In light of the recent loss of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, both of whom died by suicide, we need to talk about mental health.
I struggle with Generalized Anxiety and Depression. I’ve dealt with it for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think it was until I was 14 that I got the depression diagnosis. I managed both without medication for a while because at that time it was the height of the negative press about Prozac, and it wasn’t until I was 21 that I actually sought help. My insurance at the time did not cover psychological care, but I had a good relationship with my family doctor. I remember being at work on third shift, feeling that something wasn’t right. I talked to my boss and said, “Something’s not right, I need to go home.” He gave me a curt “no.” The feeling didn’t subside. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe, and I was terrified for no apparent reason. I sat down on the bench in front of my station to try to catch my breath. The next thing I know I was being carried out of the store by my ex-husband. Apparently, I had managed to make it to the bathroom, and the store Admin came in to find me in a catatonic state on the bathroom floor. I was awake but unresponsive. I went to my family doctor that day, and he decided to put me on Prozac. Back then, I didn’t have the choices in SSRIs that we have now. I stayed on it for about a year and a half but had become a zombie; I had no emotions about anything, but I faked it as best I could. I stopped taking Prozac for a couple of reasons, the first of which was the way it made me feel, but most importantly I couldn’t afford the $10/mo for the prescription. I was only making $7/hr and most of my paycheck went to my insurance. What was left over went to bills. For 6 years I managed again without medication. There were a lot of struggles but I survived it, barely. I remember being so distraught on a night off that I was sitting with a bottle of vodka in front of me and the pain pills I had been prescribed because of a herniated disk. I called a friend who had been through it, and who had at one point, attempted to take his own life. I felt like I wanted to die, but knew ultimately that it wasn’t my time, so I reached out. I asked him for help. After the conversation, I dumped the bottle of vodka. That was the first time I battled suicidal thoughts, but it most certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Ultimately, I ended up leaving my ex-husband because he was awful to me. I was told regularly that I was worthless. That I would never amount to anything. That no one but him could love me. I believed him. When I was finally free, I took love where I could get it, even if it wasn’t the most healthy. After a few years of being single, I met someone and fell in love. I realized that I was still struggling with the depression, but my family doctor had retired. I saw another doctor in his old practice, and she agreed to put me on Wellbutrin. I took that for about 6 months, but the side effects were horrendous. I was angry. I was violent. It was not a good situation, so we discussed other options. We settled on Celexa, and it worked! I was functional again! I felt human again! But after a year or so, I found myself struggling financially once more as the rent in my apartment kept going up. I made $10/hr and rent was almost $700/mo for the apt, not including utilities. So I had to make a choice; I stopped taking my medication. Things spiralled downward again. My partner became possessive, and he started to not trust me, and be suspicious of everything I did. The final straw for me was when he started going through my things, including my instant messenger programs, reading my private messages. I ended the relationship and asked him to move out. This put me in even more of a financial hardship as I was now living in an apartment I couldn’t afford by myself. There were days that I would wake up to go to work, and I would drive down the road and think about how easy it would to just drive my car full speed into a telephone pole.
I moved home with Mom and I lived with her for several years (which, by the way, when you’re in your 30s and can’t afford to live on your own just feeds feelings of worthlessness). I was promoted at work, but my boss was the devil incarnate. I was working 80 hour weeks some weeks, and the anxiety returned on a pretty constant basis. I was still having regular anxiety attacks, and there were many days that I fought even just getting out of bed. I would go days without a shower because I just didn’t have the energy.The anxiety and the awful hours made it difficult to go to the doctor. Then in 2014, an opportunity came up that I was able to leave my job for a less stressful position in a completely different company. It was a pay cut, but I was living with mom and was able to justify it.
Then I met Al, the love of my life. We were together 6 months when I moved an hour away to live with him. Things were great! I got promoted at my new job, was making more money, but the 2.5 hours I was on the road every day was starting to wear on me. I bought a new car to make it better, but it didn’t get better; it just continued to feed my anxiety. And then the election of 2016 happened. I started getting weekly migraines and was starting to miss work because of it. I finally made an appointment with a therapist, and in conjunction with my family doctor, we decided to put me back on the Celexa and Ativan and we added in some Imitrex for the migraines. After about 2 months of therapy, the therapist decided that we would go to an as-needed basis. And this is why I don’t really like therapy. I’m very self-aware and I struggle with talking to people because I feel they will see me as too self-aware and decide I don’t need the therapy. I’ve been doing okay without seeing my therapist, but there are days where it’s very difficult to not have an objective person to talk to. This past week has been a string of difficult days, and this morning I woke up with that tell-tale lump in my throat. I knew that I was going to cry, I fought it off because I had to leave for work. On days/weeks like this, it is difficult to find the motivation to create. Even when I force myself, I just feel lost. I feel like what I’ve created is not good enough, and my mind goes back to 21 year old me and I hear my ex’s voice in my head. “You’ll never amount do anything. You aren’t good enough.” I really struggle with this on a daily basis, and it makes it hard to get things going. It makes it hard to do the simplest of things. I have 3 laundry baskets full of clean clothes that need to be put away and I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have things that need to be organized and I don’t have the energy.
I don’t tell you this for sympathy. Rather, I tell you this so maybe, just maybe, someone will read it and understand what it’s like to live with this disease. It’s not just a “case of the blues.” It is a constant battle that I fight every single day. I’ve been struggling with even writing this for fear of judgment from people who don’t understand it. But here it is. Out in the open. Hi, my name is Luna and I live with mental illness.