Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Fall Apart

I'm sort of an open book.  It's the only way I know to be.  I don't hide things very well if I'm upset.  I don't do well at "playing house."  If shits falling apart, then shits falling apart.  And you'll know it.   When things are going well, then yee haw!  You'll know it.  I appreciate transparency in myself and others.   It's a curse and blessing.

Last year I had a break down.  Break.  Down.  I walked away from my blog.  I stopped sharing.  I shut down.  I was overcome with out of control anxiety.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't function some days.  My mind was always playing.  Negative thoughts were blaring and I couldn't hear myself anymore.  I tried to change things ups and dust myself off and forge ahead.  But the days became long,  the responsibility of life felt heavier than usual.

I tried to escape.  I never wanted to stay still.  To feel.  I'd started feeling Un-Me.  I'd say things I didn't mean.  I'd do things I didn't want to do.  I was convinced that everyone hated me.

"The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."-Mark 14:38

My flesh was weak.  And my spirit was starving. All my spirit got were negative thoughts and anxiety scraps.  And  the thoughts came out of nowhere.  They were irrational.  They were loud.  They were constant.  But mostly they were untrue.  But it's hard to know that when you're inside your head and the noise is too loud to hear the truth.

I was sailing on a choppy sea.  And then eventually went overboard.

When someone has a physical illness, people rally around them.  When someone has a mental illness, people don't really know what to do with them.  So they do nothing.  And I supposed I don't blame them.   And you don't really want to advertise it, cause there's that stigma that comes with mental illness.  Like, there's "normal" and  "bat shit crazy."  No in between.   It's like putting a giant CAUTION sign on your forehead.  Luckily I had a few trusted people in my life that ignored the sign and trusted my heart.

And here's the part of the movie where a weary, beaten up, almost dead person wakes up in a clean, sterile, white hospital room with the heart rate beeping in the background and loved ones staring at them.




I had my loved ones standing there, ready to walk me through this.  I saw a therapist once a week.  And then a psychiatrist.  I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression.  I had been on an anti depressant for 7 years, but apparently it was the lowest dosage and essentially like "killing an elephant with a bb gun" my psychiatrist said.  Good to know.  I was just relieved that he wasn't insinuating I was the elephant.

For the first time in my life I had someone (the professional) tell me that I had been suffering.  That what I was thinking and feeling was actually a disease, caused mainly by chemicals.  He believes that I had severe postpartum after my last baby was born, but was never treated.  Makes total and perfect

Negative thinking can be chemical?  Yup.  The frontal cortex of our brain is responsible for rational thinking.  In those that struggle with depression and anxiety- there is a significant lack of activity in the frontal cortex.

How could a gene lead to negative thinking? Well......the serotonin gene appears to make the amygdala, an emotional center of the brain, hyperactive.
Studies have found that a hyperactive amygdala is linked to extra sensitivity to negative stimuli, such as unpleasant images or events. People end up viewing the world negatively - noticing the weeds, not the flowers.- Cary Goldberg, The Boston Globe

I believe after the birth of my son and his medical issues and hospitalizations triggered my anxiety and depression.  And then it was just like tipping over the that first domino.  I was a hot mess.

But I've come a long way baby....

Anxiety felt like a giant tumor in my mind and spirit.  It was taking over my life.  All because of a chemical imbalance (well, mostly).  I waited longer than I should have to seek professional help.  I tried to cope in all the wrong ways.  I tried to be strong.  But I just wasn't.  It was like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound day after day.  And it only leads to infection.

I still struggle with anxiety and sadness.  Depression has been defined as "anger turned inwards."  That's why I practice kindness with myself now.  When kindness gets louder than anger- life becomes less sharp.  It's still has its challenges, but I guess I don't feel every blow to the core of my being like I did before.  I can rationally back my way out of a negative thought.  Whereas before I'd get sucked into it with no hope of escape for days on end.

Why do I tell you all this?  Well, I'm an open book.  And, sure, it puts me out there.  But, eh, I don't care.  I'd rather be known than put on some facade I suppose.  Not that I had any facade going on here that had me confused with Michelle Duggar or Mother Teresa or anything.  (I'd much prefer Anne Lemott-she knows Jesus, but she's scrappy and makes conservative Christians uncomfortable)

That and I've seen so many veins of life for me come together and merge into one this year.  Exercise, health, food, marriage, motherhood, God.  There is beauty in falling apart.  Not for the sake of being melodramatic or "misery loves company."  I'm not about wallowing in your own mess with no hope.  But I think if we were a bit more honest with where we're at, we'd not feel so alone.


Alessandra said...

I can only imagine how hard this post was to write and I want to tell you that although i don't know you, i'm very proud of you! what you're going through is something that so few women are willing to talk about because we are too busy being everything to everyone else... you're an amazing woman and this post was amazing! :)

Mr.s Gokey said...

Thanks for sharing this with us=) It really will help others who are going through the same thing~

Meghan said...

You know I know how this goes. Every last little bit. I am the same way. I love you and I love your thoughts here.

amber said...

This post made me think of the book "Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood. I don't know if you've read it, but basically all the world has gone to hell, and within that world there is this little cult-ish kind of group. Really this group is the one really healthy thing in the world. They believe in being organic, self-sustaining, all that.

The leader of the group says that when people in the group are depressed, they are in a fallow state. Meaning that much like growing crops in a field, sometimes the mind needs to check out, to rest, so that crops can grow there again when the soil is ready.

I've dealt with depression off and on for most of my life, but I so believe in that concept -- that sometimes a brain can get overwhelmed and overloaded -- and that when it gets that way, you have to recognize it for what it is -- a time to dig your hands in the dirt, to tend the fields, if you will. In whatever way you need to to make sure the soil is healthy again.

Sorry - I didn't mean to go on and on! But I can relate to what you had to say, especially the "there is beauty in falling apart" -- the beauty in it is that if you choose to make it so, it's a place that's ripe for growth.

Thanks for being brave enough to share.

Jen Gordon said...

Thanks ladies! ;)

Amber- I'm actually reading a Margaret Atwood book now. Blind Assasin. But I'm going to get the one you mentioned. Thx!

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