Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here's to a New (Better) Year

It’s been ages since I posted anything.  But my resolve has been  brushed off and gussied up and I’m off to a new year full of great and happy blogs.  Blogging is how I scrapbook and keep histories of me, my family and our activities.  At the end of each year I put the blogs in a book and publish it.  This year I missed a lot of the stuff that really happened and I don’t want it to go unsaid, so I will attempt to briefly navigate you through our year, starting with the following.

The start of the year brought on a setting for the rest of the year.   Unfortunately, not a savory one.  I have Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder.  It runs in my family.  Although both conditions are controlled and have been for 16 years with the same medication, for some reason they decided to rear their ugly heads early on in January 2011.  To improve things I had to adjust some medications and found out, in a rather unhappy way, that I am sensitive to many other drugs.  The drug Abilify sent me into a tail spin and I started whirling down a drain of shear agony in both mind and body.  I was one sick puppy!!  Not able to describe my mental symptoms, (for there are no words) I will tell you that I threw up constantly, had no appetite and so lost 15 pounds in 5 days, and wasn't able to sleep and/or sit still for any amount of time.   Poor Martin!!  I scared him something fierce!  But he finally took me to the Hospital where I learned of an out-patient program that would be my guide out of the depths.  My Psychiatrist  (whom has been helping me for 7 years) helped me out of my stupor with an anti-anxiety drug and I slowly started to climb out of the hole I was in (thank the good Lord for modern medicine).  I slowly began to be able to eat again and function somewhat, even though I felt awful every day and was extremely weak.  From there I was able to begin the out-patient program at the Overlake Behavioral Hospital.  Yep, I had suffered a mental breakdown (as they used to call them) and was going to the Loony Bin (you have to laugh at yourself in these situations!).

This mental episode is undoubtedly the hardest thing I had ever endured.  Pain of the mind is not something to be trifled with and I do not wish it on my worst enemy.  It has a different face, a darker, much scarier face.  The thought that came to my mind is when Joseph Smith was kneeling in his first prayer when he was interrupted by a force so evil, so all-encompassing that he felt like he wanted to die.  I felt like this.  We know, as a church, that the force he felt was Satan himself. I don't know for sure if I felt Satan but I will tell you it felt like it.  It affected my body just as well.  It affected my family, my friends, my neighbors.  I was hopeless...quite literally, I was without hope.  But with all problems comes the opportunity for growth.  Although, I was simply trying to make it through the day and not thinking about how I would grow through all of this, growth did come. 

The things I learned during my hospital time, are things I won't forget.  Even though most of the tools and strategies they teach there are useful, I remember the most useful things were the people I met.  They were all faces drawn and shadowed in pain, and we all shared the same thing, hope.  I learned so much from those people I now would call friends.  As I did a lot of listening there, as well as talking, I heard stories about things people should never endure, and all of a sudden, I wasn't so bad off.  I met a man who is a Clergyman of some kind.  His whole congregation loves him and reveres him as their leader.  Yet, he cannot get out of bed on some days because his son took his own life and he blames himself.  Although he is loved by hundreds of congregation members he is tormented by the few he knows who dislike the way he does things.  I met a young girl who has attempted suicide so many times that she has lost count.  She reads books that describe near-death experiences.  From these accounts (all positive) she is convinced that the after-life is going to be so much better.  I didn't have the heart to ask if she's ever read any books of similar experiences that turn out to be of the horrifying sort written by people who attempted suicide (I've read such accounts).  I met a lady who had lived in the In-patient facility for 3 weeks during which time she couldn't utter a word.  No one knew why, including herself.  However, she was blessed when, trying all kinds of medications, her doctors found the one that worked for her.  She was speaking within an hour of taking it.  The woman I sat next to was addicted to gambling.  She was in the facility for other reasons but she denied her gambling addiction and described her pain and self-loathing in vivid color.  Every day on leaving the facility we each had to say whether we were committed to not harming our self while apart, or not.  Sadly, some couldn't even commit to even that.  I met a lot of other people who made me feel I was worth something, and I felt in turn that they were of invaluable worth.  They loved me even though my problems seemed so much smaller.  They talked to me and told me they saw hope and love in my eyes and that they knew I would be okay.  Those hours with them mean so incredibly much to me.  It was a scary time, but I was blessed to make it through with a whole new perspective on life.  And so I took baby steps out of hell.

As for my family, they were blessed greatly through this experience.  I occasionally still feel guilty that my family had to see me that way.  But as I have learned, through adversity we grow.  My kids know they can come to me with their problems and I will never judge them.  They know that I went through something horrific, but that I made it through to the other side.  They know now to take advantage of every moment they are free of pain and suffering and to have compassion for those who are suffering because it could some day be them.  They learned that there are people everywhere who care about us and love to serve.  I hope they remember that and want to serve people in the future.

Some people don't get the whole mental health issue.  That's okay.  I know it's hard to comprehend if you haven't gone through something similar.  I lost friends when they found out I had collapsed so heavily.  It has broken my heart but I am determined to go along anyway.  I choose to try and understand their side and let them be, even though it hurts.

Why am I sharing this information?  It's super embarrassing after all--right, admitting you have gone off the deep end, so to speak?  Well, I feel like it doesn't have to be embarrassing.  My grandmother spent a lot of her life in pain and wasn't able to get help.  Much of her life was spent in mental hospitals without any hope of recovery.  I feel an unexplicable bond to her, even though she passed away before I remember her at all.  I think things have changed since then and I often think how I would love to go back in time and help her understand her condition a little more.   I know there is so much more help out there now.  I want people to know that and find help if they need it.  It's out there.

So I start out my 2012 with super gigantic hope.  I have found many ways to cope with my conditions.  I struggle daily.  I think many people do.  However, I found things I love to do that keep me happy and fulfilled, things I never knew I'd love.  I also hug my kids and husband every day.  I hope to keep growing and learning, but man, do I hope it's an easier road for a while:).


Sheri said...

Thank you for being brave enough to share such a personal thing. I know my bouts with depression have made me feel so similar to what you describe although not to the same degree as you felt. I am grateful that I have grown from each experience and can share my experience with others to give them hope when they struggle, and that I can empathize better now with those who struggle. Anyway, thanyou for sharing your hope with me. I only wish there was something I could do to help you more. Luv u!

Jen Vesper said...

I just have three words for you...I love you. :) Oh wait...maybe three more...You're my hero!!!! Oh, and I love you.

Mark said...

Thanks for sharing, I always favor honesty over not and sometimes that gets me in trouble but that is how it goes. Things people can't see or don't "have" make it hard for people to understand, similar to Stac and how people react to her migraines. They just don't get it, which makes it hard to feel like people understand. God speed on your journey in 2012.

Tonii said...

I second are my hero. Heather, I love you so much and think you are incredibly brave and amazing. I can't imagine what you have gone through...I'm sorry I didn't do anything to help. Mental illness is just that...a true illness that is REAL. The more people talk about it the less stigma will be attached to it and hopefully more people will follow your amazing example of courage. I love you and your family SO much, even though we don't see you often you are often in our hearts and prayers.

Shauna said...

Heather, you are just plain awesome!! I haven't known you that long, but I feel like we've been friends forever! You've been through terrible things and yet you always have a smile on your face and a kind word for everyone. I LOVE hanging out with you and your family and that little baby who hasn't joined you yet, is one lucky person! Just remember.. I am always here for you,no matter what!! 2012 is gonna rock!! Love ya, Shauna

Dawn Polson said...

Heather THANK YOU for sharing this! Do you even realize how strong and brave you are?!?! I hope you do. When this happened in my family it was still in those days you talked about when there wasn't great help. There was such a stigma attached to it and I was always told those people were "crazy." That word makes me more than furious every time I hear it now. I love that you are taking your experiences and being there for other people. This is such a real thing and those who go through it are so much stronger than anybody even realizes. You have to have such amazing character and strength to come back from something so difficult. This is why I loved studying psychology. I understand now how the brain works and what happens to people and how very much it is NOT their fault or them being weak. I love you so much, Heather. Thank you for sharing this!

Amy Sorenson said...

Heather, I love you and I am glad that things are getting better. I have just started realizing that I am having anxiety more and more often (it runs in the family), the doctor has me on some medicine to help me sleep better. It's nothing serious, but it is a little unnerving. I don't pretend to know what you were going through, I still can't wrap my head around mental illness, it pretty much scares the living heck out of me. So with your help I want to learn more. Good luck this year. I think it's great that you are finding new things to love and do. Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he gave you your wonderful family. Love you all!