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Endurance

August 26, 2014 at 1:22 am

Tonight I will be cutting my dose again.

As much as I’m eager to leave benzodiazepines behind, it always feels a little bit like voluntarily submitting to torture when I reduce my dose. Generally the next two days are alright. The third… not so much. If the pattern continues, this Thursday should be interesting.

In other news, my sleep is definitely taking a hit. Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45 and couldn’t go back to sleep. This morning I woke up at 3:30, but I was fortunately able to fall back to sleep until 5:00-ish.  When I start catastrophizing, I imagine that I’m going to have some sleepless nights coming up. So far my worst fears haven’t materialized, so I’m hoping the trend continues.

I think it’s safe to say that the past four months have been the most difficult I’ve ever endured. I really hope September will bring mercy. I really hope I don’t have another month+ of withdrawals to look forward to. I really hope the next couple of weeks don’t kill me. <—Did you hear that? That’s called a will to live. It’s nice to have one again. I hope it sticks around. Never take yours for granted, friends.

A Photo Tour

August 20, 2014 at 3:08 am

So far tapering off my night-time dose has gone much smoother than I feared. I’m still getting sleep (thus far). Having my stepmom here over the weekend was a great support. Yesterday was really rough, lots of withdrawals, but today has been much better.

Here’s what my life looks like these days…

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I try to get outside for some sunshine with my feet in the grass at least once a day.

Now More Than Ever

August 16, 2014 at 2:00 am

I know. This is dragging on and on. You’re probably tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of enduring it. But tonight is a big night. Tonight I start tapering off my night-time dose of the benzodiazepine.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I want this drug out of my life and out of my body. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish I had never allowed this drug into my body. The next few weeks could be really intense. Getting sleep could become a rarity. Things could also go much smoother than I fear. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I have no control over what’s going to happen. But I’m terrified. I’ve already endured some pretty horrific withdrawals for the past couple of weeks, and I do not want to experience any more.

I know I’ve already asked for so many prayers, but I need your love and support now more than ever. Things you can do to help me get through this:

  • Send daily emails with encouraging words.
  • Make a meal for my family (if you’re local).
  • Call me (if you have my number).
  • Send me a card in the mail (if you have my address).
  • Post an encouraging comment on this post.
  • Pray for me.
  • Do whatever other nice thing you feel inspired to do.

My psychologist stepmom is flying in tonight to help give me extra support until Monday. Then my mom will be flying in Tuesday through Thursday. I have lots of local friends who are doing a remarkable job of supporting me as well. I feel like it’s taking a pretty big village to keep me going.

The other night my almost-11-year-old daughter told me she wants a tree necklace for her birthday (a little over a month away). I really hope I’m smiling and anxiety-free when I give it to her.

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Yes, You Can

August 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

I’m still here.

Still battling withdrawals. They’re still brutal. I never really know when a withdrawal episode will hit or how long it will last. Sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours. The good news is that once the panic subsides, I usually go back to a baseline of relative calm.

I feel like the SSRI is helping a little more each day. Today my husband was working later, but I made dinner all by myself… something I haven’t been able to do for a long time. That feels like a small victory. I have been spending most mornings and some afternoons at various friends’ houses (it helps pass the time/I don’t like to be alone), and I’m able to smile and mostly enjoy being with them when I’m not having a “withdrawal episode.” That feels like progress. Last night I went to an important meeting I didn’t think I would be capable of attending and felt calm while I was there. That was a gift.

But I’m not done with this battle. I still have to wean off my night-time dose of the benzodiazepene. I have no idea how my body is going to respond to that. But the only way out is through. I wish I could skip the rest of August.

More than once during my withdrawal episodes, eyes full of panic and desperation, I have told my husband, “I can’t do this.” He always says the same thing, “Yes, you can.” And I try to believe him.

 

Withdrawal

August 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Right now I feel almost myself. Yesterday was horrid. This morning was horrid. But right now is good. I love it when I feel good. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I’m grateful for this moment.

So my psychiatrist prescribed me two medications back in June. One was a fast-acting anxiety drug (benzodiazepene) to help me sleep and take the edge off the anxiety (low dose). The plan was that I would wean off of the benzodiazepene as the SSRI (anti-depressant) began to take full effect (roughly two months). Benzodiazepenes are notorious for creating dependencies and addictions. I’ve heard horror stories about benzodiazepenes, so I really didn’t want to take one. But the doctor told me it was “impossible” for me to become dependent or reach a tolerance within the period of time I would be taking it. He promised me I wouldn’t have any withdrawal symptoms.

Your Help Matters

August 2, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Yesterday I received some feedback from a reader. She said, in part, “I’ve got to unfollow you. Wishing you the best but three years of downers is making me depressed.” After seven years as a blogger, I’ve come to accept that you can’t please everyone. I’ve also learned a lot about how to minimize negative feedback. But I’m in a really vulnerable place. So this one really hurt.

I tried to keep reminding myself that the overwhelming majority of the people who are following my blog care about me and appreciate my honesty about my struggles. But just minutes after wincing from this “unfollowing” incident, I received an email from a friend. She has been in these agonizing trenches before. She gets it. Her words were just what I needed to lift me in that moment. I hope she won’t mind me quoting her here:

Done

July 31, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Since coming home, I have felt considerably worse. I feel like I’m going backward. People say it’s to be expected with the stressful transition, heat, and trying to get my kids ready for school. But I’ve really regressed. The anxiety is worse, the depression is deep. I really don’t know how much more I can take. I feel like I’ve gone so far backward. Everyone keeps telling me I will get through this, that things will get better, and they seem so confident about it. But I feel so done. I feel so exhausted. I feel like it will never end.

I want to be the mother my children need. I want to be myself. I hardly remember what it was like to be myself.

I am desperate.

The minutes and hours drag by so slowly.

I want to be done. More than anything in the world, I want my self back.

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Weary but Winning

July 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm

A couple of days ago we took the long drive home. Back to life. Back to the AZ heat. Back to being 600 miles away from most of my family. I was so nervous to leave my safe haven at my dad’s house. I cried a lot the day before we left. But I hoped that coming home would feel like progress, that it would feel good to be in my own space again.

There is a comfort in being home, but at the same time I feel like I’ve taken several steps backward. Perhaps it’s just all the stress of traveling and having a broken a/c unit and a 99-degree house upon arrival. Perhaps it’s my husband going back to work on Monday and sending my 3rd child to kindergarten the week afterward. Perhaps it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s sleep deprivation. Perhaps it’s my kids being extra grumpy from all of this upheaval and vacation food. Perhaps it’s that I’m supposed to start planning/hosting twice-a-month activities for 10/11-year-old girls from my church at my home soon.

I feel so overwhelmed. I am so tired. I am so weary. I feel discouraged, run down, and stressed. My husband, parents, sister, psychiatrist… they tell me I’m making great progress, they tell me I’m “almost there,” but today it doesn’t feel like it. Today I feel so defeated.

I’ve certainly felt this way before. And somehow I kept going. Somehow I eventually reached a point where I felt like myself again. And I shared this photo to encourage others who needed a boost…

Tug of War

July 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

This morning I woke up before my husband and kids. I usually do. In that hour or two until they wake I usually try to go back to sleep. Sometimes I beg God to let me fall back to sleep. Sometimes I do. But usually I just lie there and pray… for my husband, for my kids, for all the people who are praying for me. I pray for strength, for endurance, for shields of light, for miracles. Some days I get up, and I feel almost normal. Those are gifts.

This morning I awoke with a heavy heart, with fear, with despair, with bitterness (PMS probably has something to do with it). And I cried and cried until it got really snotty and messy. I am so weary. I am so tired of fighting for my life. This tug of war, pulling me apart, stretching my soul to its breaking pointI don’t know how much more I can take.

The darkness whispers, “Life’s just too hard. What’s the point? It’s just going to get harder. It’s not worth this agony. Why prolong the misery any more?”

My husband, my parents, my sister, my friendsthey hold my hand, they hug me, they tell me, “You’re going to get through this. It won’t always be like this. You will feel happy again.” I make them promise me.  A few nights ago, as we were all getting situated in our beds to sleep, my three-year-old said, out of the blue, in the most serious and tender voice, “You’re going to be alright, Mom.” 

Weep

July 16, 2014 at 6:49 pm

IMG_1222Nearly every day for the past few weeks I have had a meltdown. This is when I weep, usually to a supportive family member, for an hour (or two or three). This morning was a doozy. It almost sounded like I was in labor. My husband was my doula. For I don’t know how long, I sat on my parents’ bed (my husband stood in front of me), and I rested my head on his stomach, letting myself sob and sniffle and make sounds, so many tears gushing from my eyes.

But I’ve started noticing something about these meltdowns: I usually feel better afterward. This shouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose. I learned at some point in the past few years that tears really can actually create a measurable shift in a person’s mood and physiology.

In a Psychology Today article, Judith Orloff, MD explains:

After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed [stress] hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones” (Source).

It is healthy to cry. Crying is good for us.

A Soft Place to Land

July 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Every day for the past few weeks I’ve had vomit on my mind. And, strangely enough, this has brought comfort to me. I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago, my friend Emily showed up at my dad’s house (where I’m currently staying) with her furry companion, Howie. We sat on my dad’s front porch and talked for a long time. Emily has known darkness and despair. She has survived heart-wrenching losses and trials. She gets it. So she listened with an empathy and compassion few possess. Her sincere love and physical companionship were a bright spot in my darkness.

While we talked, she told me a story from her recent trip to Oxford, England. The night before she was to return to the states, the nice couple who had been hosting her wanted to take her to a nice dinner. They had Indian food. Later that night, just before collapsing into sleep, Emily said a quick prayer, asking God that everything for her return trip the next day would go smoothly. (She had been worried about making a few of her connecting flights.) Then she fell asleep.

But there is beauty in it

July 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Yesterday my mom, sister, and husband helped me with a project. It is a binder full of all of the cards, emails, and messages of encouragement I have received from my people in the past few months, some of whom I’ve known for years and some of whom I haven’t yet met in this life. It also has uplifting quotes, scriptures, and pictures from Pinterest. I plan to add more and more to it as I receive them.

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Stuck

July 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

A few winters ago, I grew kale in my garden. In AZ, certain crops can be grown during the winter, and kale is one of them. Anyway, as the kale grew, it soon attracted aphids. By the time spring came around, there wasn’t a kale leaf without hundreds of aphids on its underside. If there’s one thing aphids know how to do well, it’s reproduce.

Last Sunday, I learned something new about aphids. A man I know had been in a class with a bug-expert. And this bug expert explained that aphids give birth to live young, but sometimes the babies get stuck on their way out, and when this happens, a group of other aphids will gather around and help the mother get the baby aphid out. I’m not terribly fond of aphids, but this little bit of information made me smile (which is rare these days).

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One Foot in Front of the Other

July 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm

This morning we got up extra early. I hadn’t slept well, and I didn’t really want to get up, but I did.

Every year for several years my husband and occasionally myself and other family members have run a race called the Freedom Run for the 4th of July. This was the first year that my oldest daughter had signed up for the 5k with her dad. My second-oldest daughter wanted to do the one-mile, so (several months ago) I agreed to do it with her.

But last night I was dreading it. Sleep is precious to me these days, and I wasn’t sure if I even had the strength to go that one mile. But I knew how excited my daughter was. And I knew I couldn’t let her down.

So I got up. And we got ready. And we went to the race.

We arrived just as the one-mile race was beginning, so we rushed to the start. And for a mile, I ran (very slowly) with my daughter out ahead of me, saying, “Come on, Mom. You can do it!” Over and over.

I couldn’t help thinking how fitting it was. It was hard, and I didn’t really want to do it, but it was the light and strength of my daughter that kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

Waiting for Light

July 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I’m not sure where to begin.

Two years ago (2012), around this time of year, I first became acquainted with anxiety and depression like nothing I had ever experienced before. After a few months of enduring and trying a variety of natural remedies, I turned to medication. It was a couple of months of crawling through hell while I waited for the medication to help. But eventually it did. And I felt like myself again.

We thought the medication would only be a temporary thing. I slowly (slowly) weaned down over the course of last year. I took my last dose at the beginning of March of this year (2014). March I felt fine. I thought, “That was easy.” April I started slipping. May I plunged back into that dark and anxious hell I never wanted to crawl through ever again.

We made an emergency trip to my dad and stepmom’s house at the end of May so I could have extra support while I tried to get well again. All of May and for two weeks of June I tried more natural remedies (they could fill a whole other blogpost and probably will someday). I really wanted to believe I could get better without meds. When I started getting suicidal, we knew it was time. Miraculously, I was able to get an appointment with a well-respected psychiatrist on June 13. I started back on my meds the next day.

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