NOTE: This post is NOT a cry for help. This post is to help others who may be struggling by sharing my own story. Please do NOT contact me with concern, worry, or advice - it only stresses me out. I am safe.
I just watched "I Am Maris" on Netflix, and I'm going to write as quickly as I possibly can so that I get this all out before I lose courage.
Because for so long now, it's been much easier to simply exist (or try to). To keep it all inside. To hide. To pretend. To suppress. To be quiet.
"I Am Maris" tells the story of an anorexic teen who found peace through yoga. It's a really wonderful film, especially for anyone living with mental illness. What struck me, and what prompted me to write this post, was her courage in sharing all the ugly with the world. She called it, "Talking about the shit I don't want to talk about."
I'm 30 years old. I have anxiety and depression. I am currently in the process of tapering off of my anti-depressant. And I am a highly sensitive person (HSP).
After my last dosage drop three weeks ago, I experienced two straight weeks of suicidal thoughts. It felt like it would go on forever. It felt like I couldn't escape it. It was scary, but mostly full of despair. The apathy was overwhelming.
Four days ago, it was over. I turned the corner. I had good days again.
My system stabilized, and so did my mood.
Now, before you start panicking, know this. This is my blog, my story, my body, and my mind. And my path. What I do not want or need is your negative thoughts or energy, and that includes concern over what I am doing. Shut up and be supportive, or get off.
I don't have to explain anything to anyone. I know that what I'm doing is right.
Good, now that's out of the way. Let's continue with the story.
As a highly sensitive person, I was born with an overachieving nervous system. I'm more sensitive to all stimuli. Light, noise, touch, smell, internal feelings, pain, crowds, quantity of visual stimuli. All of it.
Only about 15% of the population is an HSP.
When the world isn't overstimulating, I'm crazy perceptive. I take "detail oriented" to a whole new level. My sense of intuition is heightened, and I can use this to do great things. To help people. To make things better.
It's a gift.
OK, back to the real reason I'm writing this because I went and distracted myself again. My medication was initially helpful. I began taking it after my horrible corporate job gave me debilitating anxiety attacks. I couldn't function. The antidepressant I was prescribed (after a 30 minute bimbamboom consultation with a psychiatrist) helped me to be able to function.
What was not explained to me, and what I later came to realize, is that one cannot simply choose to stop taking these drugs. They create dependency. The body and mind cannot tolerate ceasing to take this medication. If you do, bad shit happens.
I was pissed as all hell when I figured this out.
Nobody told me. I do not feel as though I was properly informed about this drug by my medical doctor. And that pisses me off.
After conducting hours of my own research, I began the very slow process of tapering off.
Why? Because after time, this drug was making my life worse. My anxiety became worse, even though the original triggers of my corporate job stress were no longer present. Other symptoms began to emerge. Not the least of which was depression and suicidal thoughts.
This was not me.
When I realized that I wasn't feeling the way I wanted to feel, that I wasn't even feeling feelings that were authentic or mine, I knew I needed to make a change. I needed to regain control of what was happening to my body, my mind, my spirit, and my soul.
From October 2018 to April 2019, I have gone from 15mg to 5mg, and that is a huge victory.
Some parts of this journey have been slow and easy. Measured and careful. Other parts have been bumpy, imprecise, and justgetthroughit. The last step down to 5mg was the worst so far.
I'll be staying at this dosage for the next 4 months to fully let my system adjust and to let my brain heal. I've been finding beautiful sources of healing in places like Sacred Space where I take gentle yoga, meditation, soundbathing, and reiki classes. I've found beautiful healing in the support group I've built. People who are there for me at the drop of a hat. Who reach out proactively.
People who support me and do not judge me. Who only fill my life with light and love.
This is the right thing for me.
I already feel much sharper mental acuity. I feel capable. Things are less foggy, less fuzzy. I feel more like myself.
Each tiny medication adjustment in the downward direction sets off my highly sensitive nervous system. My service dog River has been instrumental in helping to anchor me.
Since I had turned a corner and was on the upswing to feeling good all the time, I started filling my calendar with get out there and do stuff stuff. Like the women's networking event I attended yesterday. Which turned out to be a disaster.
The speaker gave a presentation about going through dark tunnels and shared deeply personal stories of trauma. NOT what I was expecting at a networking/business luncheon! I was immediately triggered and wanted to flee. It took me several hours afterwards to work through the upsurge of emotions and settle back down.
It reminded me far too vividly of the darkness of the past two weeks. Of the near-constant thoughts of ending my own life. Of how, even though things look great now, only a few short days ago they were anything but.
Those two weeks of darkness were a result of my medication. This COMMON side effect of taking antidepressants is why I am choosing to wean myself off of them. I do NOT want that as a part of my life.
While I did not go so far as to make plans or take actions, it was devastating and full of despair. It scared me. Badly. It felt hopeless. I was scared that my brain would take me one step further, and I wouldn't see it coming.
I activated my support network. I told them what I needed. I got through it. And I'll be going much slower, much more gradually in this last, long stretch of tapering. You see, the worst part of the path is going from 5mg to 0mg, and then it's actually worse once you've stopped completely.
I could go into detail about the scientific data that supports low dose tapering and the effectiveness and strength of the drug in low doses, but you can find and read that for yourself. Basically, it's going to be challenging and full of trials.
I'm giving myself the next 4 months to build resiliency. To fully stabilize. And to get some work done. It's a good thing that I went through the bad stuff during a slow time because I didn't have to reschedule and cancel 15 client's worth of appointments during a low. Now that it's the time of busy, I'm going to stay here and work hard.
I don't know what the rest of this year is going to look like. What it's going to bring me. Maybe it won't be as hard as I'm fearing. Maybe it will be worse.
But I'm still here.
And I will adventure on.
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, tapering, or suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone and that there are resources out there to help you.
National Crisis Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Counseling, yoga, meditation, chiropractic, massage, essential oils, nutrition, reading, sleep, friends, family, roommates, neighbors, religion, coaching, support groups, nature. Try a tool. Try another tool. Find what works for you. Have a plan for the low times before the low times strike. Pick up the phone. Call one person. You don't have to go it alone. You don't have to know what to do. Others can help you. Others will help you. Keep fighting.
A special thank you to my Facebook support group (you know who you are), my friend Mindy, my dad, and my roommate Lynne.