown number of other puzzle boxes, to find the key to the handcuffs, to unchain yourself, to attempt to defuse the bomb. In the dark.

Sometimes, there’s disassociation. I feel like part of my brain is just floating like a balloon out in front of me. So not only am I going through all of the stuff above, but now I’m also hoping to put myself back together enough to defuse a bomb.

This can happen when I’m sitting on the couch watching a cheesy rom-com, or it can happen at three in the morning waking me up from a dead sleep. Which is usually what happens. So add all of the awfulness above with the disoriented feeling of being startled awake in the middle of the night.


 

Then comes the depression.

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Now, because my brain is in what feels like a constant battle for its life, when it’s not fighting itself off, it’s going over everything it did wrong in the Battle of Panic Ridge. Positive self-talk can be a challenge. I’m so exhausted the only thing I can manage at times is to remind myself “Hey, you didn’t actually die, did you? We won the battle!” 

Brain doesn’t care. Brain is determined to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, how to make it work, how to win. This is so exhausting that sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed. If you do get out of bed, it’s to go to the bathroom and make it to the couch. There is no energy to eat, shower, brush your teeth or hair, there is only the overwhelming need to alleviate the excruciating pain. There isn’t even energy to cry. All you know is if you stay really, really still there might be a handful of seconds where things don’t hurt as bad and those few seconds are about as close to bliss as you might get for a while.


There is this horrific misconception that those struggling with these disorders are somehow weak or cowardly, unable to face the pain and reality of life’s ups and downs.

The fact of the matter is, we do feel it. We feel every little bit, every second of every minute of every hour of every day. And it is cranked up to eleven.

Somehow, most of us still manage to function at a reasonable level. We go to work, we smile, we converse with others. We may even seem authentically and undeniably cheerful. Charismatic, even. 

We’ve adapted to hide our pain and discomfort, to entertain or distract those around us so that you won’t judge our agony.

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I Walked Away from Yoga

It’s taken me nearly two years to write about why I haven’t been to yoga.

As a writer, I know my words can’t be forced into being, they must be carefully coaxed and wooed.

I left yoga about two and a half years ago. I had a five day a week practice that I rarely skipped—even when my mother was in the hospital for three weeks. I wrote extensively about my yogic journey for multiple, sometimes major, publications.

I was asked when I would consider teacher’s training and was even often approached in public or at the studios I attended by people I didn’t know, telling me how much I had inspired them in their practice.

Though all of this took place in the small bubble of my home town, it was still affirming to know that I had, in some small way, begun to plant and cultivate seeds of growth and compassion, not only in myself, but in others.

For what felt like the first time in my life, I was maintaining a positive forward movement.

The power of yoga and positive thoughts were all I needed to overcome any obstacles life could throw my way. My cynical, depressed, anxious, addictive, atheist self had been transformed into a blissful, accepting creature well on her way to enlightenment.

All of life’s problems could be solved between my mat and my kitchen.

Depression? Do yoga! Up dog, down dog, chaturanga. Health concerns? Watch what you eat. Juice cleanses, veganism, gluten-free! Social injustice? Practice compassion! Namaste. Anxious? Meditate! Om Shanti Om. Lack of inspiration? Search within. Om Namah Shivaya.

How had I not been doing this my entire life? It was so simple!

And then it wasn’t.

 

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