The Struggle to Survive

Be Kind

I was in my last year of college when I got diagnosed with depression and put on my first prescription of antidepressants. I now know leading up to that I had experienced my first mental break. I collapsed in my bedroom and my good friend at the time had to call my mom. She helped me pack my suitcase and I managed to get in my car the next day and drive home. I spent an entire week on my parents’ couch, mostly sleeping and only getting up to shower and eat. It was awful and scary. And, little did I know that I would continue to be plagued by those feelings for the rest of my life.

In graduate school, I was “officially” diagnosed with textbook Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which would manifest itself in severe compulsive activity and anxiety, which would then transfer to depression and feelings of despair. It was a horrible cycle and the only way I can describe it is like being stuck in quicksand. The more I tried to pull myself out of it, the deeper I sank. At the time, I had taken a break from my studies to regroup and was working at a nearby gym. I had an early morning shift and I vividly remember times driving back from work and thinking how easy it would be to just run my car off the road; and it would all be over. I felt guilty for the anguish and worry I was causing those around me and, in my desperation, I honestly thought it would be best for everyone if I was gone. Fortunately, the part of my brain that was rational was able to talk the manic and irrational side out of it. I was one of the lucky ones; or as I now believe, it was not God’s will for my life.

As the years went by, I would have good days and bad days. But, when my son was born, and I suffered from what I now believe was undiagnosed postpartum depression, I found refuge in drinking. Like many people who suffer from depression, drinking became my other “medicine.” It’s how I escaped the anguish, despair and loneliness I felt. I was ashamed that I couldn’t just “snap” out of it, which made me sink deeper and deeper into my despair. To those looking in from the outside, my life seemed happy and wonderful. However, at the time, I found little joy and happiness.

I share this because when people talk about the selfishness of those who commit suicide or state that suicide is a choice; I highly doubt that they have ever experienced the despair of depression and addiction. By no means do I agree that taking your life is the answer; I don’t. I believe that all life is a God-given gift to be treated with the utmost respect. But, I also believe, that like any disease left untreated, depression and addiction can and will kill you.

Those of us who do suffer from these diseases must take care of ourselves, which is why I couldn’t get to a meeting fast enough last night. I was starting to become complacent in my recovery. I wasn’t attending meetings, and just as I had heard from others’ experiences, I hit a wall. A day that was already filled with sadness from the anniversary of a close friend’s death, was exasperated with the news of Robin Williams’ death. And, with everything else going on in the world – it became too much. I felt myself begin to sink in that quicksand. The anger, anxiety and depressive thoughts were welling up inside of me and it scared me. Because, I know those feelings lead to a need for escape. The alcoholic in me doesn’t want to feel them; I want to drown them out until I get to a place of total and complete numbness.

So, when my husband got home, I high tailed it out of our house and drove to a new women’s meeting I had been wanting to go to. And, the minute I walked in and was greeted with smiles and hugs, I was able to breathe again. I was with my people. People who knew and understood the despair I was feeling. As we went around the room, we laughed over our crazy alcoholic stories and cried over this disease that has taken so many of us.

But, in the end, we all expressed how grateful we were to be there, in that meeting, not as addicts or alcoholics, but as survivors.

Today I am a survivor, but I know how quickly I could become a victim to this disease. We must be vigilant in our recovery and treatment – and we must ask for help.

 

Does Alcohol Make You Crazier?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have suffered from anxiety, depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) from the time I can remember. For better or worse, it’s part of who I am. I wasn’t always comfortable admitting I had all these “issues,” but, eventually, you just have to accept it and do your best with what God gave you. Over the years, I have learned various ways to “deal” with my mental health issues – mainly counseling, medication and getting sober (that was a big one).

However, that wasn’t always the case. Drinking was the main way I used to cope – with everything. If I was feeling anxious, I would drink; if I was feeling depressed, I would drink; if I was feeling obsessive, I would drink. And, on and on. It was a nasty little cycle I had going on. Of course, I always thought that drinking would make it better; that a few drinks would make it all go away. I would FINALLY feel relaxed! Ha!

The thing is, I never even realized that those drinks could actually be making my mental health issues worse. So, you can imagine my surprise when I came across the new health guide created by treatment center, Yellowbrick, that states the “Ten Mental Health Reasons Not to Drink Alcohol.”

It was like the first time I took one of those “are you an alcoholic?” quizzes. As I read down the list, I mentally made a check note by each one: interrupts normal sleep patterns (check), leads to rebound anxiety (check), contributes to increased impulsivity (check, check), interferes with prescribed medication (is that why my Prozac wasn’t working like it should’ve?).

Yellowbrick

I’m by no means telling “normal” people not to drink alcohol in moderation, but the reality is a huge percentage of our population suffers from anxiety and depression. If those people were more aware of the real effects drinking had on their mental health issues would that change their drinking patterns? Would they think twice about having that second, third or fourth drink? Maybe.

I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and if we arm ourselves with the facts, we might be able to make different decisions in the future. Decisions that could potentially change the future of our health for the better.

This post was sponsored by Yellowbrick.

God Heard Me Today

Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

I haven’t felt very creative or crafty lately. I’ve been having a hard time. My OCD has been acting up and it’s put me in a type of paralysis. It’s strange because I find it more difficult to talk about my OCD than my alcoholism. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid people are going to think I am truly crazy – because that’s how it makes me feel.

Before I had kids, my OCD got really bad. I mean REALLY bad. Fortunately, with the help of my amazing and supportive husband, a good therapist and some medication I was able to get it under control. There are a lot of types of OCD. Mine is the more organizational, must have everything perfect type. Luckily, having kids helped because I didn’t have the time or the energy to spend on obsessing over whether or not the blinds were lined up perfectly (I’m not kidding). Once in a while I will have flare ups depending on my stress level, but nothing catastrophic.

So what happened? Well, we got a new car on Friday. It wasn’t about wanting a new one, we actually needed a new one. My husband’s car had really high miles and we needed something that I could drive around that would get better gas mileage. He took my Jeep and I got the sporty, shiny new black car. ALERT, ALERT. Now, we’ve had new cars before and it’s pretty typical of me to obsess over them for the first few days. However, this time it was worse. Before I go any further, I need you to know that this is real. OCD is a real illness that can be devastating. With some trepidation, I’m giving you a glimpse into this illness. Am I worried of what you’ll think? Yes. I’m scared you’ll think I’m crazy, which, I suppose you could argue that at times I am. Well, here goes.

The second day we had the car, I noticed there was a spot on the sun visor. I tried to get it off, but realized it was a small scrape – it wasn’t coming off. Even though the garage door opener would go directly over this spot, I could NOT get it out of my mind. I cleaned it a half-dozen times, hoping it would magically disappear. Well, of course it wasn’t going to go anywhere, but that’s OCD. I knew I was obsessing and I knew it was ridiculous because it was hardly noticeable. All I could think about was THAT spot. I went to bed thinking about it and I woke up thinking about it. I looked for a pen that might match the color of the visor, but no luck. I thought about replacing the visor. Too expensive and my husband would not go for that. Maybe I had some paint that would match it – nope. Yes, this is the craziness that goes through my mind. Of course, during all of this, I’m trying to put on a happy face for my kids and do all of the normal things I usually do. But, it’s hard. It’s really hard because all I can think about is the spot. I tell myself, I’m done. I’m not going to look at it again, but then I find myself looking at it in desperation.

The thing is, when I’m feeling like this I have no desire to drink. And, when I was drinking, I had less of a desire to obsess about things. Obviously, my happy place is when I’m not drinking and not obsessing, but just enjoying life. This is a fine line for me.

This morning, I was still spinning. I knew I had to do something. I was feeling desperate. I wasn’t going to drink and I wasn’t going to go trade the car in. Can you imagine the look on the sales guy face? Ha! As I was getting ready, I decided to do the only thing I knew I could. I got on my knees and prayed. I prayed to God that He would take away the obsession, take away the anxiety. I needed His help – I couldn’t do this alone. I got up and went back to doing my hair. As I stood there, a thought came out of nowhere. Put a sticker over it. Cover it up with something that will inspire you. And, I knew God had heard me. What a great idea! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I immediately called my husband and told him the answer. For the first time in three days, I felt my body let go of the anxiety it had been holding onto. I felt peace. Thank you, God. A simple answer, but just what I needed to calm the craziness.

I knew I had some inspirational stickers in the office left over from card making. I found them and began going through them. I had no idea what I was looking for – and then I found it. In simple black and white, there was a sticker that simply said “happiness.” That was it. I took it out to the car and covered up the spot with “happiness.”

From here on out, I will look at that sticker every day to remind myself of God’s love for me and that, over all else, I choose happiness.